April isn’t the cruelest month, not by a long shot: It’s not even January or February, but in my mind, August, which has no redeeming holidays to celebrate, is impossibly humid (though not this year, I’ll admit) and it’s when the garden goes completely to hell after the mid-summer orgy of blooming. The work and publishing world grinds to a halt (except for those of us who did not take summer vacations), and it’s also the month, along with September, that poses the greatest risk for truly catastrophic weather: In this part of the country, anyway. My heart goes out to Houston and Galveston today, fine parts of Texas that do not deserve the pummeling and soaking they’re getting this week.
I am no stranger to major hurricane-induced flooding; I’ve been through two—Floyd and Irene—and I hope never to go through that again, even though if we stay in this town, it’s inevitable. Heck, it may even happen this week—seems there’s some kind of evil system making its way north from the Caribbean, according to the weather outlets. There are few things worse than waking up in the morning to find your house completely surrounded and knee-deep in water, Niagara-like sounds emanating from the basement—and the skies above still a threatening shade of gray.
There are five stages of Flood: the first is terrified anticipation, as you constantly check the TV radar maps and see that spiraling green-red blob moving up the coastline. There’s bargaining with God: Make it blow out to sea, please, I’ll be good, I promise. Then there’s the shock of impact, where you sit numbly in the police boat, as it floats back up what used to be your street, and you’re trying to figure out where to go next. Then comes anger, when you see the receding waters have taken out your favorite rose bush, as well as your washer and dryer, leaving behind several inches of oily mud in the cellar and grayish coating on everything else. And if that’s all that happens to you, you’re quite lucky. There’s usually no power, either, so you’re stuck washing down everything in bleach and Lysol in the sweltering heat. There’s also the gawkers, people from the higher parts of town or even out-of-town, who feel compelled to drive through to gaze upon your misery. A curse on those idiots. But it does get better eventually. For me there’s no resignation stage, just the forgetting. Like childbirth, once the flood is over, you seem to forget all about the pain and move on. You think: Okay, we were struck by lightning, it can’t happen again, can it? Well, of course it can, and will.
But if you end up staying in the flood zone, it’s usually because the neighborhood’s advantages far outweigh those few days of misery every decade or so. I think we’re ready to move on, and will do so soon. But for many of us in the East and Southern US, it looks like these August storms and floods are going to be a regular occurrence, as a result of increased weather instability and what we’ve done to the environment over the past century. People who’ve never experience a bad flood will get to see what it’s like–hopefully, some of those stupid gawkers. All I can say is make sure your flood insurance is paid up, and stock up on the batteries, bleach and Lysol…and a really good pair of wading boots.