Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Very local reporting two-fer Part II

We interrupt the usual 2-4-2sday routine AGAIN, to bring you this breaking information.

The following is from Deep Green my friend in Indiana. I told you he can flat write.

Monday Morning, 8:45 AM

This is a pretty weird form of emergency if you ask me.

I've dug and sawed myself and others out of twister debris. We've gone days without electrical power, water, and showers. We've had our phones and Internet links knocked out for two or three days at a time. Generally, this hits during winter when it's easy to stay focused--keep the house warm any way you can. Everything else seems minor when your furnace has no power and the outside temperature is falling towards zero.

As emergencies go, this one is practically luxurious, at least for Tess and me. We have electricity, air conditioning (bloody hot and humid outside now), television, computers (although without Internet capability, making them pretty dull and uninformative) and although we might have to backtrack many miles out of our way we can get to nearby towns for groceries and gasoline. Our yards and areas around the ponds, normally kept well-mowed and park-like look like jungles now, waist high weeds taking over everywhere. We won't be able to cut them with the mower. We'll need the tractor for that kind of work--and my new radiator for the tractor is sitting in the middle of Brazil at the parts store. It will probably sit there for several more days. Not even yours truly is mad enough to drive into that tar baby of a town now.

Interstate 70 flooded Saturday night. On Sunday, large chunks of it simply collapsed and washed away. When it was designed and built, no one foresaw this kind of flooding on that stretch of road. This is but 25 miles or so southeast of our home. Interstate traffic has been routed onto U.S. 40, which leads it through Brazil, IN, and Brazil has one of the worst storm drain systems of any city I've ever seen. The town has been totally rebuilding it for the past four years and were not finished yet. Traffic is limping through town at a slow walk, trying not to raise high enough waves to flood out their engines. And with I-70 kaput for the foreseeable future--months at least--the town is maddening to try to get through for both travelers and locals. Indiana is a national hub for ground transportation. No less than five major interstate highways converge on Indianapolis. And now these arteries are destroyed in many sections and it's playing merry hell not only with us, but with nationwide trucking and transportation schedules. They'll need to re-route westbound traffic onto U.S. 40 and eastbound traffic onto Indiana State Highway 42 when they get organized--and when 42 reappears out from under the water.

Here's the rub--none of these areas were in any way prepared for flooding of this level. This sort of thing just doesn't happen here. None of the communities facing several feet of unwanted water have ever had to deal with this before. Cops, firemen, repair crews, and average citizens are doing their best to adapt and improvise, but now we're starting to lose people in the attempt. The men known lost already were in sport boats trying to get to homes surrounded by water to rescue the people trapped on the roofs. What they forgot was that the fields and woods they were boating through are thick with half-sunken logs, easily capable of smashing propellers and tearing holes in sport boat hulls. One local guy had an air boat, a flat-bottomed rig with one of those huge air fans at the rear. You'd think that would have been a perfect craft for such work. He's been missing since Saturday night. He must have hit something and was literally bounced out of the craft. They've found his boat, still upright and afloat, miles downstream. He was not in it. Another high-speed bass boat was found overturned when it drifted into a corn field and became stuck in river
debris. No survivors from that craft either.

Air rescue is almost non-existent. As I said, most of Indiana's National Guard is battling in either Afghanistan or Iraq and unavailable to use either of their Blackhawk helicopter squadrons or any of their military vehicles to throw into the fight here at home. (Military Humvees are desgined to wade four feet of water and keep going. Be nice if we had a few of ours back now...)

Today the news says that President Bush has declared one-third of Indiana to be a federal disaster area. From the maps shown on TV, we're pretty much in the middle of the disaster zone. Eastern Illinois is faring no better.

I've been wondering about the condition of the U.S. Army Chemical Depot at Newport. They're still destroying our old stockpiles of VX gas and other forms of instant death. I hope they're on high ground...

Since this disaster has hit the classic "flyover zone" it's not getting hardly any national press attention. Were this to happen anywhere on the Left Coast or in New York, the networks would be broadcasting around the clock coverage of it. Nor is there any race card to play here, as there was in New Orleans. We're only poor and middle class white Midwesterners suffering and dying, therefore of no particular interest to national news editors.

The black, Hispanic, and Asian folks among us are working as feverishly as any
of the whites, but there aren't enough of them nor are they radical enough (read
stupid enough) to scream into TV cameras, demanding the government "do something" because the Bush government "ordered this flood" and they had "entitlements" to their every need or wish.

So here we are. No military, no national mobilization for assistance, not even any mention of our plight going recognized by the national public. That's one thing we ARE used to when the shit hits the fan. We're on our own. Alone and doing our best. Thanks a bunch, America. When New Orleans was swamped, people all over this region volunteered to load semis full of food, diapers, generators, anything they could to send south. When New York was hit by the 9/11 disasters we lined up to give blood. Indiana sent search and rescue teams to Ground Zero to help the exhausted NYFD. And more than likely, half of all New Yorkers could not find Indiana on a national map. Some of the better-informed may have heard that we got some rain here. That's about it. They said three sentences about us on the NBC Today Show news blurb.

The same thing happened in '91 when the snowmelt and torrential spring rains hit North Dakota and Minnesota. The Red River valley flooded for 200 miles. Grand Forks, Tess' home town, flooded to the third story of the downtown buildings, then caught fire. Everything burned to the waterline, the flames leaping from rooftop to rooftop. To this very day, Grand Forks has about one-third the population it did in its pre-flood days.

They spent more news time yammering about Madonna and her latest scandals on the news than the deaths of hundreds and the destruction of entire American cities. It wanted to make us vomit. Anyone who thinks they're informed by the U.S. news services is a fool. Madonna can sell more dog food, tampons, and beer than films and information of utter destruction, so Madonna got the air time. The people whose lives were destroyed got nothing, partly because of her and partly the fact they did not live in New York or Hollywoood.

This is enough to irritate even calm folks. We're getting more help from the tiny Mennonite Disaster Service and their horse-drawn wagons than the billions still being wasted on a city of welfare ripoff artists that was already built under sea level. One thing is for damned sure--you won't see any aerial photographs of hundreds of school buses parked in flooded lots taken in Indiana. They're mobilized and ferrying people to shelters as I type, finding fuel wherever they can.

Schools and business have been closed. I don't know if my plant will be open tonight for production, and even if it's not they'll need us (Skilled Tradesmen) to maintain the place against the storms moving in from Illinois now. Hospitals are evacuating patients, nursing homes are tying the elderly into life jackets, carefully placing them into tiny fleets of privately owned bass boats, and ferrying them to higher ground where school buses and private cars, vans, and pickup trucks are taking them on to safer areas.

Gas stations are running out of fuel. There has been no resupply for days and will be none for more days to come. Other stations are under water, their fuel tanks contaminated beyond use.

Underscoring all the other mayhem and confusion is the fact that almost none of us have ever fought anything like this before. Major and multiple tornadoes, yes. We have mobilized to go in after them and help people. Blizzards, sure. We've done that before. But as I said, THIS REGION SIMPLY DOES NOT FLOOD, not in the catastrophic manner we've seen since Friday. People are learning rapidly that even one foot of quickly rushing water can sweep a small car off a road and into a flooded forest or a river itself. The puny little go-karts people have been buying to save gasoline are parked and people are firing up their big pickups again to forge through the water. But the fuel is dwindling and cannot last much longer. With the recent outrageous increases in gasoline prices, most of the regular fuel has been gone since yesterday and now people are forced to pay bandit prices for the higher octane fuel, as that's all the stations have left.

What National Guardsmen we have are being moved to southern Indiana, where the entire town of Princes Lake is stranded, all roads around them deeply flooded and most of them washed out to the point where a bulldozer couldn't get through even if they were dry. I suppose the greater need is there, but the small town of Clinton, a few miles east-northeast of us has been an island since Saturday. Communications are so bad I don't know what they're doing, what is being done for them, or how long they can hold out.

Using slings, one Blackhawk could make a few flights and supply food and bottled water for these towns, enough to keep them going for a couple more days. But the governor no longer has any Blackhawks he can order into the air. Gone. All of them.

Every backhoe, dozer, giant tractor, and crane that can be moved into position is now employed in a rush to ramp up new levees and contain the rising waters. The diesel fuel will run out first. But they're doing what they can while they can.

Tess will be on our base CB radio this afternoon as I head for Greencastle and
work. All of our vehicles are outfitted with CBs and damned good ones. The storms will move in behind me. She'll be on the radio again at 11:00 PM when I start home. If I can't make it, at least she'll know I'm safe and where I will be heading. You must understand this region does not have mile-square grids of roads like most rural areas. They only have roads where they could build them due to the bizarre terrain, steep ravines and valleys, and general lack of money. There is basically only one way to and from where I work. Any other route would take me literally hours out of the way--burning gasoline every foot I drive. And there is no guarantee the few other routes I know would even be passable. I might wind up sleeping at the shop, I dunno. If so, and if the next wave of storms are as bad as what we've seen I'll find a nice HIGH place to stretch out, thank you very much.

They've mentioned a couple of times on the local news that an automated weather station somewhere in Clay county--the home of the famous Duckburg (Brazil)--recorded *eleven inches of rain overnight* Saturday. This was not a 24-hour reading. It all came at once in the night.

There's nothing you can do but wish us luck. Tess and I remain fine, her being married to one of those survivalist wackos who prepare for all sorts of ridiculous things that can never happen, and I've been silently bragging to myself for picking good ground where we bought our house.

And again, I don't know when I will be able to transmit these messages to you.
The phones and DSL are still out. I'll catch you when I can.

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