Sunday, May 29, 2011

Flood Alert! And Life Goes On

Little is more frightening then having your home threatened by a natural disaster. The citizens of Slave Lake, Alberta recently had their town decimated by wild fires that spread with sickening speed through their homes and businesses. I can’t even begin to imagine the horror of being so helplessly at the mercy of Mother Nature in her wildest of tantrums.


The Walking Bridge at 14th Street - just a few blocks from my house.

The Bulkley River east of Houston

This week, my own town is dealing with the opposite threat. Water in the creeks and rivers is rising to unprecedented levels, spilling over the protective banks in some places. This is not the first time that we have had to deal with flooding. In 1997, homes along the Bulkley River were flooded and the owners evacuated for their safety. In 2000, a less sever, but equally frightening flood happened. This year, the waters rose so high that the dykes were raised with gabions as the water came dangerously close to breaching these barriers between rushing waters and our homes and businesses. On Friday evening, with the water level less than a half metre from the top of the levee, Houstonites were given notice of an evacuation alert.

Bags were packed. Basements were emptied. Businesses began the tedious process of protecting stock by moving it up off floors. Hundreds of volunteers gathered to help with sandbagging efforts. Everyone prayed for the rain to stop and the waters to recede.

On Saturday, the sun did its best to force its way through the clouds. To distract themselves from the pending evacuation potential, people took advantage of the reprieve and hauled out lawn mowers and weed whackers. The hum of gas-powered mowers could be heard throughout neighbourhoods as the cheerful yellow dandelions met their makers by being brutally beheaded with razor-sharp blades. Between the mowing, the whacking and the raking, people checked the web for updates on the grave situation surrounding their home-ownership duties.

The Train Bridge over Buck Creek. 

I marvelled at the way that life continued amid the looming danger around us all. Was this optimism? Were people in denial? Did they just want their lawns to look nice for the inspectors after the water withdrew?

As I pushed my own manual reel mower back and forth, I wondered if I was wasting my time. I could hear the water in the creek, only a couple hundred feet from my house, rushing madly along its course, doing its best to get the runoff past our town and away to the ocean with its larger capacity to handle it. It had a long way to go! And there are other towns with their own rain and runoff being added to it along the way. I worried about my house and my neighbours, my daughter and my friends. I worried about the stray cat that hangs around between my house and the neighbour’s. What would become of her if things got bad? When I finally stowed my little mower in the shed, I checked for updates and checked in with loved ones to make sure everyone was still fine and to offer assistance should it be necessary.

I did a bit more yard work. I cleaned my house. I baked cookies. I gave some thought to organizing my office and setting up files for my business. I sorted through the knitting patterns that still need to be typed up and posted on Ravelry. I paced. I prayed. I finally made some supper and organized a small get together with a few people to watch a movie. Again, I marvelled at the normalcy of these activities. At any moment someone could come banging at my door with an order to get out. I wondered if I would go peacefully, or if they would have to drag me from my house kicking and screaming! Thankfully, so far, that hasn’t been put to the test. Hopefully, it never will be.

This morning the dandelions have already repopulated many of the neatly trimmed lawns. They don’t seem the least bit worried about the high water table and over-burdened river beds. In fact they are relishing in the excess moisture. One can practically see them assert themselves in an attempt to cheer up the locals with their pretty yellow blooms; an attempt, I’m sorry to say, that almost always fails. I don’t know why people hate them so much. I think they are quite pretty. But I must admit that I wish they were not so assertive in my gardens. Then again, I don’t care much for my gardens as they are and at least the dandelions are adding some colour to the vast greyness of the gravel that presently covers 90% of my yard. (What was that woman thinking?)

One of the homes under water next to the overpass as you come in to Houston.

Anyway, I’m about to foray out into that greyness and see what I can do about some of it. There are vines to dig up and weird features to remove. I want to see if I can lay out the future labyrinth without having to move a tree that is in the way of the labyrinth’s expected reality. Not sure how I’m going to do that, but if nothing else, I can stand there and look wisely contemplative. Not owning a shovel and not having a good rapport with any gravel gnomes, I doubt that much will be accomplished. This whole yard work thing is a bit over my head. One would think that 24 years on an acre of land I would have learned a thing or two about it. But alas, I’m not much of a gardener and I always had someone else to defer that sort of thing to.

I see I sort of got off track. The latest update from the Emergency Operations Centre is that the Buck Creek levels fell 17 cm overnight. Yay! Things are looking up – or down as the case may be.

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