Thursday, June 26, 2008

Meet the hamsters

Bugging, Part II included a list of natural and man-made hazards that could affect our home. I characterized flooding to be of "moderate risk in the surrounding area; negligible risk to my home."

Last night into this morning, Nature dumped five inches of rain on us, so we got to find out just how accurate FEMA's flood maps are.

Pretty damned accurate, as it turns out, with the exception of one rural road that saw some unexpected flash flooding, probably due to runoff from a large housing development built after the maps were created.

Our home stayed high and dry, but the road in front of us was a different story. A half-mile south, four feet of water made it impassable; the situation a quarter-mile north was no better. The only possible passable outlet was through the housing development to our west.

I volunteered to scout a dry commuting route for my wife while she readied herself for work. While I was out, I paused in several places to photograph the floodwaters. One after another, passing drivers stopped to ask me the same question:

"How do I get out of here?"

I didn't mind being helpful -- that's what neighbors do. No, what struck me was these folks' apparent cluelessness about the basic layout and topography of the very neighborhood in which they live.

Some were merely befuddled, while others bordered on panic -- one practically begged me to get into my car and lead her to safety. These people were just commuting to work, for cryin' out loud, and I found myself wondering how they'd fare if they were actually required to evacuate.

Perish the thought.

Such naiveté shouldn't surprise us, really. Most Americans live like hamsters, spinning on the Habitrail of our daily rituals, perilously ignorant of what exists outside our neat little cages. As long as we get food, water and fresh bedding, we just keep spinning.

Until something upsets our rituals, that is -- even something as absurdly simple as high water that blocks our familiar route to work.

Tonight brings both good and bad news. The good news is that the floodwaters have receded and all of the local roads are passable.

The bad news? It's raining again -- hard.

Here we go again...