A Discussion for the Water

I survived Katrina.

Now I can say I survived the Great Atlanta Flood of 2009.

Seriously, I did.

Atlanta Flood 3It rained all of week before from about September 15 or 16th which was last Tuesday and Wednesday respectively.  And it really never stopped raining. So, Atlanta metropolitan area got socked with downpour after downpour.  So by the time Saturday rolled around, the whole are was just soaked and the Saturday-Sunday combo we got socked with was the worst.  I remember Saturday I had a rehearsal up on the main part of the AUC campus and that it was a sight to see the water cascading down the hills on which the campus is built.  Water had pooled up so much at the bottom of this one side street I had to turn down, I prayed my car didn’t stall.  When I turned up the hill, initially the water went over the hood of my car, thankfully I knew the street and knew it was barely a car lengths deep–but still enough to stall a car if there was something that wasn’t water tight under the hood.  I had to cross the river that was Fair Street and needless to say, my shoes and socks became immediately soaked through and through.

I made it to service on the following Sunday and had managed to dodge the rain successfully enough as I went to meet up with some friends at Gladys and Ron’s for some after church soul food–fried chicken of course.  But Monday, was wash day for me and I need to wash, I was running rather low on socks and underwear.  Shirts–well, just look at my closet and you’ll see I wasn’t hurting in that area.  So, since I don’t wash on campus because I discovered it’s much easier to go to a laundromat to wash in bulk, usually meaning I wash once a month (yes, I have that many) but I have at least five loads to wash, not to mention when I need to wash a comforter and bathmats and what carpets and what not.

Last year me and a friend had discovered this one place up off of Cheshire Bridge Road that I was driving to on this Monday.  I beat the rain clouds getting there, but leaving was another story.  I had already seen the creek behind the laundromat rising which was really some offshoot tributary of the Peachtree Creek, and both of which had severely gone over their banks.   Where I was wasn’t in direct danger of flooding, but this was the flood of epic proportions.  By the time I left I had seen a steady, not just heavy rain, but downpour that had me driving on city streets at 25 mph with my wipers on high.  I was nervous because I couldn’t think of the best way to get back home because Atlanta is so hilly and I knew these hill bottoms by now would be nothing but standing water just waiting to stall out the lowest car.

So of course the closest street I chose was Piedmont after I panicked not thinking of any other way back.  Of course as I approached Monroe street, Piedmont Ave dips wayyyyyy down and there was probably about a good foot of water, way more than anyone recommends you drive through and cars were gauging how to attack it and I figured if an early model Jaguar in front of my got through without stalling out, my cruise ship of a car would make it through.  I waited before I hit it, and of course I hit the water pretty hard and you could feel the force of the water and I had convinced myself either the car was about to start floating or that I was about to stall out.  The scary thing was that it was probably about 50-75 feet to the other side, it was a quick get in get out pool of water.

Rinse. Repeat.

Atlanta Flood 2I made it through two other flooded intersections after turning down 14th and taking Juniper back south to my side of the city, just thankful my car didn’t stall out in the water.  On Juniper I was riding along side a Camaro and I definitely knew if the Camaro made it that I would be alright.  I got back home safe and sound, but it really was bad in other areas.  It had stopped raining by the time I made it home and I safely unloaded my clothes.  By that time as I turned on the news they were reporting that the west side of I-285 had been closed because of a creek that had begun to flow over the highway.  They had reported a serious mudslide on U.S. 78 (Stone Mountain Hwy) that had closed one side of traffic and was threatening the other side because the mud had gotten as high as the retaining wall.  Then the worst news was that Sweetwater Creek in DeKalb County as it crossed I-20 in Austell was well over it’s banks and running over I-20.

Soooo, another major east-west interstate that runs from Augusta, Georgia all the way to west Texas, almost to El Paso, was closed due to record high flooding.  Come to find out, that bridge remained closed for at least two days.

As I went to chapel that following Tuesday, and all county schools including Fulton County were closed for at least that one day, the school’s chaplain and Pastoral Care director talked about how water was the great equalizer and how this flood and this water forces us to deal with our humanity.  He posed a question I had asked with regards to New Orleans–why build houses, let alone a city in an area that’s so susceptible to flooding?  I’m not blaming homeowners in this Atlanta flood for their own losses, and I’m certainly not blaming New Orleans for the floodwaters of Katrina, but rather I’m pondering as to why do us as human beings act shocked when things like this happen.

Run with me on this for a moment.

Why do we get shocked when nature happens?  I guess that’s my honest answer.  Why do we get shocked when earthquakes happen in earthquake prone places?  Why do we act shocked when tsunami’s hit tsunami prone places–in fact the earth moving is just doing what it does.  Tsunamis when they hit land are just doing what they do.  The flood waters of a few weeks ago were just doing what they do.

Perhaps in our human arrogance we really have believed that we can and will ultimately conquer nature.

Atlanta Flood 1Yet again I learned that water acts as a great equalizer.  This flood affected those that lived in cul-de-sacs.  Certain neighborhoods were literally cut off!  Cul-de-sacked neighborhoods that had only one road in and that same road acted as the exit.  However these roads crossed minor streams and gullies that often time carry little more than a trickle turned into raging currents that eroded away at the soft dirt that asphalt roads and bridges were built next to, they would wash away and whole neighborhoods were cut off.  In case of an emergency these very rich people in two and three hundred thousand dollar houses and homes could not get any help.  By the same token, the floods affected those living in mobile homes.  This is not to give into the stereotype that all people who live in mobile homes are poor, but they most certainly are not people living in $200K and $300K homes.

Don’t get me wrong, people need help and still need help, but let it be real help.  Not some superficial help that merely brings fish to a hungry person but the type that teaches the person how to fish.  Will I actually get off my bum and drive out to Austell and start gutting houses?  Probably not.  I’m not convinced that’s my purpose; but rather to raise awareness and hopefully someone who reads this will be moved to do something.  Is that in itself not a positive?

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL

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