mikellsgems (mikellsgems) wrote,

The Flood

My last post stated that "Nature does not hurry." I need to retract that statement - or at least note that it is not an absolute.
On April 17, 2011, Mother Nature hurried. 

Residents living along the Yellow Breeches Creek in Lower Allen Township received a call on Saturday, April 16 advising us to be prepared for rain.  The creek was expected to rise to 7.5 feet.  My neighbors and I aren't affected until 11.5 feet, and the last flood in the area, except for water in the basement, was the flood of 1975, over 35 years ago.  The rain started on Saturday night and it was torrential.  I've never experienced rain that hard and that long.  

I had a friend over for dinner.  After he left the rain stopped - for awhile.  But I still decided to move my car up on the hill in the development a few blocks away.  The lull in the storm felt more eerie than over. For the first time in the ten years that I've lived there, I started carrying things upstairs to my office. Occasionally I'd look out the window as the water continued to rise.  It was after midnight and there were no more calls from the township, so I decided to try to get some sleep. Zippy, my precious puggle (half pug, half beagle), had other ideas. He paced and swallowed, swallowed and paced.  He simply wouldn't settle. I decided to get up and read, continually keeping an eye on the rising waters. I noticed that my neighbors flood lights were on. I felt a little less alone.

Since I had never experienced a flood before, other than water in my unfinished basement, I had no perception of how the waters would rise.  I expected them to come in to the lowest room first, the gallery in the back of my house facing the creek.  It didn't happen that way.

The water began to rise through the floors.  I ran from room to room, amazed at how quickly the water came through the tile floors that I thought would be impossible to penetrate.  Water stops at nothing. Then everything seemed to happen in slow motion.

I called my friend and asked him to come back over - I needed help. I gathered my cat in his carrier as he yowled and protested.  I gathered food for both animals and my purse and went to the front door to wait.  I was stunned to see more water out the front door than the back!  Later reports stated that a 'tidal wave' came down the road on the front side of the house.

Rain continued to pound furiously and the winds were howling relentlessly. We exited the front door in raging waters, J carrying Zippy, and me with Rocky.  The water was nearly waist high, and to make matters worse, J didn't realize that there was a step. He tripped and both he and Zip fell into the water. Thankfully he caught himself and the dog and we all made it to his truck.

Neighbors were also preparing to evacuate. Their property sits a little higher than mine so they were debating whether to stay or leave.  About thirty minutes after I left, they saw huge tree crash into the creek close to their home.  They evacuated immediately.

 The creek crested on Monday morning at almost 15 feet, double what had been predicted.  The amount of rain was estimated at nearly six inches.

I made a call to an emergency services team to pump the water out of the basement and begin the drying process.  Mold grows quickly and can be dangerous.  They stated that they would need to rip up the floors and walls so that everything could dry out.  

When they started ripping out the walls, they found "old mold" not related to this flood and told me I would need to have a mold litigation expert come in to evaluate the situation at the cost of $5 to $10 thousand dollars, not covered by insurance, before they could continue to work on the house.  I told them I couldn't afford it so the emergency recovery stopped immediately.

I've removed as much as possible - the boxes and boxes and boxes of books - a life long addiction - have convinced me that I need a Kindle!  I've depended on the kindness of family and friends as there is no insurance to cover costs of out of home living expenses.  Flood insurance is completely different from Homeowners Insurance, and even though I have both, Homeowners does not provide any protection for a flood.  Actually, I have found that Flood Insurance provides little coverage, and that my insurance company is by far the very worst - this was noted by emergency crews who have worked with numerous insurance companies, an independent insurance adjuster, and a staff person from one of the state agencies.  After a series of what could be considered a comedy of errors in a less dire situation, I couldn't agree more.  Although I haven't been posting on live journal, I have continued my daily journaling and I could write a book!

I'll post later about the difference between flood and homeowners insurance - it's too late for me, but it may help others.

It has been almost a month since the flood.  My life has been on hold with first living out of a suitcase, then a rapid move, gathering filthy mold infested items, moving them, then cleaning them and storing.  Nothing could be cleaned before it was moved since there is no running water in the house - just floors caked with mud and mold. That has been followed with endless calls and red tape to try to determine if my home can be salvaged.  The first step is to have a survey done  - again, thousands of dollars not covered by insurance - to determine if I am in the Flood Plane or the Flood Way.  From there, the township can determine which zone restrictions will apply.

Since insurance is covering so little - about $20,000 once emergency services are covered - even though I have an insurance policy for $150,000 and $60,000 contents, I am applying for grants, working with Lower Allen Township - they have been exemplary - as well as the PA Insurance Commission and PEMA, also extremely helpful .
Through all of this I have felt blessed every moment of every day.  My animals and i are safe, we have a place to stay and can be together: family, friends and even people who are relative strangers have reached out to help me in ways that are creative and heart-felt. I am deeply indebted to all who have just shown up to bring boxes, pack, carry - those who have opened their homes so I could shower, the meals, flowers, cards, calls and prayers  - I'm tearing up to think of it.

I'm writing this post for personal documentation. If you've taking the time to read to the end, thank you! Most of my posts are more visual than wordy.

One more thought.  I wouldn't give back the more than ten years I have spent creek side for anything.  I've spent countless, priceless hours watching the Great Blue Herons fishing only a few feet away, beavers and otters fighting the current to float up stream, wild turkeys, red foxes, and friendly kayakers waving as they float by . . . There have been lazy days reading on my swing, and evenings watching the moon rise over the creek, enjoying each season.  Baklava on the swing in a snow storm, tea and talks with friends, campfires with magical memories, walks with Zippy and with loved ones to the stone arch bridge one way and the iron bridge the other. Being near nature is in my core - it grounds me and helps me feel connected to God. I am open and ready to learn the lessons that I am being taught.  I have complete faith that everything is as it should be. My blessings are numerous and enormous. having little to do with things and everything to do with the love, peace and joy that surround me at every moment. I am abundantly blessed.

Tags: blessings, flood
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