Saturday, June 18, 2011

Our sunny streets have lost their luster…

Exhausted emotionally and physically, we are at the wait-and-see end of preparing for an unprecedented man made flood.

A force to be reckoned with, the Missouri River came by its nickname “the mighty Mo” for good reason, as it now forces individuals living and working along or near its shores to flee – all the way from South Dakota to Iowa, Nebraska to Missouri and downstream to Kansas City.

I’ve come to realize that flooding rivers don’t discriminate the way tornadoes selectively touch down, wildly carve out a limited path of destruction and then 5 or 10 minutes later, leave, lift or disappear all-together.

Equal opportunity disasters, flooding rivers send roaring waters for miles and miles, overreaching their boundaries three-, four-, five-times or more.
While most floods typically last two days and then recede, draining down semi-clogged storm sewers, running off and soaking the ground, this flood will last one to two months, maybe longer.

Giving us the cold shoulder, it is creeping over highways and embankments; crawling through underpasses and across farm fields; filling basements and upper floors; turning parking lots into lakes, lakes into rivers and rivers into oceans.

We no longer crunch our way through stands of trees but wade on glittering floors.

When eyeing sandbag levees, this flood does not blink. It snake around homes, businesses, sub-stations, water treatment plants, water towers, wells, streets, schools, completely hemming in entire communities.

Our sunny streets have lost their luster, littered with depleted sand piles, tired shovels laid to rest and reserves of sentry sandbags stand by for the next call of duty.

The playful sounds of summer are quieted as we wait and watch rising waters inch closer to our once content and carefree existence.

This epic flood has changed our plans: vacations cancelled, weddings moved, summer camps closed, fundraisers postponed, parties on hold – our entire lives detoured.

The clock is ticking as more and more water is released from Gavin’s Point Dam some 50 miles upstream in Yankton, S.D.

We listen to dismal news reports chirping river stages that are now as common as air temperatures.

Our backs stiffen, our necks harden and our knees buckle with the pain of losing summer even before it began.

Feverishly, we are tempted to point fingers, hoping that casting blame will somehow relieve this grief and calm our anger.

Shaking our tired heads, we talk ourselves and others down off the ledge of despair. Lowering our clenched fists, we pick up our shovels. Stuffing the raspy calls for justice that well in our chests, we fill more sandbags. Holding back deep sadness, we help strangers. Fighting denial, we work day and night to hold back the waters.

While this flood moves in and takes up residence in our once tranquil lives, we do first-things-first – brace for the worst, hope for the best and get to the bottom of this later.

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.