We took a walk back down the hill the other day. That would be the second day after the river’s terrifying invasion of our wide community. By this day, the waters were receding, and Joan and I wanted to see evidence of it.

This would be our second three-mile walk along that path. The plan was similar to the one the  day before: walk down from our neighborhood, go to the water’s edge on the road that led to the village, then back up the longer, higher hill past the Lockheed-Martin plant, eventually down the gravel road that would bring us back to our street. This was our way of getting some exercise, since the gym we use was under water.)

As we approached the flooded portion of the road, it was evident that the water level was indeed down, though the white house just beyond the old car lot was still surrounded. Traffic was still coming down the hill to the water’s edge, turning around in the car lot, and heading back. Still no barricade.

[An aside: I realize I used the word “still” in that last paragraph three times. Frankly, I’m in no mood to re-write. I think we are all going to have to get used to the still-ness. Still flooded. Still closed. Still feeling guilty.]

We noticed that a car we had seen previously abandoned on the road was still there. The license plate was “WEBO” — the call letters of the local radio station. I surmised that Dave Radigan, the station’s owner/manager, had wisely left the car there on his way into the village, grabbing alternate transportation to get to the transmitter site. But we saw another car now. It was half-submerged a couple hundred feet down the flooded road. We wondered aloud, “What kind of person doesn’t heed the multiple warnings about trying to drive through flooded streets?”

We wondered how the driver and any passengers got out of the car, and how deep the water was on the way back to dry land. As we turned around to head toward home, we saw two cars with motors running in the dealership lot. We approached two men nearby and commented on the submerged vehicle. “It wasn’t there yesterday,” I told them.

“Yes, it was,” one responded. But it was totally submerged in yesterday’s higher waters. One of the men explained that without a barricade, anyone might drive that road at night at 50 mph and plow right into the flood without warning. Apparently that’s what happened, and the driver had to open a window to crawl out and swim away. The men, a father and twenty-something son, Rick and Keith, explained that the white house was their home, and that they were charging their cell phones while their cars idled.

Rick told us that he and his son were still living on the second floor of the house, with the cat. His wife had taken the two dogs and evacuated to her mother’s home. The cat was managing nicely with the litter box upstairs, but the dogs couldn’t possibly stay in a house surrounded by flood water. Ironically, the father and son did have running water in the house, but his wife and her mother had neither water nor electricity where they were. Rick managed a sense of humor, smiling throughout much of our short conversation. “It helps,” he said. And this wasn’t their first flood.

As we moved up the hill, we saw that the Washington Gladden School shelter parking lot was full. A pick up truck went up the long drive, its bed full of gas grills. We learned later that one of them belonged to a neighbor of ours who had heard of the need.

[Pardon this colorful digression, but I couldn’t help but notice again an object we had seen along the shoulder of the road the day before. A pink condom, thankfully still rolled, as if straight from its package. Pink. There must be a story there somewhere.]

After a long, labored hike up the hill near the Lockheed plant, we made the turn onto the gravel road. As we did so, a man approached from the driveway of the house on the corner. He introduced himself as Patrick, and he told us that his elderly parents lived in that home. “But they aren’t there,” he told us. He’d driven in from Binghamton, no small feat, since the whole area was flooded and road closures meant many detours. He had brought a generator, some food, cases of water, and other supplies he thought his parents might need. “Their garage door is open, one car is gone, but the dogs are still inside, and he could find no note about where his parents might be. “Do you have any idea where they could have gone?”

“Afraid not. But you might try the shelter at Washington Gladden.” Patrick told us he had even called the hospital they usually go to, but they weren’t there. As we talked, he told us that he was a Lockheed employee, and has worked there about twenty years.

“They’ve never closed the plant since I’ve worked there,” he said. “But it’s closed now and for the next several days,” he guessed. “This is bad.”

We told him we’d keep an eye out for their car as we walked back into our neighborhood.

A few hundred feet more and we bumped into the “Buffaloes.” They are neighbors who walk by our house almost every day, just after lunch usually. In the winter time, they wear matching Buffalo Bills coats. We stopped briefly to share what we’d seen on our mid-day journey. I mentioned the submerged car, and before I added a comment about the driver’s lack of judgment, Mr. Buffalo told me it was his car! (Often, zipped lips are a good thing.) He said his son had borrowed the car to help someone else, and had driven into the water, climbed out, and gotten home. “We haven’t seen the car yet,” Mrs. Buffalo said.

After one more conversation with folks who live in an old farmhouse at the corner of that gravel road and our street, we got home, thankful once again for a home that was dry and secure. I took a pre-flood newspaper to the back porch. As I was about to fall asleep, our neighbor Len knocked at the front door, and asked us if we could help him move some relief supplies down to the church. [Next: what we found as we finally ventured out by car.]

Advertisements