Flash flood!

It’s 4 a.m. as I’m writing this on Monday night/Tuesday morning.  I saw the weather report this afternoon about 2 p.m. and that word was in it: derecho.

Background:  The last time one hit was 2012. The high winds in it picked me up and slammed me down on the concrete. I broke my elbow, bruised my hip and pelvic bones on the right side, split my head open, and had a concussion from it. We also lost electric for six days, and I insisted we go on our planned vacation anyway (and I remember very very little of that vacation due to my head injury).

I think you can understand my deep need to make sure we were as prepared as possible this time around, and I already knew in my head that we weren’t venturing out of this house once the storm started.

I rented a generator, filled my van’s gas tank to the top, bought groceries, and made sure we had full bins of animal feed, fresh bedding, a full propane tank on the grill, and gas for the generator.  The youngest chicks were moved to the big coop because I wasn’t sure if water might get into the new little one I built. Our bookshelves were stocked with books and board games and craft kits.

I did everything I could think of to prepare,  up to and including calling family to let them know if they lost electric that they should come to stay with us.  At 5 p.m., a big tree fell across the covered chicken run.  It’s free firewood, I told myself, keeping a positive spin on it.

I thought I was completely prepared for every foreseeable possible thing that could happen.  I thought wrong.

At 1:52 a.m. my son called me. The glass in their basement doors cracked, and water was pouring inside. He was standing in it up to his ankles and trying to get everything out that he could, including their cat who wanted to play in the creeping water. I told him to kill the main breaker, and he said the electric went out already, but Morgan would flip it right then.

I called my Dad to let him know. He couldn’t believe water was going in that basement. It never had before.

I hung up, and Ted and I threw on clothes to go help them. In a crack of lightning, I saw through the window that there was a huge rut across the driveway, directly behind his car.  I had ponchos in a bag in the closet for the upcoming marching band season, and we threw those over our clothes and headed out. 

We made it five feet in our driveway before realizing we had no driveway left. It was all mud, ruts, and running water streaks. We drove down it slowly to the bottom…

…and in another flash of lightning, we saw it all. The creek was roaring and rushing so fast that it was literally jumping up over our bridge and slamming back down on the other side like a kid was holding a thumb over a hose end. Water was everywhere, pouring down in sheets, roaring down the road (There is no road…), almost to the flagpole halfway up the yard, and rising up into the pasture.  Then it hit us: there was water rising in the pasture! Where were Bessie and Beef???

We shined our headlights but couldn’t see them through the sheeting rain and pitch black night. Ted got out and started yelling for them, and I just froze, panicked.  Every lightning strike made it worse because I could only see water and not them.  The fence posts were covered by two feet of water near the bottom of the pasture under the walnut tree, exactly where they liked to sleep; i could only see the top rope of electric wire when the lightning flashed intermittently. Our mailboxes were standing in water halfway up their posts.  If my cattle were down there when the water started tumbling down the creek and the road, they were gone. They would be in the creek and drowned…Bessie, Beef, their unborn calf…I started blowing the horn, hoping against everything that they were close enough to hear it.

It felt like forever, and I was getting frantic with every passing second, and suddenly, in a flash of lightning there was Beef, heading for the horn and Ted. Then there came Bessie a few seconds after, and I finally could breathe again. Ted talked to them, calming them down, and we went back up the other hill to the other pasture to see if we could move Bessie and hope Beef would just follow her, but there would be no moving them.

The pond was overflowing, and the water sounded like a freight train as it poured over the corner edge of the pond and flooded the bottom, right where their shelter house stood. If they went in there and laid down, they would be swept against the fence and held under. They would drown if we moved them. They would have to stay where they were.

We went in to check on Gramma and the kids, and when we stepped out of the van onto the garage pad, we were standing in two inches of moving water; the water actually caved in the basement door frame. It was up to the first step leading upstairs (about eight inches deep). The kids saved their electronics. Everything else was standing in water down there.  I made sure the main breaker was kicked while Ted walked around the house to check for trees down and anything blocking the drains.

A car went down the road but didn’t make it past three neighbors down before turning around and heading back up the road. The bridge was evidently washed out.  My Dad left a voicemail; he tried to come to help, but he hit high water and had to head back home. When he got home, he had water leaking into his basement, too.

Teddy and Ted walked the edge of the fenceline once the rain slowed down.  Bessie and Beef stayed near the top of the hill.

We sat on the porch, talking to Teddy, Morgan, and Gramma for a while. We tried to convince them to come up to our house with us, but they wouldn’t leave. We drove up and checked the pond again, and while the rain had slowed, the pond was still pouring over its lowest edge and through the other pasture so still we couldn’t move the cattle. At least the water was starting to recede where they were.

I cannot explain to you how absolutely helpless I felt, sitting in that van, watching that flood go through, and knowing there wasn’t a thing I could do to help those cattle if they needed help. It was a sick, gut wrenching, hollowness that felt like it was consuming me whole.  It was like that feeling you get when you’re speeding and pass a cop, but it didn’t go away in a few seconds; it lingered on and on and on.

We don’t know the extent of the damages yet. We hope it didn’t get into the barn area or wash out the barn bridge, but we couldn’t get there to check.  We will have to look and see what all has happened in the light of day. For now, I am grateful that we are all okay and safe, even if we are soaking wet and even if we have a loooong week ahead, filled with repairs.

Please know that you should never attempt to cross moving water. Just an inch can float your car away and off the road, and it can knock you off your feet and drown you. We were extremely cautious as to where we drove even though it was all on the same driveway. Remember – stay safe!!!

*There are no pictures in this post because it was too dark, raining, lightning, and I was too paralyzed with fear to even consider trying to take some. I will definitely take a few once it’s daylight though and after I’ve had a couple of hours of sleep!

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