Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Reflections on flood watches

Recently in our region, we've had some pretty heavy sudden snowfall and snow melt weather patterns. The aftermath has led to a lot of localized flooding in low lying areas.

One of those areas is called Greendale. It's located 10 minutes from where I live now, and it's where I grew up my entire life as a kid.

Many flood watches are still in full effect with loads of farm fields appearing more like lakes. However, the worst is now over and the constant drawl of warnings over the TV and radio have thankfully begun to diminish.

At the hilt of all the flood warnings, I drove Cody to school one day. On that particular day it was pouring rain with dirty snow banks piled high creating crazy white tunnels everywhere you looked. Where tires hit, water sprayed. That's when the eerie song came on the radio, 50 Ways to Leave your Lover.

Suddenly, I was mentally back in my own bedroom in Greendale, with that very song playing on my tinny sounding radio. For that was the same song that played on the night we received the evacuation alert, to prepare for a flood immediately. I'll never forget that night.

My family was all tucked into bed snug and warm. We knew of the river rapidly rising nearby. However, as a kid, perhaps I wasn't told everything so we wouldn't fear. It was my understanding that all was OK, and to settle in and get some sleep, just like any other night. So we did.

Suddenly, someone came into my room to wake me up. I can't remember if it was my Mom or Dad. But apparently, someone had come knocking on our door to warn us of the angry river about to overflow it's banks. And we were right in it's path.

It's very unsettling when in the quiet of the night, lights flick on and suddenly, the sleepy fog you are in is interrupted by anxious voices. I was given instructions to come downstairs and help. QUICKLY.

Mom was busy pulling out all our old picture slides from inside a cabinet and placing them in much higher safer places. The long patterned heavy curtains framing each window were already rolled up high and out of the way of pending water. I started pitching in and placing slide box after slide box up high. Our slides documented our entire lives from babies on so this was a massive deal for us to protect.

For some reason, that's the only room I remember prepping. My next memory shot me back up to my own bedroom, safe and high, upstairs. I'm sitting on my bed, gathering up my clothes, when 50 Ways to Leave your Lover, no doubt among the top 5 songs of that era, came on. The walls were made out of donna conna (sp?) so it was a well insulated quiet comfy room. The radio always sounded good in that room, no matter how crappy it was. That's probably why I remember that song so vividly. It was a small section of time when my little radio happily distracted me while I silently panicked inside.

My next memory shot me outside at the dyke. Dad was helping sandbag along with so many others. In the dark of the night, amid the heavy sound of rushing water, sandbag after sandbag was being tossed into place while frantic shouts reached from one to another. It was wet, raining, everyone was soaked, and all those big boots were very hard at work. I remember seeing so many of those wet glistening black gum boots, the kind Dad wore in the barn, with the red tipped toe and sole.

I was a bit scared, but it was also very exciting. I was up outside so late at night, all in the name of saving our and many other homes. This was quite the night to remember.

The river as I recall, did start to spill over it's banks a bit, however not enough to have to evacuate. But we were ready to run for our lives if we had to.

It's pretty coincidental, that I moved to two other flood plains during my life. I'm currently living in one now. Why do I chose such risky locations? This isn't the only flood scare I've lived through. Far from it.

I was located in Matsqui Flats a few years back when the river was about to flow over the brink. There was so much dyke seepage that no matter where you lived, you had your own waterfront property. There was one particular lake right next to my house that alarmed me. At one point, the foundation of the house disappeared on one side. I remember holding my breath daily watching that thing until it started to recede.

And a couple years ago while living where I do now, a snow melt scare in the spring had the media abuzz. It was all the rage to have an emergency kit by your front door ready to fly along with you for when that moment came that you were asked to leave. And thing is, there was really no where to run. If the river banks broke, the highway in both directions would be hit. Go up to the local lake to reach higher ground would result in you getting stuck up there with no supplies. The plan of action was, get outta town early and head to the next town where there was plenty of high roads and lots of food supplies handy. I had Cody and I packed and we were ready. It was a very confusing and somewhat tense time. Everyone was so unsure of whether to send the kids to school or not as they were prepared to shut things down at any moment. I was reluctant to leave town to work in case the river banks broke. That would result in Cody and I being in different towns separated by a very low lying flooded highway! All this turmoil, until again, the flood waters started to recede.

And here we are again. This local flooding was due to an enormous dump of snow and an extremely heavy rainfall that lasted for days. The rivers were fine. The problem was, the huge snow melt and torrents of rain following had no where to go so suddenly. So it hung around awhile.

During this last flood scare, I was busy watching my creek out back swell angrily. I've yet to see it reach the house which had me somewhat relieved. However everyone else I knew of had these new fangled sump pumps working hard in basements and crawl spaces. Only those with above ground basements and living on slightly higher elevations seemed to get lucky enough to not need one. I was among those in that category. I was lucky, but many that I knew weren't.

Flood scares are obviously nothing new to me. I've chosen to live in places where there's a slight risk. It wasn't intentional. They just were areas I fell in love with.

Plain and simple, with country living comes flood potential. I won't be getting rid of my own gum boots anytime soon, so if that qualifies me as ready for the next flood threat, count me in among those that are prepared! Although the risks exsist, this is a beautiful valley to live in, and Cody and I have sprung many roots in our little town. So we are here to stay, enjoy, and plan to continue to expand those roots around us.

'Just Add Water' we'd rather do without of course!


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