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2021 PTSD

As an almost-victim of the New Year floods that inundated parts of northern Negros during the first two successive weekends of 2021, heavy torrential rains, especially at night, have been triggering what feels like post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Although the floodwaters reached an all-time high at the home I have been living in for 15 years, my family was among the fortunate ones because the waters did not breach my home. A few more nanometers of rain and or floodwaters from the drainage canal outside our gate and our living room and kitchen would’ve been flooded. It was a miracle that the floodwaters stopped rising just as they were about to enter my home.

Anyway, as a result of those scary nights, it is becoming very difficult to sleep soundly every time it is raining cats and dogs these days. While it took almost an entire day of rain for the waters to rise to that level, a few minutes of rain is now enough to make me antsy and constantly check our surroundings for floodwaters. The reality is we now have to deal with the suddenly-constant threat of actual flooding.

My home has three possible entrances: the main door, the kitchen door, and a rear door to the garden. These doorways are nice to have during fair weather days but with floodwaters becoming a threat, my vulnerabilities are multiplied by three.

My best bet as a homeowner, who thought that the 6-inch step was enough to protect my home from floodwaters, is to hope that my local government has a solution for the flooding: not just an evacuation plan, but an infrastructure solution. Storm drains and water ways will need to be cleaned, cleared and maintained. If that is not enough, then they will have to be enlarged or upgraded. If that is also not enough, then a rain catchment / storm drain mega-project ala Tokyo’s might have to be considered. Hopefully the bright people in government can see the feasibility and importance of such projects.

However, because we live in the Philippines where our recent experience with government and governance has been a series of unfortunate disappointments, citizens like me have to assume that we are on our own and we cannot count on government.

Flooding is like Covid-19. Those who assume that we are on our own and that we will have to fend for we will be the ones that survive.

With that in mind, homeowners like me will need to put in place flood prevention measures. During the second weekend of rains this year, my sister and aunt’s PTSD caused them to duct tape their doorways when the rains started falling once more with feelings. Fortunately for them, the water did not reach the previous high-water mark and their duct taping was unnecessary but what they did emphasized was the need for us to be ready for the next one.

In my case, I considered preparing one set of sandbags per door but with three doors to cover, that would be a lot of work. My current plan is to design an easily-deployable sandbag solution for my main gate, which is right beside the drainage canal. My theory is that most of the floodwaters came into our property from the overflowing canal outside. If I can sandbag my gate and somehow prevent water from entering, I could hypothetically protect my home from the threat of flooding.

I am currently imagining a custom set of sandbags for our gate. The goal is water tightness but focused on ease of storage and deployment since the only men in the house are almost-middle-aged me and my teenager. It can’t be too big and heavy but at the same time it has to be dense enough to stop floodwaters. I want something that can be deployed by two men in 15 minutes, using basic tools.

The floodwaters at our gate, one of the lowest points of our property, peaked at more than one foot. Whatever sandbag solution is put in place will need to be able to stop floodwaters up to 1.5 feet high. The beauty of my water gate concept is that it should do most of the work. If the custom sand bags can take care of the gaps, the theory is that water sealing our gate and creating a reverse DIY swimming pool will keep the floodwater out. Hopefully all the rainwater from inside is not enough to flood our home.

Considering the apparent simplicity of the design, I hope to have my sandbags ready soon. I’m also praying we won’t have to use it anytime soon. We shouldn’t have to do this, we should be able to count on our community and government to come up with solutions. But this is the world we live in and until we get better people in government, only the alert will survive. The rest will count on the famous Filipino resilience.

Maybe one day, the PTSD will wear off and we won’t need sand bags or duct tape in our homes. We can sleep through a night of heavy rain once more. But until our towns and cities that have been hit by these floods can prove that things have changed, protecting our homes is entirely up to us.*

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