Thursday, July 18, 2013

Phenology: Flash Floods

As I left the computer center yesterday, the temperatures were still in the nineties as thunderheads piled up in the west, and I heard someone say, "Seems like storms are always rougher when it's hot like this."

The storm that broke a few minutes later qualified as "rough." Several lightning strikes, power lines down, lights out, one fire (that spread to a few other buildings that had been built too close together), high winds and sheets of rain gusting from all directions. Drivers had to slow down; some people even abandoned low-slung cars and ran for shelter. As at least four separate storms roared across Gate City in four hours, with pauses between them, roads were covered in water. Objects as heavy as flagstones were washed downhill.

I was visiting some relatives. We were just settling in to watch "Family Feud" when the phone rang. The man of the house has one of those high-wheeled trucks that are useful for driving up roads like the one that leads to the Cat Sanctuary, and for getting through flooded streets. He and his truck were needed to help some people who had always imagined their building was floodproof. My father would have told me to get into the truck, but my cousin said, "Wait here, don't walk home, if you get tired of waiting just lie down on the couch, I'll take you home in the truck," and went out into the rain. Between wondering what sort of damage the wind and lightning might have done to the Cat Sanctuary and, by the time I would normally have gone to sleep, worrying about my cousin, I never felt sleepy; I watched television until, between 4 and 6 a.m., I found a PBS documentary that actually seemed interesting. I watched television until my cousin came in around 6:30 a.m. Thus I only heard about, but was not able to confirm personally, people measuring and comparing the depth of water that sloshed into supposedly floodproof buildings. I heard that the Quarry Pond (a sizable body of water visitors always call a lake) was flooding up over West Jackson Street; by the time I got within sight of West Jackson Street, around 7 a.m., the pavement hardly even looked wet. But that's the way flash floods behave--here they come, there they go.

The Cat Sanctuary showed no further damage. The cats have given up even meowing to complain about wet nasty weather; they have learned that that's just the way our weather is nowadays.

It seems ironic now that, during my TV-viewing marathon, I saw several commercials for "flood insurance." Apparently regular "homeowners" insurance doesn't provide payment for anything damaged by floods or storms. I've heard so much about what-all "homeowners" insurance companies are allowed not to pay for, I wonder just what it is that they do pay for. The only kind of insurance this web site recommends is remembering how short this life is and being prepared for the next one. Nevertheless, at the time of writing a lot of people in Gate City are wishing they had had some sort of plan for moving and/or replacing things that have damaged by the flood. We get maybe half a dozen floods per hundred years, but all it takes is one...Be Prepared.