Monday, March 15, 2010

HIGH WATER

Looking downstream from the front-door deck.
Visitors to my streamside abode always ask the same two questions. And they are also the ones I see in this "comments section" whenever I mention the rise of my cottage-side river in a post.
How close does the water actually come to the house?
Am I afraid of getting flooded?
My answers, in order, are: pretty close, and, yes indeed.
I certainly understand everyone's curiosity. I wondered the same thing the first time I laid eyes on the place. So I thought you might like to see a few photos.
Note the stone step and the one, barely visible below, which lead
down to a landing, now under several feet of water.
The deck (with rail) runs across the front of the cottage.
The shots were taken a few minutes ago. I was standing just outside the door, on the end of the wider deck that runs alongside the cottage at a right-angle to the riverbank. The bit of deck you see in the right of the second and third shots is the narrow deck that runs across the width of the house. In the middle shot, below the small platform, you'll notice a stone step or two. There are eight of these steps leading down to a stone landing which is, itself, about 2 to 3 feet above the river at normal pool. So what you're seeing is about 8 to 9 feet of rise.
Scary, huh?
Here you can see the yard level; though hard to tell in the photo,
it's actually 8-10 in. above the water. Several times the
water has been high enough to come under
the platform where you see the rock.
Actually, this is not particularly high water—or maybe I should say it's not the highest the river regularly gets. Every year there's a rise or two that exceeds this point by a foot. Not high enough that all the grass you see in the bottom shot is underwater, but high enough that water an inch deep creeps under that wooden platform, and edges its way toward the main deck and my front door.
But…from what you see here, to the a point where water would actually be level with the bottom of my door would require about another two feet of rise. And inside the cottage, the door opens to a vestibule level that's 6–7 inches below the main floor level. So I do have some additional leeway.
This particular rise didn't result entirely from days of downpours—though Friday night and Saturday we did have several heavy rains. Rather, the problem was it came on the heels of a heavy snowmelt which had the river up the first of last week to one step below the point you see here. The water began to recede, and had gone down three or four feet when the rain arrived…which sent it right back up after a day's delay. There's usually a lag between the rain and the rise, since it doesn't matter how much falls here, rather how much falls miles to the northwest, upstream. I often never see a raindrop, yet have a two-foot rise the following day.
This stone cottage was built in 1919. Since that time, it has had water inside three or four times. So chances are, it will happen again…though conditions have to combine in just the right (or wrong!) order. Plus, the floor has been raised by that extra 6–7 inches, so that will help and might spell the difference. You do have to accept the potential of flooding if you choose to live so close to a river. I pay my flood insurance and figure I'll move such things as books, art, photos, computers, and my Steinway piano should the river decide to keep on coming; the rest is just stuff, entirely replaceable.
Nevertheless, do I worry? Not as much as you might think. Myladylove does, but she's not the risk taker and semi-fatalist (realist?) I am. I try and reassure her. Mostly, I talk to the river, pray about it some, too. I accept it for what it is—a river. A living bit of landscape that runs through my life. Beautiful almost all the time.
And always the one in charge…
———————

28 comments:

birdsandgardens said...

I took an out to the Great Miami River yesterday and it was very flooded also. All that melting snow has to run somewhere I guess, just glad for the dams around town! Hope your house stays dry. I heard that the flooding should lessen this week.

Carolyn H said...

Griz: I hope your high water has started to recede or at least isn't getting any higher. I'm just glad I didn't get the 3.5 inches of rain that was predicted for this storm. as it was, i had just under 2 inches, and the basement flooding was bad enough. Four feet of snowmelt and 3.5 inches of rain isn't something I really want to see.

i hope your own high water doesn't get any worse than what you've posted.

Carolyn H

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Oh my - yes, the water is always the one in charge. All in all, you have considered the risk and were willing to take it for the ever-present wonder it brings. Dry in a high-rise has limited appeal - for me anyway ...

Water damage in a house is not fun to clean up ... have you had to do it - or did the inundations happen before you moved in?

Guess those high fishing boots can come in handy - does ladylove have a pair? Or perhaps you will carry her out?

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Birdsandgardens…

I'm pretty sure the worst of the high water is over…at least temporarily. It was the combo of melting snow and rain at the end of the week that did it. Here, snowmelt brought the river up 5 or 6 feet; reaching that peak, it immediately dropped a couple of feet overnight, and another foot during the following day…and then it began to rain, and rained hard that night and off and on the next day, and so—back up the water came. By themselves, neither event would have matter all that much. And really, this is nothing unusual—it happens several times per year.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Carolyn…

To set your mind at ease, the water is down about an inch from when I checked first thing this morning. Partial sun and NO RAIN is the forecast for the remainder of the week. So I don't anticipate any problems from this go-around.

I've lived in houses where the basement flooded occasionally—and two feet or two inches, that's no fun. Hope you have everything important up on blacks or otherwise out of harm's way.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bonnie…

Yup, you pays your money and takes your chances.

But in the scheme of things, over a given year, I have about 360 days of natural beauty in a riverine setting I've known since boyhood—with birds galore, all sorts of interesting creatures, flowers wild and planted, peace, quite, solitude, and the ability to literally stand inside my living room and—casting through the open slider to the pool beyond—catch a smallmouth bass without stepping outside. Where else might you do such a wonderful, amazing thing?

In payment, there are maybe 5 days in that year when the water rises to the point where I'm concerned enough to keep a close eye on things (this being one) and of those, maybe 1 day/night when I'm really worried. Not a bad trade-off, in my book. And I wouldn't trade it for a 3000 sq. ft. penthouse in New York City, even if it overlooked Central Park.

No, there's never been water in the cottage since I moved in. But I've lived in houses where basements would get 5–6 feet of water; I've done clean up, and it is no fun; and I've lost stuff to floodwaters. But you know what…life moves on. Family, friends, those you love and care about, what you believe in and stand for…that's what really matters. Keepsakes and mementoes are nice, of course, but the older I get, the less an awful lot of stuff seems to matter to me.

As to carrying Myladylove out…I'll loan her a pair of hip boots. She'd look kinda cute in 'em, anyway…madder than a wet hen, but cute.

KGMom said...

Steinway piano? I hope you have it rigged with rope and pulley for a quick pull up!

Since you are such an inveterate reader, I would suppose that you have read histories of various floods? Most of the great floods that I have read about occur because of the "perfect storm" syndrome--a confluence of events just so as to cause the incredible river rise. Of course, there are some horrific stories such as the Johnstown flood in PA when a dam broke (of which people had been warning). Then there are floods like the one following Hurricane Agnes here in PA, where more than a foot of rain was dumped over a week's span. That'll do it.

Hope the good Lord is willing and the creek don't rise, for you.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

Nahh…if the time comes to have to move it, I don't think I'd try and lift it—though I've thought about a pre-prepared platform which could be set up in the living room and the piano rolled up a ramp, onto a big plastic sheet, and the sheet folded up and sealed all around to help prevent dampness damage…sort of "put the piano in a giant Zip-loc" solution. But I'd more likely just rent a box truck with a lift platform, roll the piano onto that, and park the truck in the yard; plus I could put whatever else I wanted in the truck. Should a flood come, it probably won't happen really quickly. I'd have hours to do what I had to do. I think.

Around here—and really, for all Ohio—the real horror story flood occurred in 1913, over a timeframe which included Easter Sunday. It remains the greatest natural disaster in Ohio history, and is the subject of many books.

Like the "perfect storm" point you've mentioned, in this case three winter storms moved through southwestern Ohio within a three-day period. Nearly a foot of rain fell on ground that was mostly frozen or already waterlogged. Runoff amounted to 90 percent. Rivers and tributaries overflowed banks and levees.

At Third and Main, the center of downtown Dayton, the region's major city, floodwaters reached 20 feet! More water passed through the city during these storms and their aftermath than passes over Niagara Falls in a month. Over 360 people died, plus thousands of horses and domestic animals, 65,000 people were displaced from their homes, 20,000 homes were destroyed, fires from stove and gas explosions leveled whole blocks. In today's money, the damage cost would have exceeded 2 billion dollars.

But from this disaster came the Miami Conservancy District, one of the nation's first flood control agencies in the U.S., which eventually built a series of huge earthen dams, on each of the area's major streams, to prevent such an event from reoccurring in the future. The Conservancy and dams are still around…and they're the only reason this cottage could have been built in 1919 and survived to date.

Jain said...

Official flood stage here is 11 feet but we don't worry about it getting into the house till about 14. Historically, it reached 21 feet in 1913, which I can't comprehend and daren't think about. It hasn't topped 15 for almost 50 years so I hope dams and water management methods have worked things out.

When I first came here, I was absolutely terrified during the first flood--and I still get uneasy--but all in all, it's worth it not to have a big box store plop down across the road. The wildlife and solitude are priceless. I've learned to (cautiously) enjoy the sheer power of Nature. Perhaps yourladylove will, too!

Anna said...

...and I tell you - you are brave, lol. I wouldn't. Sometimes I fear water like that, same way as heights. But I guess it comes from the experience, few of my elementary school friends were grabbed by the river, no return. Thanks for sharing all your thoughts on this. Anna :)

Bernie said...

I know how much you love your cottage and the surrounding land Grizz, I am saying a special prayer that the water doesn't go any higher and all will be well. We still have snow and desperately need rain, everything is so dirty.
..........:-) Hugs

Robin said...

To accept the world as it usually is, and plan for the difference...

And then again, not be angry should the difference come...

I crave pictures of your cottage. I can imagine why there aren't any...

I'm glad you're such a good steward and teacher.

Thank you for sharing your world with me (us).

Rochelle said...

I don't know if there are some pics missing from the post -- seemed like you referred to several and there are two. I have been wanting to actually see the cottage you live in to get an idea. Will you (or have you ever and I didn't know) post some?

But WOW, I had no idea you were this close to the river! I know it's not normally but boy oh boy.

This makes me wonder, for your ladylove, do you have an upstairs?

Wanda said...

Saturday, friends and I were discussing the Little Miami River and how high it was.
I enjoyed all the history in your replies to the comments too!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jain…

You know, I have no idea what the official flood stage for this area and its rivers might be. But no one along here worries over water at this level. I know, however, even the idea of water so close to your house scares lots of folks—which is why I posted the photos. Not too scare anyone, but just to given them some perspective for reference when I mention rises and falls of "my" river.

God knows I don't want to get flooded—or even scared by a close call. But like you say, there are bonuses to the riverbank life that—in my mind, anyway—outweigh the "play it safe in everything" approach to life. No risk, no reward.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Anna…

I can certainly understand why such an experience might color and shape your comfort around water for ever after.

I'll tell you a secret…there's a part of me that's also afraid. Honestly. Not in the way you are, for sure. But I know what rivers and high water can do, understand my powerlessness against such forces. Yet I know the river isn't malevolent; it's just being a river and doing what rivers do. Moreover, I've been through too much in my life to allow fear to rule me. I don't always conquer fear, sometimes I just acknowledge it and keep it out of the driver's seat. here, I simply live—and enjoy—my choice.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

Thank you, always, for any prayer.

I don't think there's a problem this time around. The river's height is on hold at the moment—about the same level all day—but I think by tomorrow it will begin to go down.

Hope you're doing okay…

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Robin…

I keep saying I'm going to post at least a few photos of the cottage…and except for a few bits and piece, haven't. Mostly because the plants and such are a work in progress and haven't progressed far enough, and also because I mean to pain the wood trim above the stone walls…and haven't managed that, either. I will. Don't start holding your breath—but I will. Promise. You'll just have to keep reading Riverdaze until that momentous event.

Thank you, really, for your kind words.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Rochelle…

There ought to be three photos in today's post. If you read the blog via a feed instead going to the web address (riverdaze.blogspot.com) sometimes. so I've been told, things don't seem to work right. (And yes, it could easily be something I messed up. You're dealing with a fly fisherman who owns a camera, computer, cell phone, and iPod, but pretty much ceased understanding technical devices at the flashlight level. Trust me, no one is more amazed than I that I somehow manage to regularly post and publish this thing.)

As to an upstairs…nope; we have an upladder—as in "get your butt up the ladder and into the attic before we drown!" Okay, that's not going to happen. We do have a ladder and an attic, but no one with the brains of a woodchuck and lacking a latent masochistic streak would ever consider attempting to force or cajole Myladylove up the former and into the latter if she thought otherwise. Trust me, should the water rise to the house level, she's not going to strand herself in a high, dark, cramped space lacking its own escape route. Actually, we'll just walk out the back door, get into the pickup or Jeep, and drive up the hill a few yards. Then we'll have our fight, assign blame, call names, etc., in the dry where the view is better and we can play the radio.

As to cottage pix, see reply above. Whit, watch, hope, pray, keep your fingers crossed—and sooner or later…

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

All the area rivers are up—between the snowmelt and hard rains of Friday and Saturday. But my stretch of riverbank is okay so far.

I like the history, too, and plan to post a lot more along with my usual fare.

Rebecca said...

My grandama used to have a house near a river; the village was a trading post, so the river was no small river. Every other year, the river would overflow during one of the monsoon seasons.

Fortunately the house had an "upstairs" and when an alarm was sounded, everyone would scramble to carry as much as was possible up the stairs.

I got to accompany my parents for visits during the floods, and we would access the house on a sampan (rowboat). Such fun! I fell in love with rivers and the water from these adventures.

Griz, such a lovely place you have there. Thanks for sharing, and certainly hope that the waters will not get into the house.

Rebecca

Anna said...

Well said and thank you for the encouragement. I guess after all, and you are right, just live and enjoy. Thanks again (smile). Anna :)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Rebecca…

Thank you for sharing your story. I really enjoyed your comments.

People all over the world, who choose to live beside rivers, generally learn to accommodate the river and its cycles into their lives…or they eventually move elsewhere. Now I know not everyone in every country has that choice. But by and large, I think most riverside dwellers come to make their peace with the river's moods.

I had an uncle who lived on a farm situated on the floodplain of a large Southern river; in fact the nearby village was also on the floodplain. Every year the river would come up and get into his house and fields, and into the houses of all his neighbors and those of the folks in the village. They would have to get out by boat. It always struck me as the craziest thing, to get flooded out annually, sometimes so quickly it was almost like a rescue deal, then, after the water receded, come back and do the awful clean-up work necessary, replace what couldn't be saved, and start all over until the next time—which might come that same spring, or maybe the fall or winter, and if not, certainly the following spring. And yet…that was the way of life for that area—just as it's the way of life for families all over, along rivers such as the Ohio, Mississippi, and hundreds of tributaries and smaller river systems. They know what will happen, have had it happen, and still wouldn't trade the riverbank life for anything else because they love where they live.

In fact, I'm really lucky this is not the case where I live. Flood control measures protect me against all but the "perfect storm" scenarios; it can happen, but isn't likely more than once every decade or two. Pretty good odds. I don't know if there's enough riverbanker blood in me to live like my uncle (don't think so) and I don't want to find out. But I think, if forced to, that I could weather the rare flooding. Again, don't want to be put to the test.

Thank you again for your comments.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Anna…

So often when I answer a comment, I wonder if I'm being encouraging, sympathetic, helpful—or just coming off like I'm trying to tell someone else how to live or act or think. I hope, always intend, and try my best to do only the former. That's why I'm prone to preface my words by saying this is what I think or feel or do.

God knows, I'm no guru or shining example of anything except a man who's still struggling to stumble along the path and not fall over logs and rocks or knock someone down in my lurching. So please, if whatever I say sounds like advice—run it through your own internal meter before adapting.

Jayne said...

OK, well... I am gulping for you. Yikes!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jayne…

Sorry to be so slow in replying. I've been out and about all day. I appreciate the gulping—but this time around I'm okay. The water is slowly going down—maybe a foot and a half today.

But…rain is predicted for the weekend. GULP!

Scott said...

Grizz,

It's great to read all your readers' comments and your replies. I can certainly appreciate your and your readers' concerns--and also the benefits and advantages to your physical situation. But, I live near a creek that can, at times, rage, and after the worst of the storms I've ever seen here, the driveway of a house sitting nearest the creek was replaced by a gully four feet deep. If the neighbor's house had been as close to the creek as her driveway, she would have lost at least a part of her house, and the undermining might have tumbled the entire stone structure into the creek. It wouldn't be a clean-up in her case; it would have been a start over. That's scary--and dangerous. Thank goodness your water's receding.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Scott…

Oh, trust me, should the "perfect storm" scenario develop here, my stream could become dangerous and destructive. And high water is always a little scary—especially if it continues raining.

But that said, I don't see any real choice other than to accept the possibility or move, and for me, the rewards far, far outweigh the risks. What I wouldn't want to deal with is annual flooding—water coming into the house a time or two every single year, regular as clockwork. Or even once every other year. I don't think I could hack that.