Lessons Learned From a Rainy Day, by John G. in Southern Pennsylvania

After a 19 day dry spell, we were hit with one heck of a storm here in southern Pennsylvania last week. I thought I would share with Survivalblog readers the lessons to be learned from this event.

The first 29 days of September had been warm and lovely here, with only about 3 inches of the normal 21 inches of rain we should normally see by the end of September. On the last day of September we received the missing 18 inches. With the long period of dry weather preceding the storm, the ground was incapable of absorbing much of the water that came down. As a result of the weather and soil conditions there was a great deal of flooding.

I woke Thursday morning to find that there were a couple of inches of water in my basement. We have just bought this house 3 months ago, but we have known all along that the drainage for the basement was not in a good state of repair. There is a drainage pipe at the low side of the basement that is designed to provide a path of escape for any water that would pool in the basement. At some point in the recent past, this cast iron pipe corroded through and collapsed. At this time the drain pipe is totally blocked in the middle. This is a problem that needs to be addressed by us for the basement is one of our primary storage locations. We have been looking into a method of repair and fortunately there is a process to restore the integrity of old cast iron drainage pipes that lines the pipe with a maintenance free plastic/fiberglass material without the need to dig up the pipe. This repair is now on the top of our list of needed repairs to our new home. After this repair we will be undertaking the process of painting the basement with Drylock, and re-grading some of the land next to the house to reroute water away from the foundation. To insure that our stored goods stay dry even in the event of some water beyond our methods of control we will be storing all of our dry goods on pallets or shelves, and keeping it all from direct contact with the floor and walls. Lucky for us, the basement on north side of the house is at ground level, and we are on much higher ground compared to the surrounding areas. The two inches or so of flooding is the worst case scenario for us. It was more than enough to get me thinking about repairs and modifications to my structure and property to avoid this level of moisture in the future.

When I left my house to go to work another whole set of lessons were in store for me. I live in an area that is literally awash with small creeks and streams. The area is very hilly and every valley and hollow has a creek of varying depth and width. On this day, creeks that are normally are 6 or 10 inches deep were more like 6 or 10 feet deep. When I came to the creek that passes between the county I live in and the county I work in I was not met with a crossing. This creek, which was normally 15 to 20 feet wide, had swollen to over 100 yards wide. Every bridge had been washed out as had several of the roads next to the creek. There was no way to cross on my normal route to work. I ended up driving up an unmarked road and found a covered bridge, on high ground, that I was unfamiliar with. Bear in mind that I know this area pretty well. I was able to cross the flood waters and get to work after some unplanned exploration. On the way home from work the flooding I experienced on the way to work had subsided, only to be replaced by other flooding and high water on the roads home. The rain was still really coming down, the sun had set, and visibility was much less than desired. I had to drive significantly slower than normal to avoid entering high water beyond the capability of my car to cross. When I was almost to my house, even traveling at low speed, I was surprised by high water on a road after I had already crossed a bridge that forded the creek I had just passed. I was able to stop before entering the water and assess the danger of crossing it with my car before finding myself midway with no way back.
So the lessons learned I learned (in spite of the fact I was able to get home with no major problems);

  1. Even in a known area, it is a good thing to know routes not usually traveled in case an alternate route must be taken- take alternate routes from time to time so you know firsthand what your options are without consulting a map.
  2. Understand before leaving the house what areas on your normal route are prone to becoming impassable or pose potential problems for your travel.
  3. Take the right vehicle- I drove my sedan, which handles better in rain but does not have the clearance or fording ability of my pickup truck.
  4. Make sure that all the safety equipment on the vehicle is in working order- my fog lights were not working, and it would have been a great help to have them.
  5. Never leave without a G.O.O.D. bag- though I am a bug in guy, I did not have a bag packed in the car. If I had been forced to leave my car I would have been unequipped to deal with the weather and the impending hike to safety, on foot.

I am a fan of using real experience to influence the unprepared to become prepared. I found out first hand last week that I still learn the lessons of preparedness every time I leave my house, so long as I have my eyes, and mind, open enough to see them.
Thanks again for this useful web site, and keep up the great work.