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Sandbagger

Just when we allowed ourselves to optimistically entertain the thought that 2021 would be better than the year that was 2020, my New Year’s Day started with waking up around 3 a.m. to see floodwaters millimeters away from entering my home and the power already out because of the flood waters that had risen to dangerous levels.

The lowest part of my home, the downstairs toilet, had already been infiltrated by what smelled like sewer water that had been forced back through the floor drain by the floods which, at that point, where the highest I’ve seen in the 16 years spent living in my home.

The incessant rains of December 31 and the initial signs of floodwaters starting to creep up during our locked-down, nuclear family only New Year’s Eve celebration didn’t let me sleep comfortably. I felt like I was partially waking up every time the clouds poured down their contents and when the power finally went out during the witching hour, instinct told me to go downstairs to check on our situation.

Flooding was imminent so my wife and I spent our first waking hours of 2021 transferring everything we have that was on the floor to higher ground. Unopened presents, bags, and whatnots had to be either put on tables or chairs or moved to the bedroom level of our house that would give us another two feet or so of elevation. Since our home still had power, running on critical battery reserves, I made sure to check for extension cords and other electricals that were on the now vulnerable floor level.

When we had lifted everything we could in preparation for floodwaters breaching into our home for the first time ever, we resigned ourselves to our fate and retired to our bedroom. My wife, the more prayerful one between the two of us, did what she could and implored the heavens to stop weeping. It was a tiny miracle that the rains did stop at around that time, and the flood waters didn’t rise any higher.

Lulled by the relative silence of no more intense rains, and knowing that we had done everything we could humanly do to protect our home and possessions, I was finally able to drift back to a restless sleep sometime past 4 a.m. My wife, who slept through most of the rainy night until she was awakened by my panic, replaced my spot at the watch.

I woke up around 6 a.m., expecting the worst but still hopeful that the rain stoppage meant that the water level had receded. I was glad to find that only a tiny amount of water had entered our home, wetting just a few square feet into our entrance doorways, probably caused by tiny waves. This was the best outcome we could expect given the precarious situation a couple of hours earlier and compared to the damage and destruction we would see on social media, our home was among the more fortunate ones.

The rain had stopped by then but the water would not fully recede until around noon time of January 1. This was the most flooding we have ever experienced in our home and unlike previous episodes, we got the ominous feeling that this won’t be the last.

Almost exactly one week later, heavy rains came once again and the waters rose again, and although it wasn’t as high, it was still higher than usual. For homeowners like me, it seems like we will have to start finding the ways and means to protect our homes from the threat of flooding.

We don’t know why the flooding has worsened. Has the intensity of the rains increased? Is our environment degrading more rapidly? Are flood control systems failing or inadequate? Are recent infrastructure projects affecting our waterways?

It would be nice if government knew what was wrong and had the political will and wherewithal to make the necessary corrections to ensure that the worsening flooding does not worsen further but based on how our government has been performing thus far, we have to assume that we are on our own.

In my case, I will have to consider sandbags. I toyed with this idea before, during those rare and less severe floods, but if the first two weekends of 2021 are any indication, it looks like we will have to take flooding seriously if we are going to protect our homes. My quandary now is deciding if I should prepare to deploy one big sandbag system at my gate, where most of the floodwaters enter, or if three smaller sandbag installations at every vulnerable entrance to my home will be better. I will probably try the big one at the gate first, since it could be easier to test.

The first two weeks of 2021 has given me heavy rain PTSD. Until I can find a way to better protect my home from flood waters, it will definitely take a while before I can sleep through heavy rains. How I wish I knew we could count on government to be proactive about this instead of reacting with evacuation centers and dole outs every time, but it is difficult to count on that institution after seeing just how low its minimum standards for performance has fallen over the past few years.*

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