Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Blessings in the Midst of Disaster

When the river overflows its banks, the full, destructive power of water can clearly be seen  For our family the recent flooding has been devastating in terms of property damage and the separation of our family unit.

However, the Lord is good, and He has shown us His amazing grace in the midst of this terrible disaster.  There are so many people who have given us support and have lifted us up in prayer, we cannot possibly remember all of them.

  • We had a little bit of warning prior to this flood.  We had a surprise visit from our church family, who got most of our furniture out of harm's way.
  • We drove out of our street calmly; we didn't have to run for our lives like the last time.  The streets were still dry when we evacuated.  There weren't rescue boats floating on our street.
  • The Lord provided a warm, dry place for us to stay, and nutritious food to eat.
  • We were given a wonderful church family who are living the Word of God, by being family to us.  We are truly blessed to "do life" together with faithful brothers and sisters in Christ.
  • Our electric was restored in record time.  The Lord sent us an electrician who refused to charge us one dime to rewire the entire panel.  
  • Our former church family generously offered space to store our furniture.
  • I have a capable substitute teacher who was able to step in and take over a very complicated program and schedule, and do so seamlessly.
  • I have friends who are tireless in their efforts to help, showing up every single day to do whatever they can, from making sandwiches to running errands washing and bleaching toysThey show up every day to help.
  • Volunteers and community organizations who drive around offering bottled water, dry ice, food, coffee (yippee), mops, buckets ... you name it.

Today was a very good day of work at the house.  There weren't many people who came out to help, but the work was productive and useful, unlike yesterday when I was overwhelmed by the enormity of the job before me, and threw my hands up.

Today we took our two oldest children to the house with us so they could contribute to the restoration of our home.  By the end of the day they were covered in mud and water.  Both of them have work gloves now, his are gray, hers are pink.  They squeegied  the garage floor so I can return the tools to their places. Then they cleaned some toys and help their mom empty the shed.

Some church family showed up to touch base and see what we needed today.  One gave us an envelope of money.  We will use the money to buy a dehumidifier for the basement (God is good, all the time).

My wife dealt with the mess in the shed and all the little items that were shoved upstairs when we evacuated.  Then she, along with a very good friend, began to triage (what to keep / what to throw)  and clean the items in the front yard.  What a trooper - there are some items that are difficult to part with, and she is doing a great job - much better than I would do.  That's why God gave her to me.  I lover her more than I can say.

My "adopted" dad came over to disconnect the dishwasher and cap the wires.  Then he stayed to help with the delicate "cutting around" of the built-in bookcase.  The pastor came over to do the painstaking work of chiseling around the bookcase and removing the back from the inside, then cutting drywall and removing insulation. He saved the bookcase.  He didn't stop there.  He also took care of pressure washing the garage and back porch and finished removing the kitchen cabinets. 

At the end of the day our neighbors invited me to their porch for some good conversation and a drink (vodka and cranberry juice, to be exact).  A much needed diversion to end a productive day.


Oh, yeah one more blessing that I forgot about ...

Someone backed my wife's van into the side of our friend's car, leaving a dent the size of the Grand Canyon (slight exaggeration) .

His response?
"Don't worry about it.  As long as it still runs, I don't care." 

God is good.  All the time.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Wife Always Hated That Chair.

My office chair.  Comfortable, soft.

Now it's trash.  My wife always hated that chair anyway.

The day began in church, praying and worshiping and asking for wisdom and guidance  in our flood recovery endeavors.  I was overwhelmed with the outpouring of love from our church family.

We were able to remove moldings, flooring, and 2 feet of wall from the entry, living room and dining room.

The basement was cleared of most of the debris, and appliances (washer, dryer, water heater, dehumidifier).

The garage is, for the most part, empty and washed out.

We had a visit from code enforcement today.  I gave the inspector the grand tour and he didn't find any structural damage this time (Praise the Lord),  which is a HUGE improvement over the last flood, when the main beam had to be replaced.

Also, the wiring will not have to be replaced, but the circuit breakers, switches, outlets, and light fixtures will have to be replaced, if they were submerged in water.  This is also a huge improvement over the last flood.

A major challenge will be to find workers who are registered with the village.  The mayor of Sidney, while he is a friend of mine, is standing firm on this registration business, which will limit the number of contractors and extend the time frame for families to return to their homes. 

Tomorrow we tackle the kitchen (I think) and downstairs bathroom.  Also, I believe that the built-in bookcase will in fact have to be removed and junked.  There simply isn't a satisfactory way to get under and behind it to let the wall breathe.

I want to thank God, and all the volunteers who came out today to help with mud, debris, cutting walls, removing insulation, making sandwiches, spaghetti, and desserts, delivering water and dry ice, hoisting appliances out of the basement, and otherwise being eager to get muddy and disgusting for me, "just because I asked them to."

This crew ROCKED today!!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Flood Notes, September 10, 2011

I woke up in a cold sweat at 4AM.  I did the usual "wake up in the middle of the night" stuff ... bathroom, drink of water, check on the kids, go back to bed.  There was just one problem.  I couldn't sleep, no matter how hard I tried to empty my mind, no matter how many "happy thoughts" I thunk.  Nothing.  Nada. Just panic.  Full-blown panic. 

After the flood of '06, I made too many mistakes in the cleanup and rebuilding process.  It cost us several months of displacement and separation.  I don't want to do that again.  I want this time to be different.  Easier.  It should be easier, right?  We've been through this before.

One of the things that is plaguing my mind is the built-in bookcase in the living room.  It's about four years old, and is built over the finished floor, and partially over two insulated, outside walls.  My wife loves this bookcase.  I don't want to tear it out if it will hurt her to do so, but I don't want hidden mold to fester behind and under the thing, either.

The Traveller's Flood Insurance commercials crack me up, especially the one in which the guy is being fitted for a tailor-made suit.  It isn't really like that with flood insurance.  They come in and take pictures (*note to self - leave a piece of wall with a visible water line so the adjuster can take a picture), then three weeks later they send you a detailed report that you have to sign and return within 10 days.  Then in about two weeks you get a check for 25% of the estimate.  As the work continues, you must prove that the work is being completed, and another check arrives ... for another 25%.  And so on, and so on.   Oh, yeah, and you can't hire a contractor unless you are able to pay at least 1/2 up front.  Nice, huh?  

Anyway, that's why I wasn't able to sleep.  And that's why I'm still shaking now, at 8:25 AM.  Still shaking, still sweating, still hyperventilating.

10:40 ... We decided to try again today.  We'll stop at the checkpoint and ask if Weir Street is open.  If so, we're gonna start tearing out the walls.

11:00 ... We sat down with Jeff and Sharon for some much needed prayer and discussion time to work out logistical issues.  It's a big adjustment for all of us.  Hopefully a VERY temporary one.  Anyway, it's necessary and smart to discuss possible issues and to pray for guidance and help.


12:00 I went to the house.  The street was dry and and the driveway was muddy.  I went in and emptied the freezer in the kitchen, bagging and taking everything out to the curb.  Then I began prying away some molding from the entry way and some of the Pergo from the floor.  I found the Pergo very easy to remove after the initial plank is loosened. 

Some neighbors came in to assess my damage and offer words of advice. 

Some of my help was in Prattsville today, as they didn't think (nor did I) that our water would have receded so quickly.

I quickly became weary of the overwhelming task but kept working at my own inimitable pace, tearing off a molding, pulling a piece of flooring stacking and taking it outside, etc.  When I looked around at 4:30 I was amazed at how little I actually accomplished today.

Pastor Brian called to tell me he was coming to help me.  Then he called a few minutes later to tell me that he wasn't allowed in to help because he isn't a property owner.

4:20 ... I decided to stop and go to dinner at the Sidney Middle School with my family.  There was an informational meeting afterward and I wanted to be there to get info about disaster relief services, etc.


7:30 ... The meeting was very informative.  I asked a bunch of questions and received good answers.  I know how to register for FEMA relief, and I am VERY relieved to know that I will not have to rewire the entire house again this time. 


7:45 ... We took a long walk with the kids and the dog.  It was a very good night for a walk.

Church and more tear-out tomorrow.

I would like to talk to Dad.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Flood notes, September 9, 2011

Couldn't sleep all night.  Too much going through my mind.
  • Did the water come up to the first floor or did it stay in the basement. 
  • How long will we be displaced?
  • Will our family have to be separated again?
  • There isn't a place for the kids to play ... just mud, mud everywhere.
  • Should I call a contractor?  Should I do that now, or should I wait until we see the damage?
  • Is ServePro worth the huge price tag to clean the mud out of the house?
  • How am I going to go back to work, deal with a whole new situation there, AND work on the house at the same time??
  • I want to talk to Dad.
I went upstairs for breakfast.  Jeff made scrambled eggs, toast, and sausage gravy.  I could get used to the  wonderful food, but I'm afraid of my waistline.  We watched a little TV, and took a few phone calls.

Our friends who pastor the church down the street called to let us know that the water did NOT reach their first floor, and that they tried to wade over to our house, but they weren't able to get through.  Then all the "gloom and doom" talk started.

While I know that it's good to be realistic, it's also good to walk away when my ears and mind can't take anymore pessimism.  So I came back downstairs to check my email and answer a few messages.  We'll walk back down to "Check Point Charlie" this afternoon and find out some accurate information, if there is any, and to check the current water levels.

1:30PM ... We decided to throw caution to the wind and take a walk to our house, come hell or high water (pun intended). When we arrived at "Checkpoint Charlie," we were turned away.  The policeman said "we aren't letting people in there to go sightseeing."  I could understand his thinking.  After all, I was sporting a very stylish over-the-shoulder camera bag, and my wife had a heavy duty flashlight.

Susan  was not quite as understanding as I (understatement).  Ahem ... anyway ...

We decided to take a different tactic (yeah, we're capable of that) and were able to get in.

4PM ... we just got back from an adventure.  We took a little "walk" through waist-deep water and were able to get inside our house.  So much to take in ...  
  • The basement door was ajar, so I opened it.  There were 2 cans of insect spray floating in water at the top step.  
  • There is a dark water line approx. 6 inches up the wall.  The walls will have to be torn out.'
  • There isn't any water in the kitchen drawers.  Susan was able to open it (a bit difficult because of slight warping, but it opened).  The cabinets may be salvageable. 
  • There was too much water in the driveway and backyard - I didn't dare try to make it to the garage.  
We aren't happy about all this, but at least we know where we stand, and we can develop a realistic plan of attack.  We are armed with the knowledge we gained from the previous flood, so we are going to take logical steps this time, instead of listening to all the misinformation.

5PM ... put chicken spiedies on the grill (Yes, we STILL have to eat, so why not grill?).

6PM ... Got a call from my pastor friend.  He passed on a number of someone who had another number to call, and I was able to get our house added to a list of home that will have their basements pumped out, starting Sunday morning. 

6:30PM ... chicken spiedies, mashed potatoes, garden-fresh green beans.  Yummo!!

7:30PM ... Got a call from a friend who said I should call him the very moment we are allowed in the house, and he will come and pump out our basement.  Maybe faster than the fire department. :)

8:15 ... We were just informed that we should throw away the clothing we were wearing when we trudged through the water today, because of chemicals that may be in the water.  Over-reaction?  I don't know.  

I want so much to make it all better ...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tropical Storm Lee and the Flood of 2011 - Part 1

It is difficult to put into words all the emotions a person feels at the moment the fireman knocks on the door and gives the official evacuation order. This time we had enough time to mobilize a crew and get most of the important items out of the house, or at the very least, higher, onto the second floor. 

It started out as a nerve-wreaking day to begin with, as it was the first day of school in upstate New York.  I was nervous and so were the students.  The rain was steady, and there were the typical flood advisories given throughout the morning.  Somehow, and I'm not exactly sure how, it became clear that this day would end badly. 

I heard from another teacher that we would have an early dismissal due to minor flooding.

Then another teacher came to my door and told me to move my car, because the bridge was almost out. 

Okay, the red flag was officially raised at that point.  I went outside and stepped across the covered bridge to the faculty parking lot (normally a very pleasant stroll).  The creek was raging below and I could hear debris slamming into the bottom of the bridge, which, at that point, was only a few feet from the water below.

I got in the car, moved it out of harm's way, and went back into the school building. 

After the students were dismissed, I found out that teachers were expected to remain in the building until they were officially dismissed.  My heart sank, because I knew that my wife and children were probably in full panic mode at home.  Also, I realized at that moment, that I might not be able to make it home because of the many washed out roads in the county.

When I got home, I found that many books were already transported upstairs, and that the china cabinet (saved and restored from the last flood, in 2006) was being emptied and the contents taken upstairs. 

Suddenly, the doorbell rang.  It was the neighbor.  He had just come from the fire house, where he was told that the river was expected to crest at the same level as in 2006, when we lost almost everything we owned. 

Great.  Just great.

Here's where God began to work.

In a few minutes the doorbell rang again.  This time it was a man from our church who was offering the services of his three teenaged sons, to carry everything upstairs, and otherwise help us save as much stuff as possible.  Then a trailer showed up to carry our sofa to safety.  Coolers to empty the freezer, a place to stay, and many hands to get all of the children and pets to safety, the power tools out of the garage, and the bikes up high.

That was last night around 8 o'clock.  Now it is tonight, and it has been an entire day with no sight or word of any kind about our house. 

I took a walk to the flood zone, along with my camera.  The roads were closed and flooded.  Everyone stood in awe, much like they did the last time, taking pictures and chatting with each other.  I saw a few of our neighbors there and talked to some police officers and the D.E.C.  They informed me that the river would crest at approx. 7PM, and that my house was most assuredly under water at that point.  

Anyway, that is the story so far.  I wish I had more to tell.  I'll continue this chronicle later, when I know more and have seen more.