The Texas floods may be beyond our ability to comprehend

Many years ago we had a flood in our house.

To be more specific and less dramatic, our basement took on some water.

It was an unusual event since we live on a bit of a hill, but seven inches of rain overnight tends to ignore topography.

At the height of “our flood,” water levels reached almost…well, an inch. Almost. Not only that, but the cellar has two levels and the upper one remained untouched. What I still refer to as “our flood” was cleaned up with a wet-vac, a few mops, some paper towels, and the willingness to allow a rug to dry outside in the spring sunshine.

That was it, but the trauma far exceeded the damage done. I didn’t analyze it at the time—we were too busy attackin every hint of water—but I realize now that floods are incursions. They’re an unwanted entity in a place of refuge—a place where we should be able to lock the doors and feel secure. Floods—all disasters I suppose—challenge that belief. They disrupt it. For months after that event I watched every forecast rainstorm for warnings of another assault, though I obviously had no control over its arrival or its effects. As it turned out, through the years we had a few minor episodes: a sump pump and that wet-vac usually remedied the situation.

I thought of my idiotic overreactions as I watched Texans wading knee- and sometimes shoulder-deep through streets awash with abandoned vehicles and floating detritus. I don’t know where they were going: I doubt if they did either. I can’t fathom what a person does when he has been driven form his home by water reaching to the ceiling, and not the ceiling of some basement but of a living room, a den, a bedroom. How does a person respond when the water covers light switches and wall hangings, or laps at staircases leading to upstairs rooms and attics. This is not a case of wondering where to plug in the wet-vac; it’s a case of wondering where the wet-vac has gone, and whether that—and any other belongings—will ever be seen again.

I can look back and smile at my overreaction, but I doubt if many Texas residents will ever look back on these past few days and find any humor in them. Simple survival appears to be the immediate challenge.

As always, unaffected Americans are trying to help; and as always—predictably, unfortunately—there are scammers out there hoping to make a buck on others’ misery. An article in the Times today offers some advice for those who want to lend a hand. We can’t do much from here, but we can try to ensure that when the rain stops, all the dispossessed and traumatized will least be alive and well and able to rebuild and recover. If they can’t look back and smile, at least we can help them look ahead.


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