Disaster on May Day

Saturday, May 1, was no happy day of feasting, dancing, singing, love, and gathering flowers, as it was in the May Day holiday of medieval times. Far from it. That was the day the river that encircles my community like a belt rose in its bed and flooded us out.

It started raining sometime after after noon on Saturday, Day One. By Saturday evening, people on our street were advised by the police to evacuate our homes, because of the intensity of the flooding that had already occurred. “Shut off the electricity before you go,” one policeman told us. By that time, I had watched a strange drama out of my back windows. My neighbor, insisting plaintively that he didn’t know how to paddle, was nonetheless taking his property out of his home by canoe, “docking it” after each trip in my yard where the flood waters mysteriously stopped and some grass was still visible. The water in his back yard was so high that a volunteer trying to maneuver the canoe by its bow was standing in water up to his waist. And the water had roiling waves. In the pasture beyond our back fences, a new lake had formed that looked perfectly natural, in fact, oddly pleasant. Out of my front windows, I watched canoes ply their way up and down the street. Some people were determined to get some fun out of the situation. A teenager walked through the water, never realizing what was in it: it was toxic with detritus and horse manure from the house with the four horses down the street, and such things as the plastic bag that washed up on my lawn containing what looked like shoe liners complete with worms.

On Sunday, my family and I went to my house to get the furniture up on blocks, tie up the curtains, and do anything else to save my home. The rain was eerily heavy, the street flooded and dangerous. We worked frantically to ready the house and then left the area as quickly as we could. We didn’t know when it would stop raining.

By Monday, when I went back to my house to see if the water had risen inside (miraculously it hadn’t), neighbors were sitting in front of their houses watching the water slowly, agonizingly slowly, receding. A thoughtful neighbor had put an old can at the edge of the flood water, and watchers in lawn chairs sipping drinks were using this as an indicator. Every time the water moved, the neighbor would move the can. The water receded, but the devastation remained. And now, my neighbors had to start getting back the comfortable homes upon which they so depended.

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