Friday, June 24, 2016

Flood Reflections

It rained.

At first we were grateful. It has been so dry, the gardens really needed the rain.

After a while we were a little impatient. finding umbrellas, judging what or if to do certain activities and field trips during the weeklong writing workshop. When it wasn't raining it was steamy hot. Sweat-dripping hot. But the evenings were cool, and the full moon showed herself beautifully on my birthday, such a gift.

Then it rained. And rained. And rained. For hours, it seemed, the waters poured like being poured from a bucket. We tried to go out to the Pearl S. Buck birthplace for the Master's Writing Workshop with Cat Pleska, each one of us driving slowly along the two-lane, watching for washed out places in the road, and the rain kept coming in torrents. When we got there, the power was out, so we returned to Marlinton and the library's warm and dry (and lighted) meeting room.

And it rained. Great sheets of it lashed the windows. Lightning and thunder made a great show. When we left the rain was still coming down. I wondered at the stream of new vehicles coming out of the side street, and later learned it was the car dealership moving all its cars to higher ground.

We decided to go back to the camp to check on the road conditions. I wanted to pack a few things just in case I might not be able to get back in. When we saw the creek that runs into the river near the camp, I changed my mind. I decided to pack everything and get out as quickly as I could. My companion packed a few things and left, asking first if I was sure I'd be okay. No worries, I said.

It only took me another 15 or 20 minutes to pack, but when I drove back out, I found water all across the only way out. It was shallow enough to drive through but had I waited another 5 minutes, I would not have been able to cross.
My only flood picture. I just didn't have the heart to take photos of other's troubles.

In town, water was everywhere. It was still raining. The state roads garage sat in a new muddy pond; the little community of Campbelltown was flooded. People were moving things out of their homes, and people stood watching by the road, offering help. Water was creeping up to the doors at the Dairy Queen and a men's shop also sat in the center of a new pond. The road was still clear so I drove up the mountain to the motel where Allegheny Echoes is held.

My camp friend was relieved to see me! I think they were ready to get a truck and go get me if I hadn't showed up soon. I spent the rest of the evening listening to music and talking. The rain stopped at last and we had a great time, not getting to sleep until well after 2 AM. (We'd found a place to stay at a nearby friend's house.)

This morning I left for the drive home, heading north on US 219. Storm damage was everywhere evident. Huge chunks of dirt had slid off hillsides down into the road and workers were clearing them. Pieces of fallen trees lay on the roadside; gravel and debris covered the road in places from washouts, and deep channels were carved down the edge of the pavement by the swift runoff. In one place the guardrail along a steep bank has washed out.

Further along I saw flooded fields, flooded farm equipment, homes surrounded by water. At one place the bridge across to a nice bed-and-breakfast inn had washed away, leaving the guests and owners stranded. They stood on the bank of the creek with their hands on their hips, contemplating the situation. At another house, a woman and two men stood in their yard, scattered yard ornaments, tools and debris all around them. The woman held her hand to her cheek as if unable to believe what she was seeing. For miles along this road I could see how far the water had been out of its banks, how many places it had been across the road.

In this remote area (an hour or more to a town large enough to have a good-sized supermarket), people are used to taking care of themselves. They will clean it up, fix what can be fixed and go on with their lives.

I finally got out of the area of this flood and got to a four-lane. I decided to take the prudent course and go by this route rather than my usual winding way across Route 33. Usually when WV floods it is this central region that gets hard hit--this and the coal regions to the south. But this time central WV was mostly spared.

I listened to the radio and the Governor's press conference about the flood. He said there was 14 confirmed deaths so far (now, 6 hours later, the toll has risen to 20).

Then I got closer to Clendenin. Clendenin is where I managed my first library and I have always felt it was another home. I could see signs of significant flooding again, and grew anxious about the library. When I reached the exit for the town I started to get off, to drive into town and see for myself what the situation was, but there was a police car blocking the exit, and a barrier. No one was being allowed in town. That did not bode well. At the next exit I could see the washed out bridge to the shopping mall where many people were stranded. There is another branch library there, another I had managed before it was moved to this new location. I worried some more.

A call to the library confirmed my fears about Clendenin. The library was flooded but no library staff or administrators could get there to assess the damage. They were more confident about the Elkview library since it is high above the water.

I made my way home and caught up on the news and many of my friends who live in the flood areas. Everyone was okay; some were stranded either at home or away from home but they were okay. I saw a picture of the little boy who was drowned in my county. So heartbreaking.

Tonight I am thankful to be back home with my husband, where the only damage is some washed out areas of the garden. That can be easily fixed. And on the table, a sweet homemade birthday cake that crumbled when he tried to frost it too soon after taking it out of the oven because he wanted it to be ready when I got here. How nice was that?

It is nice to be home, even though I hated to miss our last workshop day and the concert that I know will be amazing tonight. But home--there is no place quite like it.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

4 comments:

Jenny said...

I am so glad you're ok!

I was talking to my niece in the Hollywood area of Monroe county. She was listing little towns & communities that are just gone.....totally washed away. They didn't have nearly the flooding down there thankfully. I'm heartbroken for the loss & the hard days & weeks ahead. I'm praying for healing.

Anonymous said...

Dee from Tennessee

Thankful you are okay . My heart just breaks - it's so hard. All those families whose lives are splintered forever in the blink of an eye . Prayers for strength for them to endure .

Tipper said...

My heart goes out to everyone who is suffering from the flooding. So sad! I'm so glad you made it home ok : )

annie said...

Thankful you got home okay.
So very sorry for all your people.

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