Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Not so funny

Last week, a former co-worker who has moved out west sent an email to a bunch of people she used to work with here, including me, asking how we were doing. She'd seen media coverage of the Fredericton flooding.

I made some flip remark - these were a gang of old friends - about the water not having reached my building yet, and were the steps of a third co-worker's building, the Centennial Building, wet? ("I don't know," she replied. "They never let me outside.")

Such joking seemed funny back then, when we were just dealing with the usual spring flooding. Since then, we've had rain and lots of it, and things have turned truly bad. A lot of people have now left their homes for emergency shelters. EMO (the Emergency Measures Organization) is predicting this will be the worst flood in 35 years - the year of the great Flood of '73. In fact, it's expected to surpass '73. They handed out EMO preparedness booklets at work, and the organization is telling people in badly affected areas that if they refuse to evacuate, they had better be stocked up for a week.

We had training at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Beaverbrook this afternoon. Halfway through the training a staff member came and said that anyone who had a car in the back parking lot had to move it. These pictures are the view from a balcony at the rear of that hotel this afternoon.

To the right in this picture, between the trees, you can see the poor beleaguered bike shed (from which the city rents bikes to folks who want to ride the trail that runs along the river in the summertime) is nearly completely submerged now. (Photographing it this time of year is practically a ritual - although I've never seen it in such sad shape before.)

This is a shot of the patio behind the hotel.

Now they've started turning off the electricity to some downtown buildings and blocks, and today around 3:30 they shut off the power to our office building. (Yet Husband's building, which is actually a few dozen metres closer to the river, didn't have its power shut down. Go figure.) I've no idea if we will be back at work tomorrow, but I brought a bunch of work home with me just in case. They're warning residents to expect more power outages, and to expect them to be long ones. We can only hope our downtown neighbourhood is far enough above the flooding to not lose our electricity. We don't expect to be directly affected, but will be only blocks above neighbourhoods which will be.

When I reached an intersection I normally cross going to and from work, I found it flooded; the water was gushing up out of the storm drains into the intersection. I had to walk a half a block down in order to get across the street.

For someone who never lived on a flood plain until 1991 and who hasn't seen anything of this magnitude, it all feels very bad and very disturbing and very wrong. Like bad news unfolding in slow motion while people continue to go about their daily lives.

I like dealing with natural disasters I am familiar with. I'm great with blizzards. Real good with windstorms, including hurricanes that pass by on their way up the east coast and out to sea. But this, I don't really know what to expect with this, or what's going to happen. I mean, losing the electricity? That never occurred to me. That was a complete surprise, although obviously in retrospect it should've been expected. That saw me rushing down 8 flights of stairs - I was afraid I'd get stuck in an elevator when they turned off the power - to the post office to mail in my tax forms, due today, in case they lost their electricity.

Just reading the public alerts is unnerving.

And of course, my worry is infinitesimal compared to the poor, poor people whose homes are flooded as I type. Who are trying to get their kids to go to sleep on cots in a gymnasium.

I wasn't here in 1973 - but it doesn't look pretty.

River's expected to crest tomorrow or Friday, and then, may it please whoever runs these things, can we very kindly get back to normal?




Blogger Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

Water is scary. Very scary. I've lost a lot of stuff to it a couple of times and we hope to get someplace where that's one thing we don't have to confront again.

Sending good wishes for all those people in shelters, exhausted and wondering how to regroup.

10:32 p.m.  
Blogger Sherwood Harrington said...

Ditto what Ruth said, and I will be thinking of all four of you in the ronniecat household over the next few days.

Reading the public alerts you linked to was, indeed, unnerving -- except for the last one, which was good to see:

The Red Cross and the Department of Social Development advise the public that two private companies have accommodations available to take in pets displaced by evacuations...

Let's hope they don't get much business, but it's nice to know that they're there.

1:54 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know this started out as a "humour gone sour" post, but I want to encourage you to keep your sense of humour as this slow motion tragedy unfolds. To abandon humour is to abandon hope.

There will be another sunrise. The light at the end of the tunnel isn't a train. The waters will recede. People will rebuild.

Lock arms with your neighbors and laugh in the face of fate/chaos/*deity of your choice*. They hate being laughed at. They really, really do.

Stay dry.


10:50 a.m.  

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