During a natural disaster, a discrepancy exists between what those on the outside see on television and what those on in the inside are actually experiencing. While our home is not in a high-alert zone, it’s still possible we could be adversely affected by this flood. We’re still in the early stages of it but things are changing fast, looking more and more ominous, and both the communal anxiety and river levels are quickly rising.
As long as I have my wits about me, I’m going to try to share what this impending flood looks like from my vantage point within the city bounds.
On Friday, the usual early afternoon buzz of the women’s locker room at the YMCA had quieted drastically. “It’s just us,” a woman said as she passed me by on her way to the shower. “I’ll bet everyone is out sandbagging,” I said, eyeing the television, seeing that the flood predictions were becoming more urgent.
While giving plasma Saturday, I overheard workers talking about their stiff bodies that had been rendered sore from sandbagging. A fellow donor next to me was talking about how if the drain plugs were sold out in stores, he might have to resort to using Nerf footballs. “A trick I learned from my Dad,” he said. The usual, more somber, relaxed mood of the place had changed. People seemed antsy, ready to get on with their donation so they could move on to more urgent matters.
Sunday afternoon, the sky changed, turning gray. Even now, there is not a speck of blue sky. It is complete cloud covereage — not the white, fluffy kind, but the kinds of clouds you can’t even see because they are joined together, gray to gray for as long as you can see. Looking up, there’s no end in sight. I called my friend to see if I could deliver her Girl Scout cookies. She’s been flooded several times before; her house is situated in such a way that the neighbors’ runoff drains into her yard. She seemed nervous. Her husband is out of town at the moment and she’s getting ready to leave town herself and was wondering whether the preparations they’d made since the last flood were going to be enough to save them this time.
Upon leaving there, my daughter and I took a drive to a portion of the river closest to us. Much of the river is still frozen, but even now, trees are surrounded by water where there should be none. There were other spectators near us, seemingly there for the same reason: to take a look. When you have little control over a situation, sometimes getting out and watching for the signs is at least something.
Unlike many of my friends, I did not sandbag this weekend, and I feel guilty about that. Instead, I cleaned out my office area and started putting up some things that I would like to save, in case of a flood, and tried to get ahead on laundry. We probably could use a few sandbags out our lower level door, but, I feel frozen, for some reason, unsure of what to do exactly to prepare.
And then, this morning, as I drove my kids to school, at a main intersection lights of a police car suddenly came on. At first, I wondered if someone was getting stopped, but then I saw the large flatbed truck piled high with sandbags behind him. “Police escorts,” my son said. This is not a usual sight here. Something big is going on.
On the way back home going north, sandbags scattered the roads, having dropped from those big trucks, and more lights flashed ahead as another cop car lead another sandbag-filled truck toward the river.
And now, having arrived home, I hear the television blaring. While my husband gets ready for work, he’s watching the local news, and it’s not good. “They’re letting all the college kids out,” he says. Schools are shutting down. We’re wondering about our own kids, especially our oldest, who is smack in the middle of the problem area — an area that flooded in 1997. The school and our nearby church didn’t exist back then, so it’s anybody’s guess as to what might happen this time around.
And now I’m left to wonder: do I go on with my day? Should I go to the Y and do my Monday morning workout? This seems so frivolous, in light of what is going on all around me. But then I realize that if I stop living and resign myself to simply waiting for the worst to happen, this really will do us no good, especially from a mother’s perspective. My primary task right now is to try to stay calm, continue on as usual until it’s obvious different action is needed. My kids are having nightmares about flooding, after all. They’re imagining our home floating away, like those they’ve seen on TV. I am trying to relieve their concerns, but I also have to be honest that our city likely is going to flood and we need to stay alert, but not panic. I need to assure them that we are here to protect them and we will do our best to do so.
Before he steps into the shower, my husband says that at the very least, we should probably get some extra jugs of water. I stocked up on groceries yesterday, but we might need that water; you never know.
This thought reminds me that there are two kinds of water: life-giving and life-taking. And sometimes, they converge. Odds are that they will here soon.