FLOODED RUNWAY: Even an airplane needs help driving during the July 22 rainstorm. (Photo: LindayHaywood/Flickr)
Last week, southeastern Wisconsin received more rain than the drainage and sewage infrastructure could handle. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, over seven inches of rain fell in a few hours on July 22, unofficially breaking the city's record. The rain backed up traffic where cars struggled to drive through standing water. One car was sucked into a sinkhole 20 feet deep. Officials estimate a six-week time frame for the repair of the fissure in the road. Also, thousands of basements have been damaged due to flooding caused by overwhelmed and backed-up drainpipes. Tom Barrett, Milwaukee's mayor, has announced that the city will spend $12 million to upgrade the infrastructure to protect homeowners from future rainstorms.
One Milwaukee resident reported finding one foot of water in his remodeled basement. Exercise equipment, sofas, rugs and electronics were ruined and moved to the curb for removal. Unfortunately, insurance companies do not cover damage caused by flooding or rising water. This resident fears that he will not be compensated. However, when he found a professional company available to drain and dry the bottom floor of his house, he was grateful. Many people are still waiting on such a service. Another Milwaukee man still has standing water in his basement. He was afraid to spend much time there due to the risk of electrocution.
Many tragedies have occurred as a result of the Thursday storm. I would like to share my experience, as well as ideas about how the storm heightens awareness of our ever-changing environment.
I spent Thursday digging in a water channel at a local park, building retaining structures to protect the hillside from eroding from fast-flowing water. Not only was I splashed from the channel water, but rain was also falling all around. Under my raincoat, my T-shirt was dry, but my Carhartts were soaked through.
Looking around, the teenagers I was supervising were shivering and grumbling. One girl, standing under a wooden bridge, said, "This is the first time I've been out in the rain." I said this moment of misery will soon be forgotten, and hoped what I said was true.
Later that night, with hair still dripping wet, my internet browser suddenly refused to open a page and my bedroom went dark. From six that night, until after eight the following morning, my house was without electricity. My dad and I lit candles and used matches to light the stove, which we used to cook our entire meal. No microwave, no toaster, no oven and no George Foreman. We could pretend the power is out more often and reduce our unrestrained use of kitchen appliances.
Over our spaghetti and cucumber salad, we discussed the storm. With only weak flashlights and candles, we brainstormed activities that require minimal sight and no electricity. Storytelling and playing music were two on our list. We told stories about our respective days and I rued selling my viola after my stint in the high school orchestra. Both my dad and I agreed that reading and becoming an educated person in the times of the pioneers, or during any time or place without electricity is an incredible accomplishment. My eyes must not be properly trained to read by candlelight, since I awoke in the night to a stubby candlestick sitting in a pool of hardened wax. My dad was still reading his iPhone.
Since the storm, piles of garbage have grown bigger and bigger on curbsides. Passersby occasionally stop to reassess the potential for salvaging a table and chairs or trunk. This impromptu reduction of belongings and recycling of goods brings to mind the green triangle of arrows that points us to a more eco-friendly lifestyle: it's "reduce, reuse, recycle," of course.
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