I’ve been on the periphery of flash floods before, but never before in the midst of one. It was a fascinating natural event to witness.
Early last Tuesday morning, just as dawn was tinging the eastern sky with hints of blue, I was awakened by thunder and the sound of rain beating against my west-facing bedroom window. I’m an early riser, so I got up, made some coffee, and peered out of the trailer door.
Water was beginning to pool out in the yard as the rain began to come down harder and faster. I turned on the radio and heard the first of many flash flood warnings. The storm was making me restless, but I managed to focus well enough to play the mandolin for a while.
At about 6:30 I couldn’t resist the urge to take another peek out of the front door’s window. I was amazed at the sight I beheld. Each trailer in the park was now an island surrounded by turbid, debris-laden water which had an evident current. My curiosity and wonder compelled me to wade out there in order to see how deep the water was and check the rain gauge.
I was barefoot and had my jeans rolled up as I gingerly waded to the blacktop lane. The water was about eight inches deep and seemed to be surging from the Bear Creek bridge about a block from here. I wondered if I would see a catfish or gar swim by. I wondered where this water was going, impelled as it was by that inexorable law water always obeys: Seek Your Own Level!
Once back inside the trailer I knew I had to wake up Ava and Doug. You don’t see such a sight every day! Of course there was a possibility of property damage and even evacuation. I knocked on their bedroom door and resumed my vigil at the front door. Was it possible that the water level was visibly rising?
Ava and Doug normally aren’t early risers, but one look out of the window dissipated their drowsiness. Before long the three of us were wading out in the lane and talking with neighbors. The water was now a foot deep and tree branches and barbecue-sized propane tanks were gliding by.
Then Ava exclaimed “I hear those kitties under the trailer!”
A feral mother cat had had five kittens in a tarped boat next door some weeks ago. She had moved the kittens under a trailer across the lane, then a week later had transferred her brood to a spot underneath Ava and Doug’s place. The feeble mewing of the kittens could be heard from an area where the trailer skirting had been undermined and fallen flat.
I was pretty well soaked by this time so I volunteered to rescue the kittens. Privately I thought that the best outcome for all concerned would be if those kitties drowned, but I kept that pragmatic opinion to myself.
“Oh, well, here goes!” I thought as I gingerly squatted in the roiling water and peered beneath the trailer as Ava held a flashlight. I wished that I had been wearing shoes — I was thinking of such objects as shards of broken glass or wickedly sharp pieces of sheet metal lurking in the mud.
The wet kittens were perched on a floating chunk of hollow plastic which once had been the base of a basketball pole and hoop. The mother cat was nowhere to be seen.
Ava held a styrofoam cooler and, one by one, I plucked the bedraggled kittens from their plastic island refuge and deposited them in a mewling heap in the cooler. The last kitten was the only one to show signs of resistance or defiance. I’d left it for last because it was hissing and spitting at me. It was only six inches long, though, and I doubted whether it had the strength to put up much of a fight. I admired its spirit as I plopped it into the cooler.
The water began to subside, falling as quickly as it had risen. By 8:00 that morning only a few puddles remained. One virtue of such a flood is that the water functions as an enormous level, allowing one to see relative elevations, high spots, and low spots. Floods also have a cleansing effect, floating away debris and disturbing moles.
That morning about five inches of rain fell during just two hours. The trailer park had never been known to flood before, not even during the Flood of ’93, the most significant flood event during the past few decades in this area.
This summer has to have been the wettest since 1983. Last Saturday night we had another two inches of rain and Bear Creek briefly rose again and flooded the roads.
As for the kittens, they were taken to the Humane Society, while the disconsolate mother cat, her full dugs drooping, can still be seen slinking from trailer to trailer.