Can I just say how crazy everything has been these past few days?
I'm a week away from graduating from college (which is crazy in of itself), but this past Tuesday, we had a flood. For my college town, the average rainfall in July is less than an inch. I'm not sure how much rain fell in the few hours of Tuesday evening, but I've heard some people say it was about two inches. Which, other places get that and worse, but this town was not built to handle that kind of rain.
Apartments flooded and parts of campus flooded and I think the flooding started only an hour into the rain. But you don't need to worry about me, because I live on the third floor, so I was safe.
I just feel the need to write this all down because I keep seeing more and more criticism from people as to how we handled the flood (I think most of it comes from people elsewhere, who didn't actually experience it for themselves).
See, the thing about my college town is, rain usually doesn't last all that long--especially if it's falling hard. We were all in awe of the size of the hailing that was falling, as well as how big the puddles in the parking lot were getting. Some people went out and danced in the puddles and a lot of people came out to just watch the rain. It was really cool to watch, and nobody thought much of it.
I had a group project at 6pm, so I headed across the parking lot to an apartment lounge. I went inside and closed the door. This is where I got my first warning that something was wrong, as there was quite a large puddle of water in front of the door, but I figured that just came in from me and my fellow group members opening the door (which, I believe I was right with that, as the lounge didn't flood). After about half an hour with my group, we decided we couldn't work on our project (both because we were missing a person and because we're making a short film for class, and the rain was way too noisy to record anything).
I started to head back to my apartment, only to see a bunch of people around a friend's apartment. I hurried over to see her apartment was flooded. The water was about a third of the way up the couch, and more just kept pouring in through the closed door. I climbed in through the window and started helping them get stuff out. I probably helped out for about ten minutes, and then it seemed like there was enough people to keep things under control and we all thought the rain was going to stop anytime and that things weren't going to get much worse. I had somewhere I was supposed to be, so I left.
Though, just to give you a clearer picture of the setup of my apartment complex:
. .......................... (me)
. ...... (my friend)
My complex is three and a half apartments wide (the half being the laundry room on the bottom floor and the stairs on the upper floors. My friend's is two apartments wide, but there is concrete dividing it in half at the entrance. Both her apartment and the lowest floor of mine are at about basement level, and have concrete walls surrounding them with stairs going down. Unlike my friend's apartment, there is no concrete dividing the bottom apartments--they all share the same outside cement wall. Hopefully that description makes sense, as I feel like it doesn't...
But the point of it is that my friend's apartment has the smallest entrance space, and so hers was the first to flood in my area. It didn't even cross my mind that the bottom floor of my place was in danger, because the space between the cement walls and the apartments were so much bigger.
So, I left thinking everything was under control and that the rain was going to end soon. I arrived to my Murder Mystery Dinner on campus, only for the lights to be shut off about ten, fifteen minutes later. We were just going to stay and eat our food (we didn't realize how serious everything was becoming), but then we were told campus was closed and we had to leave. Which, there was a little bit of water where we were scheduled to have the dinner, but it really wasn't that much and the building wasn't in a location to be able to build up a whole ton of water (which, I don't think it got too much more throughout the course of things, but I haven't been back to the building since then).
So, since we didn't want to waste the food, we relocated to an apartment complex about ten minutes away (driving-wise), where there weren't any huge puddles or the like. But then reports started to come in from people's phones about buildings on campus being flooded--one of the buildings being up to the ankles in water, with more water just gushing in.
My phone not being that fancy, I could only rely on what others told me.
An hour and a half after leaving my complex, I was returned. When I arrived, there were hundreds of people there bailing water. They were bailing at my friend's apartment (the first one that flooded), and as I hurried to my own apartment to drop off my stuff, I saw that the entire first floor was flooded almost up to the windows. Everybody's stuff was strew on the balconies of the second and third floors, as well as in people's apartments.Here's a picture I took with my phone.
If you look carefully to the back, you can see the couch is actually floating
So, I changed my pants and shoes, dropped my stuff in my room, and then hurried outside to help. I'm not sure when people showed up to help, but I probably was helping pass buckets for a half an hour, and then we switched to my apartment's first floor, where we bailed for three more hours. I think more people showed up then, as we had multiple lines going, passing full buckets along to the street and then passing those empty buckets back to the front. It was just amazing, to see so many fellow students--most of who weren't affected by the flood--come to my apartment complex and help bail water for people they don't know for hours. The police didn't show up until about midnight (I'm sure they were all busy until then, as quite a few of the roads had been closed and whatnot), and we kept going until one in the morning. That's when they finally got a big truck there and got it attached to the hoses and everything.
But all of those people bailing... It was an unexpected disaster that had happened and we were all worried and sad about those who had been affected, but there was so much positive energy there, and a lot of laughter and smiles and singing. It was an amazing and very uplifting experience, and it still blows my mind how many people volunteered hours of their time to help strangers.
It seems to me, though, that a lot of people just see all of the photos people posted of themselves and others having fun in the flood and then criticize the school and the people for not taking things more seriously. I mean, there is a video of people just walking around in one of the campus buildings where the water was up to their ankles and talking about how amazing it is to see that much water. That one gets a ton of criticism both for the school allowing people to be there and for people walking around in water where they could easily get electrocuted.
I'm not arguing the situation could have been handled better or that those people shouldn't have gotten out of that building right away, but I don't think most people realize how fast everything happened or how unusual flooding is here. The first flooding I was aware of happened between six and six-thirty, and that was my friend's apartment. By seven, the electricity to campus was being shut down and we were being told to leave because campus was closed (and we were in one of the buildings that doesn't get a lot of students hanging out, so I would assume our building was one of the last to be checked). I also assume campus started to flood at about the same time as my friend's apartment, which means campus was closed less than an hour after the flooding started.
A lot of people saw the excess of rain a fun and an odd thing, and a lot of pictures and videos were taken of people just having fun with the flooding, but that's because nobody realized how serious it was going to get, and I think that's also just a way of coping to disasters like this.
My college town never floods, and so there was no plan for this much rainfall and many of the apartments weren't built to deal with so much water. Some doors and windows (just a door, in my place, which ended up getting pulled off its hinges) were cracked from the pressure of so much water with nowhere to go. Drains couldn't get the water through fast enough, and it didn't help that there was so much debris and it kept clogging the drains.
I didn't mean for this to turn into a rant, but it just irritates me how quick people are to criticize how we handled the flash flood when they know nothing about my town and weren't there to experience everything as it unfolded. Some things could have been done better, but I think we did a fairly great job, all things considering. As soon as people realized how serious the situation was, they did everything they could to help. Millions of dollars of damage was done (my college esteems one or two million dollars for the campus itself), but nobody died and nobody got hurt. Professional crews worked all through the night on campus (and I think on apartments as well). School started just the same the next day (except for a closure of one of the buildings, because it wasn't safe), but teachers are very willing to work with/make allowances for everybody who was personally affected by the flood.
Wednesday morning, aside from the debris and people's stuff being piled everywhere, you couldn't even tell there had been a flood because all of the water was just gone.
If anything, this experience has taught me how fast a community can come together to help those in need, as well as how judgmental people can be when they don't know the full facts of what is going on--they just jump to the worst conclusions about people.
I feel so bad for all of those people who had belongings destroyed--especially the people off-track who left their things in storage, as those things didn't stand a chance. The storage room is off to the side of the lounge (almost hidden, if you don't know it's there), and I don't think it crossed anybody's minds Tuesday night. I could be wrong about that as I wasn't there when everybody was pulling their stuff out, but I didn't see the storage boxes until the next morning, so I think they got pulled out during the course of the night, when the cleanup crew came across them.
But I think people are coping the best they can. After all, it was just stuff, and things could have been so much worse. If that rainstorm and flash flood had come six hours later, most people would have been in bed and there would have been less of a warning.
I don't care what anybody else says, I'm so glad I came to this college, because I can tell the people here genially care about one another. And while I wouldn't want to wish a flash flood on anyone, it was such an uplifting experience.