I began the day by doing a lot of clean up work at the Garage. We have a lot of people who stay here regularly and it has even taxed my abilities to keep things organized. I moved a lot of things around and started to prepare for my box's expansion. Sometime around 4:00pm, there was a knock at the door. It was someone from the fire department warning us the river was going to hit a 500-year high (every source I've subsequently seen says 100-year high), our house (the Garage) was in danger and we should evacuate.
That's quite a lot to have dump on one's self and needless to say, I postponed the cleaning operations for the day. My first order of business was to get the facts: what was the water level now and how much is it expected to rise? The little sheet given to me by the fireperson recommended a site hosted by national weather service. However, the links to find what they were talking about don't exist. A quick Google search for "Afton Hydrograph" produced this page
, which contained the information I needed. The facts (at the time): the water was expected to rise an other 2.5 feet. So I needed to know how far above the current water level the Garage was currently sitting.
During reconstruction of the Garage, I was introduced to the automatic level
(sometimes called a transit) a tool used in surveying. One of it's uses is measuring the change in height between two surfaces some distance away from one an other, which is precisely what I needed to know. But I don't have said device. The one I used for the Garage had been rented and probably dated back to World War II (but hey, the rules of trigonometry haven't changed since then). It was too late by the time I went in search of this device to rent it from the place I had last time, so I tried two other location. One didn't rent them (or have them at all) and the other was already closed for the day.
I considered trying to make one using my camera with it's 300mm lens, my tripod and a level. It would have been a crude measurement, but it didn't work at all. I was unable to get a decent indication of how level the lens was (my lens doesn't have much for flat surfaces) and I was unable to see the marks on the board from the distances we had. I had little choice but to purchase the correct tool for the job. This wasn't a problem since my favorite home improvement store had recent opened a location in Beloit.
By the time I returned with my equipment, the neighborhood was a buzz of activity. Everyone was out in the streets talking to one an other. Rumors were spreading quick--some people talked about the river rising all the way to Hwy 51, others about how the Monterey Dam in Janesville had failed and many stories about more rain to come.
I went to work taking measurements as soon as I had returned. I started with a measurement in the front yard. Then had my roommate walk down the street until there was standing water at river level and took a second measurement. There was a drop of some 3.5 feet. I checked again the hydrograph, and predictions were for an other 2 feet of water rise before cresting over the next few days. If this holds true, the Garage should be safe.
After retaking and rechecking my measurement, I did some reading about sandbagging, then went for a bike ride around the neighborhood. Ski View Drive (at the end of our block by the river) had water already 1/4 the way over it. When I reached Burwood Park on the corner of Center and North, I found a crowd of people filling sandbags. I spent the remainder of the evening filling sandbags and stacking them for someone living on Community Drive, who's yard was already being overtaken by water. It was great to see the that much of the neighborhood was out helping one an other. One person had bought their trailer, which we were putting the filled sandbags. Once full, we went down to the house needing them and formed a chain of people from the trailer to the sandbag wall and passed down the sandbags until the wall was built. We consumed all the sand there was, but encircled the house.
I returned home tired, but feeling somewhat accomplished.
All day, since the announcement, law enforcement has been circling around like buzzards. The picture is of a huge group who apparently tasered some women and hauled her off. I don't know the details, but I'm fairly confident their actions were excessive. It seems to be a real problem when you have law enforcement with no real crime to deal with--they will exaggerate threats and exacerbate issues so they can use force. Meeting and working with many of my fellow subdivision neighbors today makes me believe we would do just fine if they just went away.