Preparing for the Worst: My Emergency Story

Preparing for the Worst

Hi folks! I have a spontaneous post for you today. I was originally planning to post my third quarter 2017 update post, but I will save that for Thursday. The financial independence blogging community is very tight knit. I enjoy so much following other bloggers, engaging with the community and readers, and following the stories of others. Because of this tight knit community, I am compelled to join others in support of Dads, Dollars, Debts who lost his house (and nearly his life) in the Tubb’s Fire in California.

I am joining others in a blogging “chain of articles” talking about the importance of being prepared. The chain is listed below with links to other posts. I will continue to update this post with links as other bloggers join in. Check out the anchor post from Dads, Dollars, Debts for his harrowing experience!

Anchor: DadsDollarsDebt – Dads, Dollars, Debts

Anchor Two: Chief Mom Officer – Going Beyond The Emergency Fund-A Harrowing Escape Inspires The Personal Finance Community

Link 1: OthalaFehu – Cool As A Cucumber

Link 2: The Retirement Manifesto – Am I A Prepper?

Link 3: Mrs. Retire to Roots – In Case Of Emergency Follow The Plan

Link 4: The Lady In Black – Emergency Preparedness

Link 5: The Green Swan – Preparing for the Worst: My Emergency Story

Link 6: Minafi – Minimal Hurricane Preparation

Link 7: A Gai Shan Life – Earthquake and disaster preparedness

Link 8: The Financial Journeyman – Emergency Preparation: Be Proactive

Link 9; John And Jane Doe – Thinking the Worst: Emergency Planning or Fighting the Last War?

Link 10: Adventure Rich – Emergency Preparation Up North

Link 11: Money Beagle – How Much Would You Replace If You Lost Everything?

Link 12: Crispy Doc – Fighting Fire With FI/RE

Link 13: She Picks Up Pennies – How Can A Planner Be Unprepared?

Link 14: Chronicles Of A Father-Getting Ready for a Natural Disaster

Link 15: Rogue Dad MD- Disrupting the Equilibrium

Link 16: Unique Gifter-10 Ways To Help Disaster Victims

Link 17: SomeRandomGuyOnline-Friday Blog Roundup – Emergency Preparedness Edition

Link 18: 99 to 1 Percent: 15 Frugal Ways To Prepare For An Emergency

Link 19: I Dream Of FIRE – Your house is burning and you can only save 10 things – what do you choose?

Preparing for the Worst

Preparing for the worst is important…because it happens. We’ve been reminded of that many times in just the recent months with two category 5 hurricanes hitting the US for the first time in….who knows, maybe ever?? And on top of that we have some of the worst fires ever in California. And that is why I’m here today talking about my emergency story, in support of my blogging buddy who lost his home in Tubb’s Fire just a week ago.

Whether it is a hurricane, earthquake, tornado, fire or flood, natural disasters happen everywhere and we all need to be prepared! It could happen to us next…

My Emergency Story

In support of Dads, Dollars, Debts, I want to go back about nine years ago and share a brief story about a natural disaster that shook me, my wife (fiancé at the time), and my community.

Lucy and I were engaged to be married, but at the time both living in communities about 30 minutes apart. We were both out of college and working. It was the spring of 2008. We just had a pretty big winter with lots of snow. As it was beginning to melt and funnel into the rivers, we had massive rain in the forecast.

Preparing for the Flood!

We were preparing for a little flooding, but nothing too bad. My place of employment was actually a block away from the river bank. The river wasn’t expected to come that high, that would have been crazy, but just in case we sand-bagged the entrance of the bank. Inside the bank, out of extreme precaution, I moved things from my bottom drawers to my top drawers. But that wasn’t going to happen, no way water would come all the way up to flood a block over, breach our sand bags, and flood my bank. But just in case…

The ran kept falling. Snow upstream had been melting in the prior weeks and making its way down stream. The estimated river peak kept getting raised by meterologists.

Meanwhile, Lucy who lived downstream from me was also getting prepared. Her hotel was actually on the river bank, but they sandbagged like crazy knowing they may actually get some flooding. There were weddings planned that weekend and everything…but those didn’t end up happening, with the exception of one. The hotel owned an offsite venue that had power, water and could still accommodate the attendees. Lucy remembers sandbagging outside for hours when a tornado warning hit. Everyone was corralled in the back hallway… everyone including the wedding party. Talk about disasters on top of disasters.

Back in my city, the river kept rising over night and the next day. It was absolutely crazy, but water actually came into the bank and my place of employment. We sand-bagged knee-high, our building was a block away from the river, and it still breached it and entered the bank! The flooding was so bad it broke the 100-year flood plain!

A 100-Year Flood!

For those of you unaware, the flood plains are mapped by the federal government to mark floods that “should” happen once in a 100 years, and also a 500-year flood plane which marks floods that should happen once in 500 years. Funny how they can map these out given they don’t have flood history for 100 years, let alone 500…

Preparing for the Worst

But nonetheless, the flood reached the 100-year flood status. Also, it is noteworthy to mention that homes in the 100-year flood plain are required by mortgage lenders to buy flood insurance. But the river still hadn’t peaked…

Rain kept falling and water kept rising!

A 500-Year Flood

The water was entering neighborhoods and businesses that weren’t in the 100-year flood plain and never anticipated the flood. Folks were forced to evacuate to higher ground. And yet as the water kept rising, the flood actually broke the 500-year flood plain! Water kept rising in the bank, I obviously wasn’t going to work for a couple days…and by the time the flooding peaked the water was over 10 feet high in my bank! My bank, that was a block away from the river, and I can’t remember how many feet higher than the normal water level, and the bank that we sand-bagged knee-high and the whole time thinking we we’re wasting our time because the water would never come that high…

Well it did. The bank building stayed flooded for over a week, nobody could enter, mold started to flourish, and ultimately I never stepped foot in the bank again. It was a condemned property and needed to be torn down. This was the same story as many of the other commercial developments and neighborhoods in my city.

Preparing for the Worst

Many folks left their homes for higher ground thinking they’d be back in a couple days and, in the end, they never were able to return! Everything was lost and even some people lost their lives…

Lucy’s hotel faired much better. A levy ended up breaking down stream (no doubt putting other communities in that area to flood much worse), but the hotel was spared. Water only made it’s way into the hotel lobby, but the building was cleaned and saved from any mold. Lucy was able to return to work as normal just a few days later.

The Point

You always have to be prepared! The weather forecast isn’t always right. My city was hit with a horrible and devastating 500-year flood that even nearly 10 years later it hasn’t fully recovered from. This 2008 flood was one of three floods within 15 years that have crested the 100-year flood plane (one of which being a 500-year!). So not only can weather forecasts be wrong, but federally drawn flood maps can be wrong!

Lucy, who lived just a short 30-minute drive away, was in reachable for a week! The roads to her city were even flooded over! We were both stranded from each other and even our direct families for a while in what were some pretty scary times.

Are You Prepared?

Lets use the power of this community to help spread this message. Per Chief Mom Officer (Anchor #2 above…) who was the organizer behind the blogging chain, here are some resources to help you think of what to write if you want to join the chain or if you need help preparing for the worst:

Ready.Gov1 – Government site on preparing for natural disasters
CDC Site on Health and Safety Concerns For All Disasters – Good information on different things to consider for different types of disasters
Weather.Com Disaster Preparation Tips – Sorry about the slideshow format, but there’s good information here
Home Evacuation Tips1 – Good information on how to prepare for an evacuation
FEMA Evacuation Information – Also good tips on preparing for an evacuation

Thanks for taking a look!

The Green Swan

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15 Comments

  1. Wow, what a scary experience. Thank you for sharing! Flooding is awful and the power of destruction water has is incredible.

    Just a week after Hurricane Sandy, my husband and I had the opportunity to walk through a power station in Manhattan where our friend was a senior engineer. Transformers were blown, equipment was majorly damaged, and much of the facility was still dark. I remember him showing us the yellow lines painted on the walls marking the 100 year flood level. All equipment had to be built above that line – except the storm surge pushed water levels 13″ above that line. More in some areas. Just because something hasn’t happened, or hasn’t happened in a long time, doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

    1. Yes, awful stuff! In my city, there were four water treatment facilities. Three of the four were breached and compromised and I remember the city doing everything they could to sand-bag and hope the fourth wouldn’t be breached by flood water as well. When you get a 500-year flood or a 13′ storm surge in your case, you just can’t prepare for that kind of damage!

  2. Wow Green Swan, a 500 year flood…that’s horrible. I’m glad you both made it out OK. Three times in the last 15 years certainly sounds like they need to start redefining what a 100 year flood is in your area. And flood insurance is a nightmare in drastic need of reform Appreciate you joining in to show your support for DDD. I thought this was probably the best way those of us in the community could help.

    1. Exactly what the community was thinking! It was incredible. FEMA and major disaster recovery teams came in to help and President Bush even visited! It was crazy thinking the President would come visit my city of a few hundred thousand in population, but it was a horrible disaster. While Lucy and my places of employment were really impacted, we were thankful our apartments were higher ground! But it was a major rally-around-the-community deal with lots of volunteering to help those who were impacted more.

      Thanks again for organizing the blog chain in support of our good buddy, DDD!

  3. It’s good to see preparation for disasters being brought up. For those of you with businesses you can also contact your local SBA office for guides and disaster recovery plans.

  4. I saw DDD’s post and it made me sick that his family lost their home. I’m just glad that they’re okay.

    We got a flooding scare when Hurricane Harvey hit Texas. Our city was supposed to get the brunt of the flooding (it ended up hitting Houston), and there was an all-out panic here. The stores were raided and you couldn’t get gas anywhere. We realized we weren’t prepared in the slightest for a flood; we didn’t even have a raft or life jackets in the event of an emergency escape.

    Thankfully our only hurricane issue was our tree splitting in half, but I’ll take that over a flood. It was sobering and made us realize that we need to be much, much more prepared.

    1. Yes, it is just awful what DDD is going through!

      Houston obviously got hit hard!!! But glad you folks were ok! Thanks for sharing, Mrs. Picky Pincher!

  5. We had a similar incidence in 2010 in Nashville. Flooding like never before. Pretty wild how it all happens.

    I have been debating which disaster is the worst. Flooding is the worst for clean up for sure. Fire is the worst for a total loss. With a flood or tornado there may be some salvageable items, not so much with a fire.

    1. Gees, Dad. You’ve been Flooded AND Burnt. Let me know the next time you move, I’ll be sure to head the other direction. Hope all is going as well as can be expected for your in CA, glad to see the community thread developing to held share the word on the importance of being prepared!

  6. When I found out that Hurricane Harvey was going to hit Texas, I thought that this was going to be a strong hurricane. I decided to leave Houston and head to Austin. This was a good decision on my part. From my motel, I saw the destruction that Harvey inflicting on various areas of Texas. I was lucky that I was able to leave Houston when the weather was still calm. We need to respect mother nature.

    1. Absolutely Hernan. That sounds like a crazy, crazy experience! A couple of my siblings traveled to Houston shortly after and it was interesting hear their stories. And if you’ve been following my blog I recently posted about my job change. My new position requires a bit more travel and the week I started a few of my team members were traveling to the Houston office the week of Harvey. They moved their flights ahead a day and barely got out before the Houston airport closed. What a deal! Hope your place in Houston made it through ok??!

      Thanks for sharing!

  7. Since moving to Houston, we’ve seen 3 – 500 yr floods in 3 years. Statistically, they should start being called something else by now, right? I mean 3 in a row? Fortunately, our home never flooded, but there are people that got flooded 3 times in 3 years. We thought we might get flooded with Harvey, but fortunately the water stopped rising and just trapped us in the house for a few days.

    A lot of people on our neighborhood Facebook group were talking about dropping flood insurance since they didn’t flood with Harvey. I think, “Um, yeah I’m keeping it because we came so close with Harvey. It’s called insurance for a reason…”

    Like you said, the forecasters can’t always get it right. The Tax day flood (flood 2 of the 3- 500 yr floods) wasn’t even forecast to be a flood event. Just some showers that will pass over the city. Oh wait, they stopped… And then just dumped about 15″ of rain in a day. Yep, best to be prepared for these things and expect the unexpected.

    1. That’s insane! Yes I think it’s about time to draw up some new food maps…

      That tax day flood is a perfect example… Mother nature doesn’t listen to the forecasts, it will make up its own mind!

      Thanks for sharing, Mr SSC.

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