Reflections on water from Copper Country Flood

Impossible to press into a single column, but here’s a sample from just one person reflecting on a disaster affecting our lives forever:

July 2, 2018 — Seems like ancient history since the first of the flood disasters began – starting Sunday morning, June 24, when I happened to glance from my upstairs window at the rain pouring down – and then blanche at what I saw: water & brown sludge streaming down the walk, already many inches deep. Lawn vanished from sight.

Life changed. Basement filled to about 2 feet, flotsam floating in that still rising sludgy water. When finally the sky brightened & the torrent slowed, a horrible feeling of helplessness overcame me; what to do? Where to begin? How to get help?

Everyone suddenly recognizing neighbors in distress. Help pouring in. Volunteers from the Evangel Baptist church sending people to help, bringing supplies to start cleaning, emptying the basement of tons of precious mementos ( souvenir music albums, photos from former art displays), tools, winter food pantry, winter clothing, blankets, rugs, boxes of tax forms, and more – trucked to the dump or set out to dry on the lawn – now resembling a huge yard sale. Up to a dozen volunteers helping, all in the attempt to clean up the mess before deciding a future beyond it.

In the panic to empty out the basement: in many cases, the baby tossed out with the bathwater, but without alternative at the time.

Appliances: washing machine, water heater, freezer, etc. – gone.

No flood insurance. Since a great part of the water damage seemed to focus on a bubbling drain, reminding me of a similar problem years ago when my insurance company had assured me it was covered, I didn’t worry – until I was told I no longer had drain coverage. No explanation, just a flat statement.

Week later, despite flood repeats, things were looking sad but manageable; volunteers moved on to other places needing help for more than just a wet basement. Fans & a dehydrator running constantly improved the lot after each crisis, floor dried again and again, anti-mold spray applied.

Still, repeats of sucking out water, drying with fans, etc., no less than 7 times in just over a week, each separated by clear skies and promises for summer again, took their emotional and physical toll.

We shouldn’t have been surprised; we’d been forewarned by scientists that Climate Change was a reality and all we could expect from now on would be “unexpected weather to the extreme.”

A re-examination of the first 9 days reveals much:

Beginning the day after the deluge, the Daily Mining Gazette’s headline read: “Riptide: Flash flood wreaks havoc,” followed by “Raging floodwater ravages landscape of Copper Country.” With shocking details: a crumpled Agate Street, homes severely damaged inside and out.

WMPL became an ongoing, faithful reporter of the weather, city damages, progress, the arrival of Michigan’s National Guard, where to find immediate aid, etc.

The Gazette concentrated on graphic photos and daily reports, filled with tragic details by the hundreds, coupled with reports of ongoing help from the Houghton Volunteer Resource, the Great Lakes Conservation Corps, and so many others.

Michigan Tech Topics reported: “Huskies around the Copper Country put on gloves, picked up shovels, mucked out water and mud – brought supplies and worked tirelessly to help rebuild our community…. We are so thankful…”

Looking back: On Bridgefest Day, I emailed to a friend: “When announced threats of rain showed no signs from a clear blue sky, I packed up and headed to Copper Harbor for a restful weekend. But before I got to Calumet, black clouds rolled in; I returned home and celebrated Father’s Day with friends, then home, ate broasted chicken for dinner, repacked the car, fully intending to return my drive to the Harbor in the morning. Woke up next day to the disaster.

“Rain stopped, flood slowing to trickles, city plows struggling to remove endless sludge from Ruby Street; fraternity fellows next door, barefoot, wandering around in what was once their parking lot with small shovels to remove their half-covered cars and trucks from the gradually solidifying muck, much like emptying Portage Lake with spoons. My basement flooded knee-high, water still trickling in among floating debris. Inches of sludge in the garage & garden. Out front, a regular parade of trucks and cars zooming down College Avenue, spraying waves of the wet stuff.

Hundreds of phone calls and postings from across the nation: “Are you OK? Can I do anything to help? My prayers are with you.”

And so it went, seven disasters in a row, the last one the straw that all but broke the camel’s back.

But we’re staunch people, trying to show resistance to the worst.

The rest — until next time — is history.

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