Saturday, June 11, 2011

You know you’re in for a flood when…

It doesn’t take much to realize that an unprecedented “flood event,” a euphemism government officials like to use, is headed your way.

For instance, you know you’re in for a flood when suddenly an unexplained public information meeting has been called for the first time in 36 years.
You know you’re in for a flood when…

… the Red Cross greets you at the door.

…the mayor opens the meeting by saying, “Now, folks, no matter what happens, we are all in this together.”

... all of the websites referred to at the meeting begin with www.disasterrecovery or www.bReady.

…you can correctly pronounce and spell the word “levee.”

…for the first time ever, you know exactly where your town’s levees are located and what conditions they are in.

…the sights and sounds of Blackhawk heli
copters hovering over your area, while dangling 1,000-pound bags of sand, are everyday occurrences.

… four out of every five vehicles on the highway are dump trucks, transporting fill dirt to build new levees.

…your entire life revolves around if the levee breaks.

…you can report the current Missouri River stage at any given time.

…you are on a first-name basis with your county’s Incident Command officials.

…you know the exact elevation of your property (11,003 feet), the school elevation (11,009 feet), the sewer system (11,002 feet) and just about every part of town.

…you actually try to calculate the flood threat by adding the sum of your elevation and the river stage to your location relative to the river gauge but ultimately give up.

…your community looks like a war zone with Army National Guard troops controlling every entrance and exit to town.

Similarly, you know you’ve been sandbagging way too long when…

…you begin reciting statistics, such as: Two people can fill, tie and load 25 sandbags in 30 minutes. It takes three hours for a team of 15 to 20 people to build a 20-foot long, four-foot high sandbag levee.

…you know that 300 sandbags really don’t go very far.

…you set the alarm for 5 a.m. on Saturday morning, your only day to sleep in, to fill more sandbags.

…you think you need to fill 100 more sandbag even after you’ve already filled more than 700.

…you talk to the Weather Channel meteorologist on your TV screen by saying, “Good weather for sandbagging.”

…your back is breaking, your shoulders are aching, your knees won’t bend and every muscle in your body is in pain from filling and hauling all those sandbags, which weigh anywhere from 50 to 70 pounds each.

…you become weirdly territorial as you experience a sudden and unexplained obsession to protect your stake of the sand pile and stack of filled bags behind you.

…you actually start thinking which color of sandbags you prefer – army green, sunburst yellow, plain white or bright orange – and for a brief moment you seriously wonder if you should color coordinate them on the levee around your house.

…you really wish there were a Duct Tape or an App to protect you, your family and your property from flooding.

... you think high school and college students are God’s gift to the world as flash mobs of them show up to help you fill sandbags and to build your levee.

…you are equally as grateful for your family, your church and your employer who all played critically important roles in helping you prepare for this epic flood.

…at the end of the day, you are humming “What a wonderful world” because you know that if it weren’t for all of these volunteers, you, your town and your entire area would be sunk – literally.

2011 © Copyright Paula Damon. A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Bosco Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her writing has won first-place in competitions of the National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women. In the 2009, 2010 and 2011 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contests, her columns have earned eight first-place awards. To contact Paula, email boscodamonpaula@gmail, follow her blog at and find her on FaceBook.