Saturday, June 11, 2011

bad news and The Good News

The river is up a few inches to 17.51 feet. And this was in the paper this morning:

Road in Bismarck possibly washed out by floodwater
By The Associated Press | Posted: Saturday, June 11, 2011 1:15 am |
The chairman of the Burleigh County Commission is warning Bismarck residents not to travel over a road he says has been potentially washed out by flooding.
Brian Bitner says Sibley Drive south of Sherman is impassable because of emergency flows from Garrison Dam. He says some residents had still been driving over the road to get to their homes but that doing so now would be more treacherous.

This stretch of Sibley Drive is the stretch we drove through last Saturday as we evacuated. We drove through it again the other night and it was already much worse. And now, it is impassable.

It's a good thing that before reading that, I read Psalm 29-33.

The verses that stuck out:

Psalm 29:3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters

Psalm 29:10 The Lord sites enthroned over the flood; the Lord is entrhoned as King forever.

Psalm 29:11 The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.

Psalm 31:9 Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief.

Psalm 31:24 Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.

Psalm 33:20 We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.

Monday, June 6, 2011


One of the many things I'm learning during this flood crisis is that people have a want and a need to help other people. Depriving them by refusing to accept help hurts us as much as it hurts them. Of course, in order to accept the help you need to be transparent and vulnerable.

Witnessing the kindness and generosity of friends, family and strangers during these last two weeks has truly humbled me. And it's taught me that it's okay to be vulnerable. It's okay to be transparent.

These days it doesn't take much for me to wear my heart on my sleeve. Every failure is met with tears but so is every victory. Each glimmer of hope is written on my face as is every doubt.

Maybe it's just because I don't have the energy to conceal my emotions right now. But I don't think that's it at all. I think it's because I'm learning that people need to see others at their worst so they realize that it's okay to be broken, hurting, mad, sad, and scared. And it also helps keep our own problems in perspective.

During a particularly rough patch, someone gave me advice that I have kept in mind recently:

You go through what you go through so you can help others go through what you went through.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Evacuation Day

Yesterday was evacuation day.

It started off as a fairly normal Saturday morning for us. We actually slept in till 8-ish. The kids were in a good mood and it was pretty quiet outside except for the quiet grumble of our neighbor's Bobcat tractor. That should have been our first clue.

Grammy called at about 9 and suggested we move the rest of our stuff to She-She's and get the kids settled. They were going to go to Lowe's to buy some stuff for the chickens and pigeons and would catch up with us later. About 9:15, she came over to give us something when Jessie (the neighbor with the Bobcat) called to her from his yard.

"Did you know the water's come up? It's almost over the road." He said. "We probably only have a few hours."

Quickly we cleaned up the kitchen, got dress and began the final packing and chores.

Some time around 11:30, as we were loading the cars, we noticed that the water had filled in the yard across the street and had covered that neighbor's driveway. About forty minutes later, the Sherrif showed up and told us we had to leave.

"There isn't a road down here that doesn't have water on it," he told us.

We told him we were just about done and would be leaving soon. A few more tears and then we got back to work. After loading the last of our belongings, we sealed and sandbagged the one remaining door into our homes then joined hands and prayed. It's a good thing God understands all languages because the tears made us sound pretty funny.

We drove out our driveway in a caravan not too unlike the one we formed five years ago when we moved to Bismarck. Pops and Adam in the lead, pulling the trailer with the chickens, pigeons and plants inside. Grammy follwed behind him in the Navigator. Sleeping Gracey and I followed in our Trailblazer and Scott brought up the rear in his work van.

As we passed other evacuees, we cried. Some stopped Scott to ask about the best route out. He told them he didn't know, he just didn't know. But nothing prepared us for what was ahead, just about a mile from our driveway: two feet of rushing water pouring over the road.

Pops zoomed through fine with Grammy right on his tail. But when I got to the water, I froze. We are taught to never, ever drive on a flooded road yet having watched my parents do it with success, she didn't know what to do. The water was deep, fast and strong. And all I could think was "My car is smaller than theirs." But Scott, forever my Prince Charming, pulled up alongside me and gave me isntructions.

"You can do this, babe. Put it in 4-wheel drive, and just go. Whatever you do, don't slow down and don't stop, just go. I'll be right her next to you." I nodded, barely able to breathe much less speak, rolled up my window and did as he told me.

As we emerged from the water, I pulled out ahead of him and rolled down my window again. It was so stifling hot in my car and I needed fresh air just to breathe. By this time, I was wailing like mourners at a funeral. I will tell you right now: that was the hardest thing I've ever done. It went against every instinct. I was so scared. So angry. So sad. So devastated.

We drove in our slow-moving caravan all the way to She-She's house, each of us crying and somehow not believing what was happening.

We spent the rest of the day unpacking and moving into She-She's house. Coincidentally, She-She is in California right now for a friend's bachelorette week-end.

Some time around 9pm, we decided to go down to our neighborhood and see how high the water had risen. Imagine our horror when we looked past the road closed sign and saw hoards of people on ATVs driving through the floodwaters, people sight-seeing and walking on our neighbor's flooded properties and even a young boy and his dad bow-fishing in the flooded backyard of a neighbor. We called the Sherrif but his response was insulting. He said he saw nothing wrong with what the people were doing (including the trespassing bow-fisherman) and that he thought we were bitter about being evacuated. Needless to say, we have filed a complaint.

Two of our neighbors did make it down to their homes last night despite the high waters on the road. They both told us that the water was contained to our culvert and had not yet gone up our driveway or into our yards yet. Praise God! We realize the waters will likely rise, but every day is one more day.

Currently the dam release is running at 115,000 cubic feet per second. Tomorrow they will increase to 120,000 cfs. Tuesday it goes to 130,000. Friday it will be 135,000 cfs and some time next week it goes to 150,000 cfs. The release will remain at 150,000 cfs into July. No one knows how long it will take the floodwaters to recede. We've heard it could be 7 weeks or it could be 12 weeks.

The good news is that the high-velocity water continues to deepen the river channel which means the water levels are not as high as the experts expected them to be. Of course, the flipside of that is that the Corps could decide to increase the flows faster since the river can contain more water. Let's hope that doesn't happen.

As for now, we are safe and dry at She-She's. The kids are sharing a hide-a-bed in their basement bedroom. Scott and I are in the guestroom. Grammy and Pops are in their motorhome in the driveway. It's cozy but it works.

Please keep praying. We're not out of the woods yet.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Utter Exhaustion

I've worked hard before. I've been exhausted before. But I can tell you I have never felt as bone-tired, as dried up as I do today. Every muscle hurts. Every thought and action requires absolute concentration. I'm just toast.

I'm trying to keep a good sense of humor about this whole thing. It's waning. But, after reading a friend's facebook post yesterday, I was inspired to re-write the lyrics to two popular songs:

Mr. Sandman, build me a dike
bung, bung, bung, bung
Make it the biggest that I've ever seen
bung, bung, bung, bung
Wrap it in plastic. Tape it all over.
bung, bung, bung, bung
Tell me this flood's almost over.

Killing me softly with this flood, killing me softly.
Tearing my whole world apart, killing me softly. With this flood.

Some civil engineers were out at our property yesterday. They are serving the community by visiting affected homes and giving advice on the sandbag dikes, etc. The good news is that both our home and my parents' home have a ground floor above the highest predicted floodwaters. The bad news was they thought our sandbag dikes needed strengthening. So we collected four loads of sandbags yesterday. A formerly unknown neighbor saw us unloading sandbags and stopped to help. We've never before met this man but now we count him as another one of our "Sand Angels." My next post will be all about Sand Angels.

Today, we finally completed our interior preparations. Though we've been told our homes should stay dry, it's not a risk we are willing to take. So we took down our bed and put the upright piano up on blocks and plastic. All the other furniture is upstairs or moved out. Scott just finished removing the toilets and capping the drains. This will prevent any sewage from coming into the house if it is pushed up the pipes by the rising ground water.

Our old cul-de-sac was evacuated this afternoon. They have closed our old street and the street connecting our old street and our new street. This is because the river is at the top of its banks and threatening to come over the road at that intersection.

However, we still remain dry. And in many ways we still remain hopeful that we will emerge from this unscathed. As I look out my kitchen windows while writing this to you, I am again baffled by the amount of water that could be covering my yard. It has so far to travel yet at the speeds it is moving, it will likely close in on us.

Speaking of water, I have a few visuals to give you about the water releases.

-Today they have increased the water flow out of the dam to 115,000 cubic feet per second. That is roughly a World Trade Center Tower worth of water moving out of the dam every second.
-On or around June 15, they will increase the flow to 150,000 cubic feet per second. At that speed, the New Orleans Superdome would be full floor-to-ceiling in 14 minutes.
-One acre of land is 43,560 square feet. At 115,000 cubic feet per second, our 5 acre parcel could fill in under four seconds.

The truly sad things is I can now give these examples without blinking, without crying. This has become my life. I'm tired. I'm sad. I'm angry. But mostly I just miss the life I was living 10 days ago. And I know that that life is forever changed.

Keep praying.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


I forgot to mention that I've grown completely accustomed to the sound of a Blackhawk helicopter over head and Bobcat tractors all over the neighborhood. Today, the National Guard detail has increased. I'm seeing the trucks more often, and just now two went by at the same time.