I’ve started this here times before and deleted every attempt, this has been incredibly hard for me to write.
For all our planning and preparation, we got hit by something totally unforseen: Water and a lot of it.
I’ve always tried to keep my actual location private, mainly out of concern that someone close to me would decide their best method of prepping would be to show up at my door and either be taken in or try and take what we sacrificed to acquire. Prepping by the Lazy Method. Now, it doesn’t matter since everything we sacrificed to build up is under the Missouri River. We live(d) in Pacific Junction, Iowa and on March 17th we had to evacuate ahead of the flood waters. We got some items out on Saturday, but more as a precaution than out of any real concern we were going to be evacuated. Back in 2011 We were told we were going to have 8ft of water…. 6…… 5 for sure……maybe 4 or 3ft absolutely! I had to water my garden that entire summer while people 4 miles from us were flooded out. This time, we were told 1-2 ft max and the fire fighters laughed when I said something about 8ft of water in the house. So, we moved my grandmother’s cedar chest upstairs and left everything else downstairs, including my late mother’s dining room table and china cabinet. I left my coat and some other items, thinking I would be able to get them the next day. We got the 8ft of water by the next day. On Monday our home looked like this:
That’s our place in the lower left corner, the beige roof is our garage and the house behind is our home. By the next day, the water was even higher, you couldn’t see the roof on the side of the house over the back porch.
First thing we’ve learned is not to trust what the authorities say!! Even though we live in an area that was prone to flooding, we were told they’d taken steps to prevent flooding; pumps in town and a levee around the town. They say this was the “perfect storm” of events: first there had been a lot of snow in Feb, we had 2ft on the ground right before this hit, further north they had even more snow on the ground. Next, the ground was still frozen from the record cold we’d had the previous 2 months. Then, north of us they had a huge thunderstorm that dumped a lot of rain on them and we got some of it, too. Lewis and Clark Lake behind Gavins Point Dam was getting too full so the Army Core of Engineers opened the flood gates and released tens of thousands of cubic feet of water. Rivers and creeks that empty into the Missouri backed up and then the levees that were weakened by the 2011 flooding and never repaired gave way a few miles from my town and the result is this:
That’s only a quarter of my town, it’s just the only one I have available to me on my tablet. It’s looking west down our “main drag” towards City Hall and the Post Office.
Other things we’ve learned: do NOT focus on just one or two possible disasters, we knew we lived in an area that could flood, we got complacent and didn’t think it was a real possibility.
We lost all of the food we had at the house, over two thousand dollar’s worth (not counting the thousand dollars worth of beef sitting in the freezer in the garage). We’d kept it there thinking it gave us more options:Bug In or pack it up and Bug Out. Our Bug Out Location wasn’t practical in this case, too far for me to get to work and we’d let the camper get too neglected anyway. Major, huge mistake, but we thought we’d have the time to replace it.
We couldn’t work as a team, Bear works 3 hours away north of Pacific Junction, it was flooding up there and he’d had to leave that Sunday so he could be ready for work the next day. I was alone trying to remember everything and do the work of 2 people. I didn’t write anything down nor did I make a cheek list, I could have easily done so, but am so disorganized I didn’t. I was still loading the car at 4:06pm when they came to shut the gas off and still loading up when the firefighters came by to verify everyone was gone 45 minutes later. At that point I was grabbing just purely emotional stuff, like my late mother’s clothing and my late father’s shortwave radio. My dead pet’s ashes. Favorite crystals. Didn’t save a warm coat, but I saved crystals!! I’m such a Pagan!
Last thing I can see that I’ve learned so far is to have a Bug Out plan, then practice it under duress. It’s hard to recreate the fear of the actual event, but I think you create the stress by someone barking out orders to grab things, constantly asking about grabbing other things and so on. All while under a short time limit, less than an hour for example. Practice it often using different time limits and different things until you come up with a list of important items you need/want to take with you, beyond the basics like clothing, medications and important documents.
Something critical to not just think about, but do. What to do with Family Heirlooms, antiques and other large items you have some kind of emotional connection to. If you only have a small window of time to get out of your home and have several large items, like family heirlooms, how will you deal with them? Are you willing to walk away from them, knowing they’ll be a total loss?
I know this is a little choppy, it’s taken me 4 months to write this, it’s just been too hard to keep going back to it.