Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Irene Floods: Thoughts and Wishes

On September 13, 2008, torrential record-breaking rains caused the mild-mannered North Branch of the Chicago River to overflow its banks, inundating nearby homes and basements. This has been the story of one family's experience and our attempts to put our lives back in order.
Our personal Albany Park flood story, complete with pictures, starts at Albany Park Flood- Record-breaking Chicago rains.

A postscript

Hurricane Irene, no longer either a hurricane or a tropical storm, has blown away to Canada. But it is now Monday morning, apparently a bright, sunny beautiful Monday on the East Coast, and people affected by this storm are waking (if indeed they ever slept) to a new world and a new reality.

I've been watching the Twitter feed for Vermont and looking at pictures and videos of the destruction in Vermont and upstate New York. New Jersey, Virginia, and North Carolina are still reeling, but the big cities apparently escaped.

But, on the backdrop of Irene and all of the flooding it is bringing to people, it is now a good time to end this blog.. . At least for now.

Three Years ago

It has been three years since the flooding of the Chicago River that I chronicled here. We have never completed the repairs to our downstairs living area, so it is now just an official basement. Maybe one day. If we ever have any extra money.

Even though we have had a few serious "rain events", the Chicago River hasn't come close to the level of September 2008, and we haven't had a drop in our basement...thankfully.

A River Tragedy

However, we did have a tragedy in our neighborhood last summer. The river was high; over its banks in the park to the west of us, and some kids were playing near the river. Apparently a ball went over the fence and into the river, and a child, 7 years old I think, climbed over the fence and fell into the swollen river. They could not find him. The kid apparently had been with an older sibling and some other neighborhood kids and didn't heed the advice of the others to stay away from the river.

We had emergency vehicles and personnel in this area for a week. We saw people dragging the river here at the end of the block, and we saw some kind of dredging vehicle in the big Chicago River Channel about two miles from here.

Finally, about two miles down river where we had seen the dredging boat on the other side of the falls, the child's body was found.. about a week after he disappeared into the churning waters. There was a makeshift lantern memorial for the boy near where he had climbed over that fence. It was sad; truly tragic. We can never forget the power of rushing water.

Back to now and what it is like to experience a flood:

I don't know if this is true for others, but this was true for us and others around here: Even with insurance, even with help from FEMA, there was just not enough money to fix and replace everything. And if a flood hits in the middle of a bad economic time, or just a personally bad economic time, people are not going to be able to get everything back to Square 1: It just won't happen.

Our home is solid; we never had to leave our home and, though we lost much, we did have an intact kitchen, roof, and walls. Our damage was minor compared to that experienced by many people.

We did have one house here that was knocked down, and another with a beautiful patio that overlooked the river that had major damage and has remained empty. I've heard the family had no choice but to just let it get foreclosed as the value of the home dropped well below the mortgage. I don't know where the family is now living.

Watching other floods: I know what those people will go through.

As I watch the pictures of Vermont and upstate New York, my heart just jumps. I feel for those people and I know what they are going to go through in the days and weeks ahead. I know the feeling of walking back into your home (or a part of your home) after the water is gone and realizing the total devastation. I know what it is like to try to salvage whatever can be salvaged, and I know what it is like to fill bags and bags with stuff that once had value and meaning that is now just plain garbage.

Everybody will be gone, the attention of the nation and the world will have moved on, the news crews will have packed up, but the residents and business owners will still be there, still dealing with mess and heartbreak, and trying to figure out what the future holds for them.

Yes, there are idiots.

I can't end without a word of contempt towards the idiots who contaminate blogs and comments sections of online venues with plain stupidity.

Hurricane Irene, some of them write, was "overhyped" as part of a main stream media and government plot to make us more willing to give up our freedoms for government dependence. Obviously these people have not had the misfortune of living through a natural disaster. And, equally obviously, they are just so far off base that I don't think I can even "discuss" this issue with them.

Also: "What's the big deal? It wasn't even a hurricane by the time it got to upstate New York!" Well, the flood that got us was not a hurricane either.. doesn't matter. A serious flood doesn't have to have a name to do serious damage to life, liberty, and property.

After the rains and the flooding stop, after the water goes back down, you find yourself in a state of shock as you look around, surveying the damage, wondering what can be salvaged, stunned at the amount of clean up work that awaits you, really concerned about the money involved.

Yet the idiots will say that it is all a media and government "plot" or just overhype for a bad storm.

I would wish ill on all of those morons, but it wouldn't be nice, so I'll just move on.

About the government and "control" over our lives: We did have help from FEMA, not a lot, but I'll be eternally grateful for that help. I can't believe a serious candidate for the Presidency chose this time to make a pronouncement that FEMA should be disbanded and the states should take care of things. Is this or is this country not called the "United States of America"?

That's the end of any political ranting, as this is not a political blog.

A Flood is Never a "Minor" Event

As I said, this particular Chicago River flood was nothing, I don't think it even made it to the national news. But unless you've lived through and had damage from even a "minor" event, you have no idea how devastatin­g and difficult it can be.

Of course, my thoughts and prayers are with those who died and their families, but also with all of those who are going to be trying to recover from this mere "tropical storm".

I wish you and yours, all of today's flood victims, and all of the flood victims of the next big flood as well, the very best. Life is not quite ever the same, but it does return to a "new normal". It's just really, really tough.

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