High water…

A few days ago I said I hope we get a little rain to make up for how dry it has been the last couple of weeks. What I didn’t anticipate was that all of that rain would arrive between 6:00-8:00 this morning. With the average person apparently incapable of driving in any more than a hint of rain and the fact that had to slosh ankle deep through the parking lot to get to the office (seriously, my feet were still soaked when I left for the day), I assumed that getting drenched before work would be the worst of it. As usual, my assumption proved to be horribly wrong.

About fifteen minutes after arriving and wringing out that which could be wrung, I got a note warning me that the building I’m responsible for was taking on water and that it was getting deep fast. It’s not the first time this has happened. A combination of building underground next to a swamp, pump issues, and a poorly sized drain it seems a sizable amount of water came cascading through the back doors and ended up backing up across an essentially brand new floor to an average depth of one or two inches. It’s not enough to break out the hip waders, but it’s damned well enough to be a monumental hassle.

I’m highly trained and competent in many things, but navigating the Byzantine labyrinth of how to get a building de-watered is not one of them. There was the predictable grinding of gears and great gnashing of teeth as that activity expanded to absorb nearly every molecule of available oxygen in my day. I can only hope that Monday set the high water mark for the week, but I’m enough of a bureaucrat to know that there’s always more stupid where the first batch came from.

Who I want at my disaster…

Some of the news outlets are making hay about President Obama staying on vacation while Louisiana floods. Some say he should be back in Washington monitoring the situation while others say he should have flown directly into the flood zone. Now I’m no particular fan of this president and his policies, my take on that situation is a healthy “so what?”

If my house were sitting up to the rafters in water, the very last thing I’d want to see is the president and his host of support staff, security, and journalists descend on my street. Frankly at a time like that the only people I’d want to see are the ones who are there to physically help with the clean up process. If I had to speculate, I’d say that when you’re up to your eyeballs in water a presidential handshake and photo opp are far less valuable than a guy with a pump or shop vac.

What no one sees behind the scenes of a concerned president feeling the nation’s pain is the massive logistical operation involved in moving him anywhere. What appears calm and perfectly scripted on screen only does so because 1000 people are peddling like mad just out of the shot. I’m guessing Louisiana doesn’t need that kind of help right now.

There are plenty of good and reasonable reasons to criticize the president and his handling of the nation’s issues… but sorry, folks, this isn’t one of them.

Deluge…

I knew it was going to be a bad drive back to the rental casa this afternoon when it took half an hour just to make it from the parking lot to the turn off for the highway. It seems that while the marshland of the upper Bay is good for waterfowl and blue crabs, it’s decidedly ill equipped to drain off large amounts of water. In fact, five of the roads I use during my daily commute would probably have ranked as “dangerous” under most circumstances.

The worse of them was US 40 between Aberdeen and Havre de Grace. A large portion of that stretch of road was under swift moving water to a depth I’d estimate at 10-14 inches (or not quite up to the bumper of the Dodge Ram I was happy to have acting as a pilot car) with locally deeper spots if one were unfortunate enough to venture too close to the “downstream” shoulder. At it’s deepest, the impromptu river was throwing enough kinetic energy at me to feel the tail end very much want to slide out. It didn’t, fortunately, but that was some of the most white knuckled driving I’ve done in my 20 years behind the wheel.

The other four crossings were less tense and covered much shorter distances, but nonetheless, cranked up the pucker factor of the commute considerably. I’m left thinking that powering my way down 40 relying less on skill than on the V8 power of 4-wheel drive and new tires was probably not my best decision even though it ended well enough. Seeing that the occasional Prius was making it ahead of me, though, assuaged most of my concerns. Still, I’m not sure I’d do it again under the same circumstances.

If I drive out of here tomorrow morning and find high water in the same places, it’s a good bet that I’ll waive off and take a pass on the day. All I’ll say is the risk analysis yields different results depending on whether the destination is home or some other place. You can draw your own conclusions on that one.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

It’s Thursday night… and that means it’s time again for your regular installment of What Annoys Jeff this Week. In no particular order, here we go…

1. Ron Paul. As much as he’d like to roll back the clock, it’s not 1789. The Constitution and the laws have to be expansive enough to deal with the real world, not the loony tunes world you’ve created in your own head. It’s not ideal, but I’d rather have TSA running security at the check in line than turn that mission over to Blackwater. Guaranteeing free and secure movement around the country is a compelling national interest and belongs in the purview of the federal government, you cranky old coot.

2. Rain. Enough already. Between pansy hurricanes and tropical storm remnants, it’s been raining more or less for two weeks with occasional pauses to regroup, reinforce, and start raining again. It’s really time to knock it off for a while. Since the dogs still won’t go out unless I go with them, this is becoming a priority as getting soaked to the bone two or three times a night is no longer a sustainable solution.

3. People who over-share personal information. I don’t need a running narrative about whatever you happen to be doing over there. I don’t care that you think oysters are disgusting. And I absolutely, positively don’t need or want to know the fascinating medical history of your family and the trials and tribulations of elder care. We happen to share office space, I promise you that doesn’t mean we need to share our deepest, darkest secrets… mkay? Thanks now.

4. Apple. Yeah, I said it. Apple. Release the damned iPhone 5 already. I’ve got money and I want to give it to you.

Telling tales about the end of the world…

I was really warmed up to take the worst that Mother Nature could dish out… and as usual, Mother Nature turns out to mostly be a pansy. Her worst, at the moment, would appear to be denying me access to cable television and high speed Internet. Both of these are annoyances to be sure, but not quite the mayhem and chaos we had been promised earlier in the week.

I know there are flooded basements, trees downed, and homes lost out there, but for most of us in the all-Irene-all-the-time news cycle, all this experience has really served to do is reinforce the already strong notion that weather is almost always over-hyped and under performing. That’s a pity, because the time in the future when calls of imminent destruction go out and it’s not just a drill, most of us are going to shrug, go on about our business, and think we’ve seen it all before.

There’s got to be a better way to handle these things than the media going crazy and making every story a tale of the end of the world…

Select “Panic” in 5…4…3…2…

So you guys may have seen that the media are making a big stink about the impending hurricane of doom that will be sure to devastate the East Coast over the weekend. Judging from the current models and from watching these things semi-professionally for the better part of the last ten years, I’m more inclined to think that eastern Maryland will end up getting a little soggy on Sunday and maybe have a few branches blown around if things “get bad.” That said, there’s always the off chance that this thing doglegs left and shoves a wall of water directly up the Chesapeake. That would fall directly in the category of Situation Other than Good. With the track edging east with every model run, that unhappy outcome seems less and less likely.

What seems more likely at this point is that the regional weather personalities and newscasters are going to whip the local indigenous population into frenzy by close of business Friday regardless of what the reality looks like. What this means is that every idiot with a pickup truck, a car, or a moped is going to come out of the woodwork and descend on Walmart, Costco, and every grocery store within driving distance and buy six gallons of milk, two dozen eggs, five loaves of Wonder bread, and a metric ton of toilet paper. I ordinarily don’t begrudge anyone their pre-apocalyptic stockpile, except in this case their panic is going to conflict with my normal grocery shopping schedule.

In the event that this was an actual emergency, I’d be the first to institute the no harm, no foul rule, but in the case of purely fictitious disaster, I’m less inclined to give stupid people the benefit of the doubt. My inclination at the moment is to go ahead and make due this weekend by drawing down my own fairly impressive stockpile. Sadly, like Christmas shopping on the day after Thanksgiving, I just don’t know if I can stay away from the spectacle of so many asshats gathered in so few places. I know I shouldn’t, but I might not be able to keep myself from going to watch the spectacle first hand.

Higher ground…

With the Mississippi on the way up, I wouldn’t say we’re necessarily abandoning our position in West Tennessee, but we are making preparations for a tactical retrograde to positions on higher ground. If flooding along the Mississippi and its tributaries gets somewhere in the vicinity of the worst case scenario, my office will be at least partially underwater, roads and bridges leading to the base will be impassable, and there’s some disagreement about whether entire swaths of the county could see their power turned off for 1-2 weeks. That last part begs the question, who in their right mind builds the main electrical distribution panel for a city on the wrong side of the levee? Yes, I’m looking at you MLGW.

Looking at the FEMA flood maps, I can’t foresee any circumstances where the house would be in any direct danger from flooding, aside from the possibility of stormdrain and sewer backup – there’s a happy thought. The biggest risk for me seems to be the possibility of multiple days with no electricity. In the grand scheme of bad things than can happen, I know that being without power isn’t even close to the worst of it. However, if you’re a dedicated technophile, being without the juice even for a few hours can be cause for developing nervous tics. A week or more? That’s enough to fill your heart with dread.

Being forewarned, as they say, is being forearmed and plans are being put in place that would give me the opportunity to pull up stakes temporarily until something approaching a civilized level of public services have been restored. Assuming that the word is going to come down making this a reality the real questions then becomes – When and for how long? If it looks like a situation that will last more than a few days, the logical answer is to pack up the truck and head east. Sure, I could get a hotel alot closer, but the thought of spending an indeterminate amount of time in a hotel room with two 80 pound dogs doesn’t seem ideal. Then again, leaving the house undefended in a city like Memphis, with no electricity (and therefore no alarm), and hoping it hasn’t been looted and pillaged while I’ve been away doesn’t sound appealing either. For some reason, I don’t think the fine citizens of Memphis would respond to natural disaster any better than those of New Orleans did.

I plan to stay in place as long as I have two things: electricity and an open escape route to the east. When either one of those things seem to be in danger of going away, then I’ll be in the wind and headed for high ground.