For many years I have witnessed flooding from afar.

Yesterday, we saw it firsthand.

Our communities had little time to prepare. The recent hurricane had already passed us by, dropping some heavy rains, but not much wind, and little to worry about. But a few days later, rains returned. And like they say, with a vengeance.

At first, the forecast warned only of “flash flooding.” Not that that is anything to take lightly, but we don’t live near areas where that normally happens. But the rains were locked in place by some meteorological malfunction, and the predictions turned more dire. One guy on the radio used the word “catastrophic.”  That got our attention, as he had intended, even given the media’s love of hyperbole.

The rains came, and stayed. The river rose. And kept rising. Yesterday we heard that our Susquehanna was now carrying more water within and well beyond its banks than the mighty Mississippi. In nearby Binghamton, a city like many others built at the confluence of two rivers, flooding took over the city, turning streets into raging streams. In our little Owego, there was one less river but also landscape to overwhelm, and the river had its way with us. Between Owego and Binghamton lay my hometowns of Endicott and Vestal, and the village where I was born, Johnson City. All made one underwater neighborhood in misery.

Our home is on high ground. When the power went out in our “above it all” neighborhood, we lost touch with the tragedy. With the economic wisdom of linking our cable TV, Internet, and telephone service into one package, when one plug is pulled, everything goes. Add the suspension of newspaper and mail deliveries, and we were both literally and figuratively in the dark. (Joan’s cell phone had limited battery life. I had all the battery power in the world on my phone, but apparently my provider’s tower was powerless. So, even that link to the outside was limited.)

The neighborhood grapevine brought news of friends who lived near the river evacuating to the church. I hooked up the once-obsolete TV antenna and caught some stories off the air, the way we used to get all broadcasts. But mentions of Owego were few. As night fell that first night of the flood, we gathered some candles, collected our flashlights, and realized that it was getting too dark to do any reading. While I still had some lingering light, I used binoculars to scan the wetlands behind our home, looking for some sign that perhaps that flash flooding we had never before had to worry about might occur right there in our backyard. No, we weren’t at risk, not directly at least.

We went to bed early. And the next morning, we realized how terrible water can be. [More to come…]