Natural Disasters - A History of Flooding

Flooding Devastation

The flag pole at our high school's football field
The flag pole at our high school's football field | Source

THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL


As always, the summer had flown by. Memories of family vacations were frozen in time on digital cameras and plastered all over Facebook. Vegetable gardens were nearly picked clean as people busily canned their tomatoes and pickled cucumbers. Public swimming pools had shut down for the year and many people started closing summer camps and cottages. The exodus of boats going into winter storage had begun after an all too short season of four months on the water. People were already starting to grumble about seeing Halloween candy on the shelves of stores. New backpacks, shoes, sneakers, books, folders, pens, pencils, lunch boxes and clothes had been purchased while most proudly displayed their new haircuts. The children were gathered at bus stops or being dropped off at school with shiny scrubbed faces, in nervous anticipation of the start of another school year. The date was September 7, 2011, and that is when it began to rain.

Watercraft

Dexter looking out the hatch of my boat
Dexter looking out the hatch of my boat | Source

THE HIGH PRICE OF NATURE'S BEAUTY

Broome County, in New York State, is situated in the Southern Tier and borders the northern tip of Pennsylvania. The picturesque region is rich with hills and wide valleys that were carved out by glaciers during the Ice Age. There is the 90 miles long Chenango River and the Susquehanna River which is approximately 450 miles long and flows through three states before eventually emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. These two major rivers join forces in the area I have called home for over a couple of decades now and with their magnificence there is also magnanimous dangers. Roughly 200,000 residents occupy our 715 square mile locality and of those, two-thirds have purchased their own homes. International Business Machines “IBM.” Endicott Johnson Shoe factory and tannery, Singer-Link, aviation simulators, Eureka Tents and Dick’s Sporting Goods were all born out of this territory. With a winning combination of plush forests, meadows, trails and an abundance of water, the conditions are ideal for all types of wildlife and birds of prey. Yet, the rivers, streams, and creeks that give us so much are similar to an unattended cinder in a fireplace, lying in wait to destroy our humble abodes that we love so much.

Playground Under Water

The Susquehanna River flooded Endicott in September 2006
The Susquehanna River flooded Endicott in September 2006 | Source

TWO FIVE HUNDRED YEAR FLOODS WITHIN FIVE YEARS


More than 50 people died in the July 1935 flood. Hundreds of homes were lost and numerous towns, villages and cities were nearly obliterated when the Southern Tier received 11 inches of rain and streams, rivers and creeks overflowed their banks. Another major flood occurred in June 1972 when the residuals of hurricane Agnes hit the area. Not only my county, but three other counties felt the wrath of raging waters as dozens lost their lives and homes, along with businesses that were washed away. The last week of June 2006 delivered a deluge of rainwater (between 8 and 15 inches) and runoffs from an already saturated river basin caused massive flooding in northern Pennsylvania and the Southern Tier of New York. Seven people perished in Pennsylvania. Three people were killed in New York, including two who didn't survive when the interstate highway they were driving on collapsed. According to the United States Geological Survey, the chances of flooding as severe as 2006 one ranged from 450 to over 500 years. The catastrophic losses were plentiful; resulting in hundreds of bridges either being washed away or left unstable, thousands of homes and businesses were totally destroyed, as were hundreds of miles of highways. In just my county, over 800 houses were completely ravaged beyond repair and another 300 had suffered severe damage.


K-mart Gone Forever

Needless to say this discount store has never reopened
Needless to say this discount store has never reopened | Source

TROPICAL STORM LEE HITS THE SOUTHERN TIER WITH NO REMORSE


The children stood in the rain waiting for their school buses. At 7:30 A.M. I kissed my wife goodbye and told her to have a good day as she commenced her 37th year of teaching. I asked her to give me a call during her break, simply to bring me up to date on her students and how things were going. September 7, 2011, appeared to be just another rainy day in the Southern Tier and with summer vacations over and children back in school it seemed as though life was returning to the usual routines. However, things were far from normal on this morning. The rain became heavier and unrelenting. Tropical Storm Lee was making it known it was a force to be reckoned with. By mid-morning underpasses and roads in low-lying areas started to flood. I was glued to the radio and a program on my computer called RadioReference.com which is a police, fire and ambulance scanner. The airwaves were hot with chatter. Police, town, and village vehicles were awash in emergency calls. I listened intently as rescue crews were attempting to respond to a heart attack victim in a flooded rural area, as they struggled to find a house number. A street one block from my home became flooded and closed and then it became one closed road after another. Some schools went on lockdown due to dangerous waters surrounding their buildings. “Why hasn't Cathy called?” I asked myself. I was aware of how many different routes she could use to drive home, but her options were becoming less and less. Living on a hill, I watched helplessly as my street became a small version of Niagara Falls. The side yard had morphed into a large, fast flowing stream and the storm drains were shooting water up into the air like exploding fire hydrants. The Emergency Broadcast System was wildly beeping nonstop across the television screen with too many flood warnings to count. In all of the years I have been married, never was I as worried about my wife’s safety as I was on this date. Finally, at 11:00 A.M. the phone rang and it was Cathy. The school was closing and she would be on her way home once all of the children had exited the building.




High School Football Field

Union Endicott Football Field and Scoreboard
Union Endicott Football Field and Scoreboard | Source

NEIGHBORHOODS RUINED AS 20,000 PEOPLE ARE EVACUATED


Between 10 to 12 inches of rain had fallen and the Susquehanna and Chenango Rivers rapidly began to spill over their flood walls. The water levels rose to over 17 feet above flood stage. Our residents were in danger and in excess of 20,000 people in Binghamton were evacuated to safe havens. We were under attack and the aggressor was water…more water than any of us had witnessed before. Soon sections of downtown Binghamton were submerged as were most of the surrounding towns and villages. Entire neighborhoods had been destroyed. It appeared as though the wrath of Mother Nature would be unrelenting and on this particular day she was angry. Within a few miles to the west of my home, is the village of Owego where 95% of that community was flooded, including their downtown business district.

Every time (since the last major flood) that it rains the people in this area cringe with fear of what might happen.

Athletic Field House Under Water

Flooding in Endicott, New York
Flooding in Endicott, New York | Source

THE RAIN STOPPED AND THE DESTRUCTION BECAME OBVIOUS


Once the rain stopped and the waters began to recede the magnitude of destruction we had sustained was all too obvious. Well over 6,000 homes and building were damaged. Many would never see occupants again. Over 2,500 people were living in emergency shelters. The aftermath and cleanup were unimaginable. The term “War Zone” was used repeatedly to describe what it looked like here. Entire neighborhoods were transformed into massive garbage dumps. The Broome County Office of Emergency Services reported Storm-Related Fire Department incidents at nearly 1,700. Storm-Related Law Enforcement Incidents were just shy of 1,800. Finally, the 911 Call Center logged over 24,700 calls. Driving through some of the residential areas literally brought tears to my eyes, witnessing block after block of homes completely gutted of their contents and placed on the street. Mud, dirt and sludge were everywhere, but what really struck me was seeing the “X’s” on doors and windows indicating the structures were uninhabitable. Outhouses had been strategically placed on street corners. Some setup gas grills on dry land and barbequed for volunteers and workers. As I drove down my hill, I began choking from the noxious fumes that hung in the air and although I took numerous generic photos of the flood, I could not bring myself to take pictures of lost homes and possessions


The Susquehanna River

Telephone and electrical wires just a few feet from the rising waters.
Telephone and electrical wires just a few feet from the rising waters. | Source

WHEN WILL IT RAIN AGAIN


We are a resilient community and are all too familiar with loss. Our unemployment rate hovers around 9% with the median household income approximately $44,000.00, which is about $7,000.00 less than the national average. Nonetheless, families and businesses are rebuilding, knowing they are doing so in a flood zone and that the chance of another major disaster is only one rainfall away.

WRITTEN BY: DENNIS L. PAGE


Stormy Skies

View from my house of an approaching storm
View from my house of an approaching storm | Source

Don't Let the Rain Come Down

More by this Author


Comments 23 comments

picadilly profile image

picadilly 4 years ago from Schaumburg, IL

I love the emotion behind your essay Mr. D.!! I feel your sorrow as well as your love and pride for the community in which you have lived. Nature is an awesome force to reckon with at times....we have gone from years of much rain to a dryness that shatters my heart as I look at trees and flowers struggling to survive this year! Awesome piece..and voted as such!!! Luv me


pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 4 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

Thank you for your kind words, Ms. P. There is such drastic changes going on with the climate that no one knows from one week to the next what significant event/events will happen next. Now, in addition to the problems we face, the mighty hand of oil and gas companies will soon be bringing in their large rigs and chemicals as they commence hydro fracturing for natural gas. For the people who only want the money from selling land rights, I say over and over, "You can't drink $100.00 bills."


ImKarn23 profile image

ImKarn23 4 years ago

Dennis - this piece is more of a masterpiece! the photos combined with the history lesson you so eloquently - and so lovingly - give, almost transports a person into your heart! I too come from a place that regularly floods - i'm downriver from north dakota - if you're aware of the issues they have there with flooding...we have the red river to contend with as well as the assiniboine - and it's proven very, very destructive!

voting, tweeting, liking, sharing..


pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 4 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

Thankfully I have you and Ms. P. that follow me and comment. I am familiar with the area you describe. You too know what the power of water can do. I am shocked when people are determined to go back to the same area or property and continue to rebuild, knowing full well it is a game of chance.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

This is so sad. We are having floods here due to heavy hains..We got 5 inches last night I don's live in a flooded area but many do. Your area is sad indeed. Thank you for sharing..


pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 4 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

@ always exploring - I appreciate you dropping by and leaving your footprint on my article. Wow, 5 inches of rain is a lot to receive at one time. Just this morning I had some business on the other side of the Susquehanna River and I still can't help but feel empty inside for all of those vacant homes and lives forever changed that, one year later have been abandoned and are still covered in mud.


A K Turner profile image

A K Turner 4 years ago from West Yorkshire

another interesting article, the power of these storms is incredible, nothing reminds me of the futility of building my life on possessions like a flood. Great article!


pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 4 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

@ A K Turner - Thank you for stopping by and reading my nonfiction article. You make a good point about possessions. As I mentioned, some of the flood victims have gone back and rebuilt their lives 2 and 3 times. I don't know if they do this because of stubbornness or simply because they have no other place to go. When people keep restoring structures in a known flood zone, businesses included, they are playing Russian roulette. It is only a matter of time before the rivers rage again.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

I can only echo what has already been said, this is a masterpiece. Your style of writing and the information you provide extracts emotion and interest. The horror of the flooding is all too real..."similar to an unattended cinder in a fireplace, lying in wait to destroy our humble abodes that we love so much" that sentence portends what is to come. Your photos make your point and a beautifully done. I feel for the people who cannot bring themselves to leave the homes and area they love even with the destruction they know they will face.

Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.


pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 4 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

@ tillsontitan - Thank you so much for your vote and the kind words. Truth be told, this article took me the longest time to complete. The constant reminders of empty homes and businesses are still everywhere. I would write a sentence, or maybe two sentences and then hit the save button and move on to other things. I am still troubled by a national pet store that had plenty of warning about the river spilling its banks and yet did nothing to rescue their animals as well over 100 drowned. Conversely, a privately owned pet store, that is just as big as the national chain, methodically took a canoe and one by one rescued every single animal in their building. There are some images frozen in my mind and then there is the reminder of the toxic air that choked the breathe out of me. Again, I keep saying how fortunate I am to live on a hill.


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 4 years ago from the Ether

Wonderfully written. Mother Nature is a beautiful and powerful force...and sometimes quite destructible. I wish you peace and happiness.


pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 4 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

@ kittythedreamer - I'm so glad you read and commented on my Hub. I think Mother Nature every now and then reminds us all just how vulnerable we all are. It has been over one year since the flood and people are still recovering and even some schools continue to rebuild.


Terri 4 years ago

Dennis one word for this article: FANTASTIC


pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 4 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

@ Terri - I was so surprised to see your response listed here on my Hub. Thank you for leaving your footprint and your wonderful compliment.


Ginger Ruffles 4 years ago

Both storms were horrifying in the amount of damage they caused. I don't recall any flooding of this magnitude when I lived there. Have a cousin that lives off Harry L Drive ON TOP OF A HILL and they were up all night bailing out their basement! Your comment on mother nature was spot on.


pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 4 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

@ Ginger Ruffles - Hey, it's been a long time since we've heard from each other, but I'm so glad you dropped in. I can tell you first hand that the damage in Johnson City and the Harry L Drive area was horrendous. As I mentioned, I also live on a hill and although I didn't have any water damage, the house just beneath me had water and mold. They never thought about their house because they were in Owego helping out a daughter and it was several days before they ventured into the lower level of their house to discover the damage.


Ginger Ruffles 4 years ago

No, and who can blame them? That's not where the flooding usually comes from...just crazy the amount of water you must have had coming down!


pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 4 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

Thankfully for me Ginger, buried on the side of my house is a drainage pipe that runs underground from my backyard all the way out to the street. I'm convinced that helped me out a lot.


junko profile image

junko 4 years ago

After you edited and add the latest storm Sandy, this should be republished. Very useful


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia

Dennis, you hub and pictures are amazing. I have friends who lived in Middleburgh when this storm hit. They were lucky, their house sits on a hill but they lost their road and the bridge to their home. They were not able to get home for many months and only after a generous contractor offered to rebuild the bridge at a reduced rate. Friends pitched in and paid for the bridge. It doesn't matter where you live or what your circumstances, a weather disaster of this magnitude is devastating and changes the landscape and lives forever.


pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 4 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

@ Irc7815 - Thank you for dropping by and leaving your reply. I drove by one neighborhood today and over 14 months later all you see is one house after another covered in mud and uninhabitable. Around the corner from my house we had a bridge wash out that wasn't fixed for nearly 11 months. The power of Mother Nature is so unpredictable.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

What a dramatic story! Your photos are very impressive. It was sad to read about all the problems that people experienced. Thank you for sharing an article that is both interesting and informative.


pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 20 months ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on this hub. We now have entire areas that were once neighborhoods and they are gone forever. Even this evening our county and the surrounding counties are under flood warnings. The snowmelt and rains have caused the rivers and streams to overflow, but this will only be minimal. I'm thankful to live way up on a hill.

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