Sunday, November 01, 2015

The great flood of '15

Okay, so flooding sucks. Let's just get that out of the way. Before we bought the new house, we made a careful check to ensure it wasn't in any flood plains, which was prudent on our part. But we soon learned that our property is at the confluence of two drainages from higher ground. We're at the edge of the Texas Hill Country, with limestone outcroppings and shallow soil, so even a little rain can produce considerable runoff. A couple months after we moved in, we learned this as a heavy rain turned out front yard into a whitewater river. Unnerving at first, but we soon figured how things were. Our house is high, the yard broad and flat. It floods quickly but doesn't stand around long. The water drains quickly and everything returns to normal.

Except this past Friday. The forecast was for rain, at times heavy, but no severe weather. So The Wife leaves at 7:15 or so to take Bug to school, which is maybe half a mile away. Around 7:20 the skies just open up. Realize, I'm getting ready for work and am not aware of this, until The Wife starts screaming at 7:30 "JAYME COME HERE!"

I double-time it to the garage door, baffled as to what's going on, and am dumbfounded to see several inches of water in the garage, stuff floating hither and yon.

Here's a video of our front yard.

The big rush of water flowed across the end of the driveway and front yard, turning it into a whitewater river, as usual. But there was so much of it, so fast, that the secondary drainage that comes down from behind the house backed up and had nowhere to go, so it overtopped the limestones lining the driveway and took the path of least resistance--right into the open garage. Had the garage door been closed, it would've deflected down the driveway, no problem. But the door was open. Remember that we've only been in the house for a year, right? I spent the last 12 months or so building The Wife's photography studio (good news--the fixes I made prevented all but a tiny water leak from penetrating the studio, and I know how to fix that as well) rather than my office/library. The upshot of this is that I still had many boxes of books stored in the garage, along with some old toys, various minor keepsakes, drywall, insulation, power tools and various things used in the construction of the studio and office/library. Water is not a good mix with this stuff.

Fortunately, only four boxes at the bottom of the stacks got soaked. And some of the books at the top of the wet boxes escaped unscathed. But I did lose some books. I went through the "Well, maybe I can dry them out..." thought process, but no, they were too soaked and already swelling. Some were sticking together. I didn't lose anything irreplaceable--like my autographed Jack Williamson novels, for example. I lost two autographed Neil Gaiman books, none of the Sandman collections, thank goodness, but as odds are low I'll ever get close enough for him to sign anything again, I took a razor blade and sliced out the autographed pages. I also lost several James Bond books, a Greg Egan, The Essential Ellison, both volumes of Maus and a number of old-school anthologies. I've had a lot of these for decades. The biggest hit I took was my Steven Gould collection--Jumper, Helm, Wildside, Blind Waves... pretty much everything apart from Jumper: Griffin's Story, which almost didn't count. Fortunately, I can replace all of those, and I see Unka Stevie often enough that replacing the signatures shouldn't be too onerous.

Several people have remarked at how I've been able to keep this in perspective. Do I hate losing books? Of course I do. I valued some of these highly, and some of the non-genre books lost are not easily acquired, if not outright rare. I'm annoyed. I'm disappointed. But I saw all the books in boxes that didn't get ruined and realize how lucky I am. I spent all day Friday and part of Saturday running the Texas State University media relations office from home, because 1) I was flooded in, and even if I wasn't 2) San Marcos was pretty much flooded out. Areas of the university took some flood damage. Classes were cancelled for two days. Areas of San Marcos that suffered severe flooding back in June were hit again. Swaths of New Braunfels near the rivers--and even away from the rivers--got hit with some seriously high water. People lost homes and cars and RVs and a few people died. San Marcos got more than 15 inches of rain in the span of a few hours. As near as I can figure, we got close to 9 inches at the house in about 90 minutes. Not even the National Weather Service saw this coming, until maybe 30 minutes before it hit.

I had some good fortune come my way in recent weeks, with the potential for more on the horizon. So I'm not fixating on the loss here like I might have at some other time. I'm counting my self lucky, and budgeting for replacements over the coming year. That's more than many others can do.

Now Playing: Whitehorse The Fate of the World Depends On This Kiss
Chicken Ranch Central


  1. You're taking it a lot better than I would. Glad it wasn't as bad as it could've been.

  2. Upshot: Never, ever, ever store books in your garage...