Monday, February 20, 2017

Hodgepodge 114/365 - Flood Evacuation

I got my first taste of a Red Cross shelter today. There was (and still is) concern that the Carmel River will flood today yet (prognostication as of about 8 p.m. was between midnight and 1 a.m.), so people living in low-lying areas were advised—mandatorily—to evacuate. Though when I showed up at 3:30 this afternoon at Carmel Middle School, the site of the shelter, and talked to the two School District guys whose job it is to cover the gymnasium floor with protective sheeting, no one really knew what was happening: it was mainly a matter of flying rumors.

The briefing
At 4, the shelter manager, Craig, arrived, with the Red Cross truck and trailer full of supplies: paperwork, pens (useless) and pencils (sharp), duct tape, signage, coffee (Folgers) and giant coffeemaker, snacks, and most important, cots and blankets (no pillows: remember that, if you ever need to evacuate—bring your own). We set up a few tables and chairs, in case we got clients, though Craig was dubious: it's mainly a matter of geography associated with social standing—some of the "camps" right along the river are less well off, so residents can't afford hotel lodgings, for example. So if they got flooded, yes, we might get business; but if it was more affluent neighborhoods, then probably not.

And . . . we waited.

A few ladies wandered in, basically for reassurance, it seemed, then wandered back out. One man came in, agitated, asked some questions about the situation in the Village (we had no answers), made a phone call, and left.

The SPCA sent a couple of workers with crates of assorted sizes for pets, pet food, kitty litter, and towels for bedding.

The briefing
And at about 5:30, people started arriving: the sheriff had ordered the Hacienda, a retirement community, to be evacuated. It was mostly sweet little old ladies; a few couples—in one case, an old woman's daughter and son-in-law were visiting, staying with her, so all three came to the shelter. In the end, we had about thirty clients, though several people wondered where everybody was, since the Hacienda is home to a couple hundred people. I assume (hope) they had enough money to stay in a hotel or had friends or family in the area.

We did get three pets: two little dogs and one black cat named Sam. A woman with two dogs, one fifteen years old and blind, checked us out but was not willing not to sleep with her old dog—and I don't blame her. She left and did not come back, so I hope she found another place to stay. Though she was seriously considering just sleeping in her car. We've got to make the choices we're comfortable with.

After helping people to sign in, I headed out to get sandwiches for Craig and me. The local shopping centers were without power (it is spooky to see entire areas of shops and businesses completely without light), so I headed over the hill, hoping Monterey still had power. It did.

At about 8 Cal Fire and the Sheriff's Office gave us a briefing, saying that people won't be allowed home probably until tomorrow morning. And around then, too, two more Red Cross workers—Doug and Omar, the night shift—arrived. Now it was time to get to work, building cots. It took an hour, hour and a half, but it went smoothly with three of us working and the fourth manning the front desk. When I left at 9:30 half the clients were settling down to bed.

Operation Dormitory
There's nothing comfortable about a Red Cross shelter: bleachers and hard plastic chairs to sit on, and basic army-style cots. But at least it's dry. And we did have power, which the Hacienda, I noticed as I drove by, did not. And hopefully it'll just be one night—and even more hopefully, the river will not rise that high, and everyone will get to go home to a dry, cozy apartment in the morning.

Everyone was in a remarkably cheerful mood. They had the right attitude—it was an adventure! I hope when I get to be that old—a couple of the ladies were in their nineties, and many were in their eighties—I am as resilient. A good attitude is everything.

Meanwhile, at home, our little creek across the street sounds like a raging torrent. I haven't seen it today, but David took some pictures on his walk with the dog this afternoon. The Frog Pond is overfull, and the creek up by the park is now a lake. But we're safe. And we have power (though we've lost it a few times during this storm). So all's well. Here's a couple of photos that David took:

The creek normally flows well under the bridge
The trail at the bottom of the stairs is no more, for now

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