seven

What Goes Around Comes Around...

Last night one of my friends who is a subcontractor told me about the fact that he was feeling guilty about the fact that he hadn't had "anything really bad happen to him." He spoke about clearing the latter end of his week by telling inspectors and specialists to not even show up because the work wasn't as necessary as the recovery work. It meant he was going to get paid less, but it also opened up time for him to volunteer work for people that really needed it. And that was when I realized why I was in such a funk. I love having friends who have that kind of emotional honesty.

I was feeling guilty about not really having anything happen to me, and it didn't matter that we'd just had a meeting where dozens and dozens of people had just signed up to have John tell them what to do. He was coordinating jobs, people, and resources. He's good about not letting it spill over too much, but being married to him means that I do get the inevitable phone call here or there, when someone can't reach him. And I've been kind of drowning in all the data.

It didn't help that Jet, yesterday, said, "I'm bored. I want to go help at church." The church's been doing childcare, and he went to help them out yesterday. On the way home with John, Jet decided he wanted to do something more active today. So I resolved, this morning, to go with the boys to the house of a member of our congregation and help with the pumping, ripping, mudding, or hauling that needed to be done to help clear their basement so that it could dry out.



But I knew that I needed to do more than just the demolition work, so John loaded my bike and helmet into the van along with the shovels, wheelbarrow, and tarps. I brought along my bike clothing, too, knowing that I didn't want to ride in work boots and jeans. We left at 7:45 to arrive at 8, and that's probably the earliest I've risen since the rains started coming down.

We went back to the neighborhood across from the water we'd had to stop at on Friday. Airport was dry and clear, but they'd closed it at 9th, because the whole length from there to Mountain View had been completely underwater and all the neighborhoods there were pumping, digging, and hauling their ways out of the muck that the river had brought.

On Guard
One new thing was the National Guard setting up checkpoints. They only allowed people who lived in the neighborhoods into them, unless they were physically with someone who was in the neighborhood. This was excellent at preventing looting of any sort. We had to wait on the side of the road for a while until the homeowner could come out to us, but that was a very familiar sort of thing for us.

As you can tell from the sticky post at the top of my journal, John and I have been going down to Biloxi, MS for years to rebuild people's houses from the flooding damage that was done by Katrina. There, they were hit by both the rise in the water levels of the Back Bay and the Gult, with a 20 foot rise in water levels, which was unprecedented there.

The St. Vrain
The flooding here was unprecedented too. One way to think about it is that we got more rain and ground water in one week (anywhere from 13-18 inches depending on whose rain gauge you were looking at) than we usually get all year (about 13 inches, just above the 10 inches so we aren't a desert). Another way to think about it is that September is, on average, the sunniest month of the year, and one of the drier ones. Our monsoon time is usually in the June and July time frame, and our snows are in April and March. So it was as crazy for us as Katrina's slow dragging pull of the ocean and the bay was for them.

All the damage we'd seen in Mississippi was from flooding, and by the time we'd gotten there, after the first crew that first year, most of the debris had already been cleared out, and the houses gutted of anything that would rot. All I had ever done down there was the rebuilding after the demolition that had to be done to keep the house from molding. We were pretty intimate with exactly what was needed to be able to get a running start at making a house habitable again, and most of it is mucky, dirty work.

Muddy Sidewalks
The good news was that the river was out of the neighborhood, but it had left a few gifts behind, as rivers do. All the sidewalks were like this, but most of the neighbors had already shoveled and washed theirs off. This was in a house where they hadn't come back, yet.

And the smell...

That was what really hit me at a visceral level. Jeff had talked about it on Sunday, when he and John were scoping out what needed to be done, even in the rain, with a house that had been flooded. He said, "It smells just like the houses in Biloxi." And it did, that smell of river water that has taken over more than it should. It's so strange applying those memories and skills and thoughts here rather than a thousand miles away in the Bayous of the Gulf.

I'd gotten a shot of the St. Vrain just before we were let in, and the river's still cutting a new bed, and the levels are still crazy high for us. It's staying more within its banks, though, which is a relief. But it's interesting to see that the high flow has actually cut new river bed for it, and that's affecting other communities even more than us. Longmont cut a few canals that are diverting the water from the neighborhoods and back into its bed, too. That was some neat engineering, and I'm not sure I wanted to be the guy doing the digging... wow.

Small Streams
All up and down the street, people were starting to pump their basements out, and the water in the street was high and fast. Our congregant had gotten really far in emptying out his basement, with a lot of help yesterday from the same crews that had helped Christie out with her house. You can see the stuff piled on the driveway. For some reason the city hadn't gotten dumpsters into this neighborhood, which could clearly use them, and John had fun calling the manager of that section of the city. *laughs* He's part of our congregation, too, just like the mayor.

We really wanted a dumpster before having to take the soaked sheetrock out of the basement, and there was plenty to do before we started taking all of that out.

Vac Man
The first of which was just to get all the water out that had seeped in overnight. Jet got busy with a ShopVac, while I swept water down a drain and into the place where Jet was vacuuming it up.

The Vac filled quickly at first, and I did a lot of the emptying, first into a 5 gallon bucket, so that he could get started again, and then I'd empty the bucket into the drain. We also started talking out the doors, pulled off the trim, and pulled all the faces off all the electrical sockets and switches. We emptied the basement of soaked books, Cd's, tapes, and other things that had been underwater on the shelves built into the basement. They'd all have to come out to make it easier to take the soggy sheet rock down. It was a lot of work just getting the water out of there, and we eventually realized that the water was still seeping in from under the walls.

That's when we decided to stop vacuuming and just do what we could with everything else. Everything that was left in the basement and on the walls was taken down and taken out and sorted into trash or not. I had fun with a small pry bar and took off all kinds of trim that Jet took away to dry in the sunshine. By then it was already 11 and with all the sun and water and humidity was starting to get really warm. My glasses completely fogged over at one point, and that never happens in Colorado. *laughs* So I decided to go. The boys stayed and ripped out all the drywall and all of the rotted insulation behind it.

Everyone's Out
I went out into the street, and saw that everyone was out and about. Working on their houses, drying things out, pumping like crazy, and helping each other out as well. Gary, one of our usual Biloxi crew, was not just helping at our house, but going next door to help fix a pump that wasn't working. The Fire Department had been going around to neighborhoods, on an unscheduled basis, to use its pumps to help pump out basements, and all the streets ran with water.

It was really cool seeing everyone out, walking, talking, helping each other out, and when I biked out the National Guard had moved their check point to the entrance of the neighborhood. They weren't holding a post out on Airport anymore.

Broken Bridge
The ride back was wild.

I got to see this... a small bridge completely taken out by the waters. This was on the far edge of the farm we'd seen underwater on Friday morning.

Eroded
And here's the result of all that water pouring over the lip of the sidewalk. Right at the foreground fo some of those pictures we'd taken the other day. At least the grass here seems to be recovering pretty well, with the sunshine.

I was pretty impressed, given how long it had been underwater, and the force of the water flow we'd seen. Still the erosion done here is pretty obvious as well.

Irrigation Ditch at more normal levels
One of the cooler things was seeing the irrigation ditch that had been nearly overflowing was now a whole lot calmer than it had been the other day.

And the rest of today was sunny, hot, and while it was still humid, it didn't rain any more. That was such a blessing in quiet ways. John dropped Jet off at 4:30, after an orthodontist appointment that they'd missed, postponed, and then got to at the second time. Jet went and showered, and then John went off for a meeting while Jet and I went to have dinner at Noodles and Company, and he got to tell me about pulling sheet rock, shoveling it into wheelbarrows to take out to the dumpster, and then getting through the insulation.

They'd gutted the whole basement and took out a wall that the owner really wanted out. Gary had also put in a sump hole, so that they could drain the water from the ground under the basement. That would make it far more likely for them to end the seepage into the basement, and when the boys left, they were already pumping water out of it at a steady pace. Now they get to go through the insurance and FEMA hoops in order to figure out how to rebuild, but the gutting had to be done for it all to dry out enough to figure out what has to be done.

So I got some work in, and got some painting in, because I still have that show in a little less than two week's time. Busy. Yes. Now I halfway want to paint that muddy sidewalk, of all things... but all the footprints through it is what draws me. Not sure what it means, but then maybe if I knew, I wouldn't paint it. *grins* I do love Georgia O'Keefe.

Anyway... feeling a little better now, but still a little scattered. There's still so much to do, but doing any one thing means that there's one less that has to be done.
  • Current Mood: accomplished accomplished
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Good luck with the recovery work, and don't feel bad that you weren't living in a run-off chute. This spring, when severe floods hit my city, the response was overwhelming. The mayor asked for a few hundred volunteers and nearly 10,000 showed up. The only ones who never got any sleep were people like the Fire Commissioner, since he's in charge of most of the Emergency operations.

Still, there is always that sobering time after the adrenaline wears off, and the basement is torn out, when the realization hits of exactly how much is left to rebuild, and how much one has had to let go. That's when most people really need that strong support.
That's really wonderful of your city!!

I love your advice, too, we'll be here then, too.
Good job and hard work from all three of you.

(I am looking forward to seeing the pictures of your art show, though...)
I love how you are all involved in making things better. You and John have raised Jet to be such a compassionate, caring young man. Usually when kids are complaining about being bored, their solution isn't to go help other people out. :)
:-)

It's funny how that's evolved... that last bit... but it's really cool seeing that Jet's figured out that he feels better if he helps someone when he's bored than if he just goes and tries to find something else he 'wants' to do... it's... kinda interesting seeing how he's working that out. It's pretty cool...

Thanks!!
I'm glad nothing really bad happened to you folks and wish you the best of luck with repairs and cleanup!
You're doing great things there, working hard and doing what you can to help others. And obviously Jet has learned beautifully. It's so valuable that our children see the importance of being selfless and helping others, because people matter and we all need eachother in times of trouble. Good for you and your family, liralen!
I've tried and I hope I have taught my children well, that life is precious, people matter and that they should do something to make a difference in this world, because they can. We all can do something...
You rock liralen, always have, :)