We are experiencing weather so extreme that we are unprepared for it. There are protocols for hurricanes and tornadoes. But when we experience something that is called a 1000 year rainfall, and when we haven’t even been keeping records that long, there are no protocols.
Here is a nightmare scenario. Families and individuals are battened down at home, at work, or even in bed for the night and the living room, the office, the bedrooms start filling up with water – fast. Almost before you realize it the water is to your knees, mid-thigh, to your waist. You have to get out, get everyone out, leave the house – but water is just as high outside the house. Your car, now useless, sits in the driveway or in the parking lot. It is still raining steadily with no signs of stopping.
Somehow you do get to higher ground, or someone with a boat comes and helps you out, or the water, which flooded in so quickly, flows back out to flood a downstream neighborhood. Perhaps you were already in your car. Perhaps it stalled in the deep water and you have to get out and find a way to survive. I cannot imagine how people keep their heads in such circumstances, but they do, and they make it through, although this time at least nineteen people died. We recognize this feeling from Katrina. Drowning seems a hard way to die because perhaps you see and feel the water overtake you.
Officials did not have a grip on what would happen given such a quantity of rain falling so continuously. They didn’t predict the failure of all the earthen dams on the lakes because the amount of rain was unprecedented. This part of South Carolina is called the lowlands after all. They did not order an evacuation which they might have if they understood the magnitude of the downfall.
It appears to me that the number of nor’easters has been increasing. The whole East coast has been subject to more flooding, more erosion, more precipitation. I have no proof that this is so; I don’t have the data. There is proof that the water is rising in the Norfolk, VA area and that land is being lost as the shoreline pushes inland. I used to long to live near a beach, but I am starting to appreciate the safety I get living away from a coastal area.
As we watch your plight on the news we are thinking of the people of South Carolina whose lives have been turned upside down by water, usually such a benign and live-giving substance, but, as we know, sometimes also a destructive force. We are sorry for all that you have suffered and all that you have lost and we are happy for those who made it through this deluge.
By Nancy Brisson