Archive for the ‘Only In Memphis’ Category
Well, it looks like we are nearly at the crest of the flood here in Memphis — as of 8pm, the river at Memphis was at 47.84 feet. (Though it also looks
like the Memphis gauge is still broken. Nice.) On our nightly reconnaissance of the neighborhood, some things look pretty much as they have for a few days, but new areas of the island, especially on the Wolf River side, are flooded tonight. (This photo shows the low point of the sidewalk on the Mississippi side of Harbor Town. This was the point where I feared the road would flood, forcing us to evacuate. Thank you, sandbag volunteers.)
Those poor Marina Cottage homeowners are getting it from both sides, though, as the water filled up the parking lot between their homes and the condo buildings behind them today. It looks like the sandbags just didn’t hold off the water, and several onlookers (including a guy who works at Miss Cordelia’s who has been watching this parking lot all day) said there was pumping going on earlier, but it just couldn’t keep up. This photo was taken from the driveway of the condo buildings, looking across to the marina. I guess I don’t have to tell you that you normally can’t see the marina straight across the water.
The good news for these homeowners is that the water isn’t too deep in the parking lot, and the sandbags seem to be keeping it from getting in the building. The other bit of good news comes from the fact that we saw three Memphis firefighters checking out both their property as well as the situation at Maria Montessori next door (if you look closely in this photo, you’ll see them standing on the sandbag wall behind the school; note that the first row of sandbags is now submerged). I asked if they’d had a tripped alarm or something, and they assured us that they are doing regular windshield checks in the neighborhood, which made me feel better. “What’s a windshield check?” I asked Andy as we were walking away. “They drive around and look out the windshield,” he answered, laughing at me. Oh. Well, I’m still glad they’re here.
The flood in Memphis led the national newscasts again today, and if you read carefully, you’ll see that the real trouble isn’t only along the Mississippi, it’s along its tributaries as well: the Wolf, the Loosahatchie and the Nonconnah. The problem when the Big Muddy is in flood is that there’s nowhere for the tributaries to drain, and that’s why if it really does rain later this week, low-lying areas of North Memphis and even farther east might be in trouble again. Lots of good — and recent — details in this update, filed tonight by The Commercial Appeal. Evidently Gov. Haslam is in town tonight to have a look at the flooding, as is Diane Sawyer, who tells us on her FB page that there’s a “very tense week ahead — all people can do now is watch, wait, hope and pray.” Uh, thanks. As if we weren’t worried enough. (Everyone’s worried but Buddy the black Lab; here he is cavorting in the yucky water that is flooding Ben’s Park. I know it’s gross, but it was also really hot today. When I took this photo, it was about 88 degrees.)
Diane Sawyer has a point though: At the moment, officials say the highest water might stick around for as long as a week, and that we won’t see signficant decreases until the end of the month. Friends, that’s a LONG time from now. Of course many folks in the area are way worse off than we are in Harbor Town, but I talked to a Harbor Town friend tonight whose family has evacuated, and they are STRESSED. Not knowing what will happen to your house, sleeping someplace unfamiliar, not knowing when you’ll get to go home, or what will await you when you do … it’s awful. (Here’s yet another look at the high water of the Wolf River Harbor from underneath the Auction Ave. bridge. Note the line of sandbags in the foreground.)
My heart goes out to everyone who is displaced tonight, or who won’t sleep for worrying about the rising water. To all of my friends who have been in touch worrying about us: We are still fine. As I write this, I can hear Andy and Tomas yelling at the Grizzlies (who are in the playoffs … yeah) down the hall, the air conditioning is cool, dinner was tasty. Thanks, as ever, for your thoughts and prayers.
Actually, it does feel quite normal around our house today: A trip to the downtown farmers’ market for strawberries and lettuce, a trip to the salon (finally!), Andy and Tomas to Costco, and all of us
looking forward to the Grizz game and a fun birthday party tonight. The thing that’s not normal: You can now see water from the sidewalk on the Wolf River side of Harbor Town.
The filling-in of the other side of Island Drive continues. The berm I mentioned last night now consists of two feet of dirt and gravel, topped by sandbags. It’s a little scary to think of it giving way, but of course that street needs to stay dry for us to stay home, so THANK YOU to the City of Memphis (and federal emergency dollars) for getting that done.
Heading south on Island Drive past the roundabout, though, people won’t be so lucky. The road isn’t developed with curbs and berms like our section is, and several brand-new condo developments are right in the path of the water. Saw a Twitter post this morning calling for sandbaggers, and it looks like plenty of folks in the Pyramid parking lot have responded. We’ll likely join them before this is done.
And as if you need more confirmation that there’s a heck of a lot of water flowing past Memphis, the National Weather Service reports that the river gauge at Memphis is BROKEN. The last correct reading was at 8am: 46.8 feet. (I know, I’m obsessed with the river level.) I think that gauge is at the bend in the river near Presidents Island, but don’t know for sure.
Not just homes and businesses on shore are affected by this flood: Here’s a fascinating Bloomberg story about how river closures and changes affect the business of the river, particularly the oil and farm products that are regularly shipped up and down its massive length. One of my St. Mary’s friends is a maritime lawyer, and she says that floods always mean trouble for river shipping, with loads hitting bridges, etc., etc. Yipe.
I’ll leave you with a smile today: You know you’ve been living in Floodland too long when you look across the street to a neighbor’s driveway, and think stacks of bags of garden pebbles are actually sandbags!
Today the moment we thought might arrive finally did: Some houses on Harbor Town received notices to evacuate from the Shelby County EMA. Our pals whose basement we helped empty (and whose climbing water I’ve been photographing; see the latest view at the end of this post) got one, along with all of the other homeowners on the Wolf
River or east side of Harbor Town, and several others whose property is on one of the overflow creeks. Remember I mentioned that our house is on the interior of the island? We didn’t get a notice, and I’ll bet we won’t. And at least the cop who left our friends their notice had a sense of humor, leaving it in the mouth of their cute metal doggie sculpture.
As we ambled around the neighborhood after work, it was sunny, quiet and peaceful, with a lovely cool breeze. One of our neighbors who’d gotten an evacuation notice was toasting Friday on her front porch with her girlfriends, and told us she wasn’t planning to leave. This didn’t sound like reckless defiance to me … her house is still several feet above where the river will likely rise, though her storage shed is underwater. For those of you keeping score, our river stage as of 7pm tonight is 46.55 feet, and the crest is predicted to be only a foot and a half higher, at 48 feet. I can see why she’s staying.
This flood is pretty dramatic, though, in ways small and large. Familiar landmarks are inundated, and some are nearly unrecognizable. Ben’s Park (left) is a neighborhood gathering spot named for the late, great Ben Reisman; Tomas had his fourth birthday party here. There are the critters: We spotted a displaced beaver hiding out next to a neighbor’s porch steps. Buddy the black Lab found a baby mole who’d popped out of its burrow at exactly the wrong moment. (Don’t worry, Baby Mole quickly dug back underground.) And I’m sure there are any number of snakes abroad in the land, though we haven’t seen any.
spotted surveyors, and this afternoon dump trucks began bringing loads of dirt to (I guess) reinforce the earthen berm that holds the water in the flooded parking lot back from the street. So Island Drive is down to one lane in each direction, and though the gawkers are gone, it took a while to get over the bridge tonight.
We ate dinner at Tug’s (we are a little worried about our precious neighborhood businesses) overlooking this construction project, and it was something else: Banging dump trucks, bumper-to-bumper traffic, the whir of news helicopters overhead, lots of cops and workers and runners and dog walkers. We even spotted a kayaker, taking photos like the rest of us.
How much water is really out there? A whole lot: There’s a wicked current even in what was the parking lot (that’s the same parking lot as in my other posts, left), and you can imagine that eventually it will sweep away the landscaping that is half-covered now. Andy my engineer husband did some quick calculations, which are quite amazing: At Memphis tonight, the river is flowing at 1.9 million cubic feet per second, which works out to 14,324,000 gallons per second. That’s the equivalent of 22 Olympic-size swimming pools, flowing past our town EVERY SECOND.
Remember, though, that all that water has to go somewhere, and right now it is going into people’s houses, businesses and lives. In Harbor Town, most of us are very lucky: We have resources to prepare for the worst, we have friends and neighbors to lean on, we have insurance, and we have a firm belief that we’ll be able to build everything back again.
I am quite aware tonight that not everyone who is affected by this mighty river is as lucky as I am.
I guess I should have expected that after the Great Flood of 2011 appeared on national news, friends far and near would begin to worry about us. But who knew there were so many of you out there? To all of my wonderful friends and co-workers who called or emailed today: Truly, we are fine. This is a photo of our front porch tonight (see how many steps UP there are?). As I took this picture, I could smell our neighbor’s jasmine and hear the jingle of a dog’s collar as he and his owner ambled past. It’s cool and lovely out, with just a sliver of new moon low in the western sky.
I am so touched by people who have offered their guest rooms, their sympathy, and anything else we might need. It’s one of the things that makes living in Memphis so remarkable: The community all around you, ready to take you in at a moment’s notice.
Please don’t worry: If the access roads to Harbor Town flood and we can’t get home (the only way we’d leave), we have a place to stay in East Memphis, and our friends Mary and Dave are ready for Buddy, too. We have moved our important papers, we have a plan. We are fine.
Not so many other people not far from where I am sitting now. There are a handful of homes in Harbor Town and on the rest of Mud Island that are beginning to flood; they are on the east side of the island, being flooded by the Wolf River. Our house is pretty much right in the middle of the development. On the flood impact maps of 38103, we are next to one of those little squares (Nursery Park) in Harbor Town, far from any streets that might flood.
It is scary, though, I’ll give you that.
This afternoon a hastily constructed berm gave way and DeWitt Spain Airport, a general aviation airport just north of Mud Island, flooded, and tonight Riverside Drive began to flood, as did the lowest portion of Beale Street. President Obama has declared a state of emergency in Shelby County. I just heard a teaser that local news will go an extra half-hour tonight, to cover the flood.
But there’s good news, too. Tomas
comes home from a weeklong class trip tomorrow. The Grizzlies try tomorrow night for another win against Kevin Durant and OKC. It’s almost the end of the school year. Tomorrow’s Friday.
And we are fine. Thanks be to God.
Yes, Memphis, our part of the Flood of 2011 has finally made the national news; Brian Williams went live today to a broadcast from Memphis, where the reporter was standing on the hill behind the Montessori School in Harbor Town. We ran into the NBC crew on our walk tonight; they are from Ohio, Florida and Atlanta, and it sounded like they had already visited Miss Cordelia’s, our neighborhood grocery. (The same reporter from Memphis will be live on the Today show tomorrow, if you care.) CNN is also here, so we are officially on the national radar screen, which doesn’t often happen. (Remember during Hurricane Elvis when we didn’t even make the AP wire?) The NBC reporter talked to one of our neighbors who lives in a Marina Cottage Drive house — their basements/storage rooms are underwater now, and their first floors will go soon — and if you look closely you can see the sandbags now protecting the back of the school. (When I took this photo, I was standing near where the reporter was standing.) This makes me so sad — no kids’ school should flood, ever — though I heard tonight on the Channel 5 news that several Memphis City schools are also in the flood zone. And the headline on the WMC story is that the flood waters could stay around until June. Gawd. That would be awful.
MPD has put up a sign at the foot of the Auction Street Bridge: “Road Closed to Thru Traffic Turn Around (sic).” It did cut down on gawkers tonight, though I have to admit that if I didn’t live here, I’d be fascinated by the power and brute force of this river. Man, is it huge. And seeing a rushing current go past your feet as you stand on what was a driveway to a parking lot is a little surreal (the driveway I’m talking about is to the right of what you see in this photo). This is today’s view of what I’ve been posting since Monday — the parking lot on the south end of Harbor Town — though the money shot is really from the OTHER side, which shows how far the river will have to rise to cover the street. Andy thinks it won’t go that high, and he’s got NOAA on his side; they continue to predict a crest of 48 feet and the Island Drive looks to be 50 feet or higher. Still, we are ready to go if the time comes. We continue to think we won’t have water in our house, even at the crest of the flood.
For all of my local pals, thank you SO much for your offers of shelter and help; our great friends Mary and Dave have offered their East Memphis guest room to us, and they even look forward to Buddy coming to stay. So we are set if we have to go. But I so appreciate your calls and emails
offering help. We are lucky to have you looking out for us. Our community is what makes this place so special.
My friend whose basement is the one we cleared out Monday night (here’s the latest photo of where the water is on her house), was telling me today that she knows another one of the Marina Cottage homeowners, someone else who is evacuating. Where’s he
going? Just down the street to the River Inn, the hotel that’s here in Harbor Town, overlooking the circus that is Island Drive. He doesn’t want to leave, and it’s not just because he wants to be close to his flooded house. He doesn’t want to leave because it’s where he lives. It’s home.
I can totally relate.