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April 30, 2006

Wood Ducks

The month started wet due to a rapid snow melt which surged the Red to a near record high (37.2 ft, 20.2 ft above flood stage). The event was spectacular. A community army loaded and hauled bags to the dike, some 800 40 pound bags were eventually deployed to restrict water from the basement.

Predictions for crest heights continued. Three days before, a new higher crest was predicted, more stress and worry for my first protective dike. At crest, water streamed under the bags, across the black plastic tarp laid as base, and down the tiered wooden trestles that makes the dike. An blessed 80 gallon per minute sewage pump groaned below in full control. A nearby second provided backup security but was not needed at the time.

We walked the dike all of Sunday night, as the temperature dropped to near freezing. An orchestra of chippering pumps cycled, removing the ground water which was pooling from the stressed dike. On occasion one of us would grab a shovel and scratch a new mud trough to direct the water to a pool.

On Monday near 4 p.m. the crest was reached. The water began to drop, all so slow, as was the case with its rise over the past day, the final heights occur so very slowly, but my optimism began to stir.

Below the three feet of sand bag and plastic liner is the earthen dike, built to protect the river home from what was becoming a more common occurrence - flooding beyond experience. Thwarting the walkout, it was build some 20 years . The earth and rooted grass is robust to temporary flow, but the 20,000 cubic foot per second flow rate was particularly powerful and potentially destructive. The last two feet of water remained for nearly one week; any vulnerabilities would surely be exposed in the extended period, and then the breach...

Embraced optimism allowed me an opportunity to check in with work. My family was encouraging sleep and my intent was to honor their request, but a quick email check would allow a gauge for the length of my dormancy. A quick check from my office window had me in my boots, dawned jacket running out the front house door declaring the dike had breached.

Bag after bag was peeled from a high point filling the burbling water on a mid point of the dike. Three of us fought, other watched, the water swelled. We err'd in attacking the symptom, not the disease, it beat us.

After the breach, the water level equilibrium with near 6 feet of water in the basement in a matter of minutes. The door blew open at the 1.5 foot mark under the excessive pressure of the rising water; a closed deadbolt ripped from the door jam releasing a great deal of pressure that was on foundation wall. Water filled, the electric panel buried, the heating system buried, all remaining contents soaked in river water, some of which were floating.

For two days the water remained, freshly thawed, not far from its 4 degree base. On Thursday afternoon the water dropped to below the lip of the breach, and the pumps turned on using temporary power provided by the city. By the end of Friday, I could walk in the basement to inspect the damage while the wood ducks were swimming in my back yard.

Today, like yesterday, it rains...

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