If you haven't yet heard, Darn Yarn flooded last week - actually to be more specific, Harmony and Zelienople flooded and Darn Yarn was one of the businesses that took on water. Lots of water. If you get our e-mails, some of this will be repetitive, for that I apologize. But I figured this was a good way to answer some of the questions we've been asked since Wednesday.
The rain and storms started on Tuesday night. By early morning, Mercer Street was flooded, Wunderbar and Two Fraus Bakery were mopping, pumping, and watching their front doors, and at some point, Josh, the building owner, noticed the water on the lower porch of Darn Yarn.
Acting quickly, he called on Scot of Murderingtowne Press, Seth, Lana, and Val of Wunderbar, and Joanie and Kirsten (otherwise known as the Two Fraus) to come and assist him with moving inventory in Darn Yarn. Somehow, they were able to save the yarn and books just before the water started gushing into the space. If you know any of these people, please give them a High-5 the next time you see them. They saved the shop! I honestly don't know what shape we'd be in right now if not for all of them.
Josh called me at home just after this, and I rushed to the shop as quickly as possible. A few hours later we moved more inventory as the water rose higher. I also emptied the lowest tier of cubbies in the other, higher room.
Historically, this was the 2nd highest flood since the 1920's, when various recording agencies started keeping records. The waters crested at 15', Hurricane Ivan, in 2004 was the highest at 18'. I don't know about you, but I'm ok with never breaking that record.
Wunderbar and Two Fraus moved all they could up onto risers or the tabletops. They mopped up the water seeping in from the front the best they could - 'cause here's the thing, once you do mop it up, where do you put it when it's rising from below, creeping up from behind, and seeping in from the front?
Wednesday was a long day, we mostly stood around in rubber boots (or barefoot on the porch to let our feet dry out) waiting...just waiting. Waiting for the next storm -there was another one in the forecast for the afternoon. Waiting for the water to stop rising. Waiting for the next required action. Waiting for the water to recede. Waiting.
Eventually, we started noticing things - did that puddle look smaller? Was that board dry before? How many squares are visible on the cubbie? The water had started to recede.
At the height of the flood, the 2 back porches and a patch in the parking lot were like an urban island in a sea of sludge. The Connoquenessing Creek (AKA The Connie or Connie-Q) was surrounding us from the sides and the back; she was up over the patio next to the shop and you could see water between the boards on the porch. That means she was up to the back/employee entrance, for those of you who know where that is, and around the building on the other side. No one was parked back there, so that was good. At one point, the dumpsters did try to float away. Josh had to wade in, lasso them, and drag them back to the approximate proper place. He then tied them to the patio for safe keeping.
The storm system couldn't handle all the run off - basically we're a 21st century society using a 19th or 20th century storm and waste water system; or in more illustrative terms, we're a digital and cyber society trying to use Victorian resources. This is one example where Steam Punk isn't cool -because in this case, it simply doesn't work. When the storm drains are functioning properly, the waste water flows through the pipes under the buildings here in the lower part of Harmony to The Connie behind us. When they aren't functioning properly, which is more and more often as they are tasked with carrying more than they were built for, they back up and flood the Emporium, the houses next to it, and then Mercer Street...
When The Connie rises and the storm system backs up, the two meet in the middle, which is Harmony. And that means we're battling water from all sides. And I do mean all - it's falling from the sky, rising through the ground, surrounding us on land. Honestly, I'm excited to visit CO this summer and see what it's like to be somewhere that regularly doesn't have enough water (not that I'd wish that on anyone either).
So you can see, this is a multifaceted problem. I'm not naive enough to believe that a creek never floods. The house I grew up in was near a creek. Nothing nearly as large as The Connie, but it could move a lot of water when it needed to. We had a sump pump, french drain, and my dad built 6" risers for storage bins in the basement because we regularly had water in the basement during the Spring. However, in the 35+/- years my Dad lived in that house, it only got to flood levels once, maybe twice. Here, by flood level, I mean measurable in feet and not inches. We regularly ended up with water in the basement and had to then discard damaged carpeting, furniture, and toys. We lost a lot of board games to water damage, but an actual flood was rare.
When I moved Darn Yarn to The Center of Harmony in 2012, I was aware that The Connie-Q was in our backyard. But it was an acceptable risk, because historically, up until then, there had been issues with water in basements and swampy land, but floods, actual floods, were separated by years, decades even.
We all have an "acceptable risk" level wired into our psyche, even if we don't know it. For example, if you live in Buffalo NY, Erie, or New England, you have accepted that you will have to deal with blizzards and really bad winter weather. If you live in the Dust Bowl or "Tornado Alley" you know tornadoes are a real problem. If you live in California, the threat of wildfires or earth quakes is constantly at the back of your brain. You get the idea. We all have weather and natural phenomenon that shape our daily life.
Yet, every now and then, "The Big One" hits. The blizzard that knocks out power for a week. The wildfire that moves so fast entire towns don't see it coming. The tornado that touches down and jumps unpredictably (not that any of them are truly predictable). The Hurricane that changes the way we measure hurricanes. The Storm of the Century. And we humans are caught by surprise and someone says, "Well what did they expect? They live in an area where that happens."
There are two basic problems with the "Well what did they expect?" attitude. The first being that just because someone is prepared, or aware of something, doesn't mean that when it happens it's not devastating and that the victims deserve what happens to them. You can do everything right, listen to your doctor, take care of yourself, and still die from the disease you are so actively working against. You can have a snow plow, a back up generator, a stocked pantry, and still have damage when the pipes freeze during a blizzard. You can have a stocked storm cellar and survive a tornado and still lose everything when your home is carried away to Oz. You get the idea. No matter how prepared or aware you are, things can still (and often do) go wrong.
The second problem I have with the "Well what did they expect?" attitude is that we're seeing more and more "Storm of the Century" type events in shorter and shorter time spans - meaning, they aren't just happening every hundred years or so anymore, and they are happening in areas where it's more and more unusual for those types of things to happen - like the flooding on Main Street in Zelienople. Sure there's a waterway nearby, but flooding isn't all that regular in Zelie, and then to have it happen twice in a relatively short time frame?
Something's wrong. Very wrong. Sine 2017 there have been 5 incidents of flooding in the building Darn Yarn occupies. Five. I honestly believe that if flooding occurred regularly, the Harmonites and Mennonites would not have built here. I mean think about that for a minute. The Center of Harmony (building that houses Darn Yarn) was built it 1875. The red barn on the other side of the bridge was built in 1805! It's over 200 years old. Do you really think if the builders thought flooding would be an annual, biennial, or regular occurrence they would have built it there? Or that the building would still be standing now if it underwent repetitive water damage from flooding?
The frequency and size of theses storms and disasters is an issue that needs addressed at many levels. What are we doing, or not doing, to remedy this? Why are these sort of things happening? What's going to be next? How will we handle it as a community? Unfortunately, these problems aren't easily solved, and the solutions are often somewhat complex and multi-tiered. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't work towards solving them.
I don't know what the answer is. I do know that solution won't be an easy one. But if we, as a society, don't start paying more attention to our influence on our natural surroundings as we try and grow and advance, the great little towns and villages that have been built around historical places, natural resources, and longstanding communities may just start to wash away in floodwaters, get crushed under the weight of the snow, or get carried away in a twister.
What can you do? Pay attention to your zoning boards, attend your community meetings, make your concerns heard. Help everyone consider all the implications of moving lots of dirt - or not moving it. Vote - especially in your local elections. Learn about the resources available in your community. Do what you can to help minimize the effects of climate change.
I realize this got a bit more political than I like the Darn Yarn blog to be - I'm not trying to be a Negative Nellie. Honestly, I'm not against progress. I just often wonder if the things that get done in the name of progress really move us in a positive direction. (And I'm tired of moving my inventory every time it rains.)
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