Friday, October 1, 2010

Well, this morning we dodged a bullet and found out how our new wall can stand up to a potential flood. However, if the creek had come up 6” higher, we would have had a different scene. Bob is speculating that Nuttah may have made her visits yesterday because of this impending possibility. I was rudely awakened at 5 AM to Stewie banging on the bedroom door:

“Mom, you better get up and look at the creek”.
The sound of the rain, and the rushing and rising water of the creek had awakened him, but not me; Bob has the windows of the bedroom closed for the air conditioner. I had actually gone to bed with a sense of confidence that we would not be facing anything horrendous overnight. In fact, my email of the night before to Leann, who has a home on the river was full of blustering confidence:

Leann was hearing on the news threats of river flooding, and since was not currently in the area, her email was titled “How bad is it?” (Leann has 3 times since 2004 faced major flooding in her home along the river)

My response:
“Hey Leann,
Not bad at all really, not now anyway. Even if it kept up at this rate, we’d still be alright, it’s a pretty slow rain. We were thinking differently last night, bought tarp and everything at Home Depot, and I announced at work I would be manning the home front and wouldn’t be in — but as this morning wore on with no rain at all, I checked the radar pics and the river and creek  gauges, and it looked like the worst of it had swung west of us, so I went in to work. I’m just coming home now, it is still raining, but the creek is still low. The local river gauge is showing the crest at 22 ft., but that’s below the “moderate” stage. I think everyone will be okay. Nuttah paid us a visit last night, I think it was to calm us down, knowing we were worried about the creek.”

Picture of the creek 2 1/2 hours after crest, the wall is on the left

And now Stewie is banging on the door for me to get up and look. Bob had left for work an hour before. I jumped out of bed, threw open the window, and gasped. The creek was within 6” of cresting the wall. Running downstairs with Stewie, I tried to think of what would make sense to do first. You have to make some very quick decisions about what to pay attention to at that point, it had already risen about 10 ft. since Bob had left about an hour before. These flash floods act quickly when they start to unfold, as we found out in the Hurricane Ivan flood of ’04. Dogs, vehicles, basement, then stuff. I knew we had a small amount of time before we had to do something about the dogs; if the creek began to crest the wall and overflow into the the yard, it would take a while to spread out. We had inches, and maybe 10 minutes. Same with the cars… unless… a situation like Ivan developed where the water came from the front, not the back. We lost all 4 of our vehicles to the flood of Ivan, so Stewie and I worked on getting our 2 vehicles out onto higher ground in a neighbor’s driveway. We then cleared the deck; no small task, but everything would be wiped off it if we didn’t. Sealed the basement. Now the dogs in the upstairs bedrooms. All this took about an hour, meanwhile, the creek was still rising, but slowly. A little pool of water is forming at the end of the yard, where the water was creeping in. It was too dark still to get a good reference point, and I was too busy to really pay attention, but it did seem as if it was not coming up anymore, but had crested, and may even have started to recede. By 7, when it was lighter, it was obvious it was going down, and not coming up anymore. The picture above was taken at 7:30 am, well after crest. I was just too busy (and it was too dark) to take any pictures as the madness was unfolding. Plus, it was still raining, and I didn’t want to get the camera wet.

Normal creek level. You'll see the same exact angle below, with about 10 more feet of water in the creek

In this 1st picture to the right, you can see the creek at its normal level. The 2nd picture below it is taken from exactly the same angle; you can kind of see our wall stretching along the top right of the picture, and it’s the house lights reflecting into the water. I’m shooting from the bridge.

After cresting; the time on this picture is 7:35 AM, same angle as the picture above it

The bottom picture is shot from the deck along the fence, which is the black separator to the right of the picture. It shows the thin line that separates us from disaster, rushing creek on one side, yard/house on the other. That’s our little Wobbles tied to his chain in the yard. Water was receding at this point.

Looking downstream from the deck, Wobbles in the yard to the right, post-crest

So for the first time in the morning, Stewie and I had a chance to stop for a minute and take a breath, and we stood looking over the fence at the creek, knowing that the worst was over and that disaster had been skirted. Stewie then exclaims, “Look at that.” I wasn’t sure where he was referring to, so I glanced to see where he was looking, and then spotted it…  a bird was flying upstream, along the top of the flooded creek, about 6 ft. or so above the water, seemingly struggling to fly as if into a strong headwind. My first impression was that it was a heron. A relatively small one. My second impression was that it was… white. I said to Stewie, “Was that a white bird?” He wasn’t sure, maybe light grey he thought. It was already out of site, and I couldn’t find where it went. And that marked the end of our hectic almost flooded morning. Then I crashed. I’d had only 4 hours of sleep, the stress of a potential flood…  I was shot.

A creek gauge showing a 12' "spike" in no time - that's how it happens along creeks. These gauges have become a part of our life living here.

I wrote an email to Bob later: Looks like all the creek stone held, I don’t see any obvious sections of it missing, so that’s good. It do B raining here yet again, but lightly. I wonder how Rue did, looks like Brandywine was a mess too. Saw a gauge where Perkiomen at Schwenksville spiked to 12 ft. I’d like to see a graph like that in terms of minutes, and not days, to see how quickly that happens.

Narrating: I think this kind of spike mimics what we have here at our creek, but there is no gauge on this one. And where was Nuttah this whole time? I had absolutely no sense of her the entire morning.  I can only think that she must have known we wouldn’t truly get “hit”, like we did in Ivan. Perhaps I should trust her intuition, and save my nerves.

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