Part of me has always wondered if the way I deal with stress causes my RA. I internalize things a lot, get very “revved up”, then get exhausted and crash. This has been a week for that. This may be a long post, and it’s more of a therapeutic post for me than a true rheumatoid disease post for you, so I won’t be offended if this is not interesting to you.
On Monday, afternoon, our students had left for the day when one of our parents called saying there was a severe high wind, hail, pouring storm heading for our school, and if possible we should leave. Since kids were gone for the day, I left about 15 minutes early. It was just barely starting to rain. It’s about 5 miles on a busy city street with poor drainage before I get to the highway, then 20 miles from there. Colorado gets severe storms with hail and tornadoes frequently, so this was not alarming at first. As I was driving down the street, the rain was coming down so hard, it was challenging to see. There was hail, but it was pea sized, so not too alarming. But then the wind picked up, and I started seeing large (could easily break through my window) debris flying through the air. Then, as if out of nowhere, water was EVERYWHERE. It was deep, and I was expecting to feel water on my feet at any moment. I wanted to pull off the road, but everywhere I looked was covered in deep water. It was deep enough that the thought of flowing away was scaring me. Yet the wind was blowing so hard that I feared a tornado was soon to arrive, plus I was scared to stop. I kept going with the thought that getting on the elevated highway would get me out of the water, but may leave me more prone to the wind. I got on the interstate, and there wasn’t a car to be seen. I suspect there was flooding, an accident, or just a mass of pulled-over folks right behind me on the highway, and I drove like a bat out of hell, considering how much water there was. I came out the front end of the storm shortly before arriving at home and managed to drive my son home from the bus stop as the storm arrived (much diminished than it was at work). I later learned 12 inches of hail fell where I was. I was shaky by the time I got home, and it took me a while to calm my body down, but all was well. Sort of….
For those of you who’ve never been to Colorado, picture a relatively square state cut in half north to south. To the west, you have all mountains. To the east you have flat high desert plains. The keyword is desert. Denver, somewhat in the middle of the state, is on the plains with the mountains only a few suburbs away. This is one of the sunniest places to live in the US and the mountains are beautiful. BUT… water is scarce, and to make matters worse, it’s been in a drought, complete with many many large scale fires the last 2 years. To make matters even worse, global warming has caused a pine bark beetle problem. The mountains aren’t getting cold enough to kill these little buggers, and the mountains are full of millions of dead trees as a result. Combine this with drought and very hot weather, and you can see why we’ve been on fire for 2 years. We do get rain, and it generally comes in short (20 minutes to an hour) severe thunderstorms. Hail and tornadoes are common. I believe my county is 4th in the US for number of tornadoes. Out here at my house, our yard is made of clay. It is mush when it rains, and houses have to be be built carefully because our soil easily shifts. We don’t handle vast amounts of rain well for that reason. If it absorbs, the ground is very unsteady. Mostly, it runs off. Our average annual precipitation is a mere 16 inches.
Although the news weather folks were calling for rain chances all week, they didn’t raise any red flags that this wasn’t much more than our typical afternoon thunderstorm stuff. They did say it was an unusual monsoon pattern (monsoon is the term they use for our typical afternoon severe thunderstorm patterns we frequently get in the summer).
We got some more rain on Tuesday, then more Wednesday. Nothing all that alarming, although our yard was more saturated than I’d ever seen it.
Photo taken from our front porch in 2005. This is a slightly more severe, but still typical, monsoon afternoon thunderstorm. To the right is a farm. Their irrigation canal that runs along the edge of our property, backs up, flooding our road, and it really bad, our driveway. This flooding probably took about 30 minutes of rain. It flooded our basement.
Wednesday night, I had family in town, and they all came for dinner. A weather alert went off, and my 2 uncles and aunt left, fearing flooding of their basement with the extreme saturation we’ve already had. My dad spent the night, as I was taking him to the airport in the morning.
Thursday morning, we turned on the news to learn our town had gotten over 5 inches of rain during the night, while Boulder and other areas had 7 inches. Keep in mind our average YEAR brings us 16 inches. Things were very flooded. I got my dad to the airport, passing through 3 minor road floods. A few hours later, my aunt and uncle who live north of me, took my other uncle to the airport. They reported the river, which flows through my town all the way up to theirs, was very full, but not flooding. All day Thursday the reports were coming in. Boulder, much closer to the mountains, and many mountain communities were a mess. 7 inches of rain, when falling in the mountains, falls down to the mountain valleys where the rivers and roads are. This concentrated water overflows the creeks and small rivers, washing downhill and out into Boulder, Loveland, and Ft. Collins, all of which are plains communities up against the mountains. On top of that, Aurora, a southEAST suburb of Denver, far from the mountains, as well as my town, far from the mountains, were flooding. The rain continued pretty hard all day Thursday, and by afternoon the reports were coming in of mountain communities having all roads washed away. People, homes, and cars were washed away. Several entire communities were cut off. No phones (landlines or cells), electricity, water, or sewer. Water treatment facilities were overcome and raw sewage was flowing out with the rivers.
My aunt and uncle have an adorable tiny 1 bedroom cabin we visit frequently in the summer. It’s kind of a hole-in-the-wall place, but it’s right on the river and wonderful for kids. It’s close to Rocky Mountain National Park. We love it. Thursday, morning, my aunt and uncle called their neighbor, who lives there year-round. As they were speaking, the line went dead. As far as we know, she and many others are trapped on the wrong side of the river. News reports have been talking about the plains communities hit, and are not addressing this little town (or many others) in the mountains. Finally, today, Saturday, somebody managed to get a video out. It’s so bad, words can’t describe it. The whole main street minus 1-2 heavily damaged buildings was entirely wiped away. The Town Hall smashed into the General Store. The river is partially flowing down what used to be the road. You can see the people stuck on the wrong side of the river, and you can see a helicopter arriving, which gives me hope they’ll eventually get folks out (doubtful they can land a helicopter in the valley where the people are trapped). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stghpQxrbUQ
Then, Friday afternoon around 4:00, with little rain falling Friday, new severe flooding erupted. The high rivers had reached Interstate 25 many miles away (20+ miles?). This is the main north-south highway through Denver and all of Colorado. It was closed and flooded. The flooding moved east, dozens of miles away, where several rivers merge. People were not warned this would happen. They were caught off guard. Mostly farms and small towns, they were inundated with a wall of 3-5 feet high/mile wide/fast moving water with no warning at all. People ran for their lives, leaving homes, horses, cows, and pets to fend for themselves. While my aunt and uncle were looking for news of their neighbors near their cabin, this flood hit their hometown completely unnoticed by them, who had been watching the news nonstop all day. Luckily, their area of town escaped unharmed. This flooding was predictable, but people were not warned. The flooding continues even further east today, with entire towns being evacuated. This water is still pouring out of the mountains. We’re anticipating more rain through tomorrow. An entire week of rain, this has never happened in my 22 years here.
And I want to continue my post and my frustration, but as I write, rain is coming, rivers are rising again, and I need to monitor (for whatever its worth) the news. More later.
Storm passed with minimal rain on Saturday at our house. We had significant rain today, Sunday, but all is well here.
Here are my frustrations. Maybe I bring this on myself. Maybe other people feel this way. Maybe I’m insane. I’m probably insane. Well, really, there’s little doubt.
I think that despite all of this technology to keep “connected,” we’re as disconnected as ever. An enormous part of our state has been flooding, but life went on as normal. The district where I work (although I don’t work Thursdays and Fridays) didn’t cancel school. Some schools in that district had to be evacuated on Friday. The police departments were begging people to stay home, off the roads, out of harm’s way, but school went on as normal, work went on as normal. Helping your neighbor sandbag be damned, economic productivity is top priority. Go to work, go to school, ignore the dangers going on around you, ignore the people in need, people need you to go to work and be productive, not help one another. Watch our newscast, but stick your head in the sand, and DON’T GET INVOLVED, unless, of course, you want to donate money. As I sit here on Sunday now, the Bronco game is on without even having an update ticker run across the bottom of the screen. As the Broncos play in another state, we’re having more rain, more evacuations, re-evacuations, and additional towns and counties declaring emergencies. But here, be entertained, don’t help, watch this.
At least this morning we got word that some of the folks/cabin neighbors we know are cut off are ok. We didn’t find this through the news or county updates. We found this through other neighbors, who did get out, completely lost their homes, went back yesterday, and helped zipline people across raging rivers, and later on tweeted who was out and who decided to stay. Still, some names are missing.
Is that what we’re supposed to do? Maybe I’m abnormal, but I want to do something. I have a hard time understanding how folks who have lost their homes and evacuated are able to get back in and evacuate others who are stuck while the county/FEMA/other agencies say “it’s raining, we can’t fly, we’re investigating how we can get in to these people.”
Maybe part of this I bring on myself. Maybe I shouldn’t watch the news. Maybe I shouldn’t care. My grandmother, who had problematic health her whole life, used to say, “I have enough problems of my own. I don’t need to take on anybody else’s.” I think about that a lot. She had severe crohn’s disease and outlived all of my other grandparents to the age of 90. Maybe there’s a lesson there?
That’s just one issue. There’s more.
I feel like I’m stuck. I feel like I’m a cog in the wheel of a life that’s dragging us straight to the depths of hell. And I can’t get out of the wheel.
How does a state, which has had 2 straight years of severe drought, record breaking heat (the days leading up to the flooding, we were breaking record high temperatures, as we have been the last several years) and fires, suddenly drown in water? What the heck are we doing to our world that we can go from severe, prolonged, water restricting drought to having an entire year’s worth of precipitation dump on us in less than a week? FYI, some areas of Colorado have had more than 16 inches of rain this week.
Here I am, while other have no homes, no shelter, no food, eating my Paleo food in my warm home, typing on my laptop, and driving my car. Begging pardons for those who don’t believe in global warming (I do), but I think everything I do is damaging our planet. Every grocery bag, battery, device that plugs in, drive to work, etc… is heating up our planet, and mother nature is reacting. And here’s the kicker, all of that damage, which I am sure is hundreds if not thousands of miles of roads will need to be rebuilt, bridges rebuilt, homes rebuilt, electrical lines rebuilt, sewer lines rebuilt, phone lines rebuilt, businesses rebuilt will be done. The remaking of these things will cause further environmental damage, and those poor folks who lost everything will again become cogs in the wheel of damaging our fragile planet.
What if, just what if, everybody had solar? What if those cut-off folks were able to produce some of their own electricity? The urgency of this situation of people being cut-off wouldn’t be as great. Electric lines wouldn’t be as important. What if people were routinely growing 25% of their own food? What if you were ALLOWED to have chickens in your back yard? Allowed to have a garden (follow Oak Park Hates Veggies)? What if 25% of people had aquaponics? What if we said, “screw the perfectly manicured grass front lawn,” stopped dumping chemicals all over it, and grew veggies? Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? That’s what my husband says. Yet, I think he is almost as interested in being self-reliant as I am, but perhaps for different reasons. I want off the cog. He wants more security.
Did I mention Colorado is heavily fracked? We have oil wells all over the place too. I wonder what happens with fracking and massive flooding? The Fukushima of the oil world? I think we’re just beginning to find out…. http://www.denverpost.com/environment/ci_24095949/colorado-flood-evacuations-broken-oil-pipeline-weld-county At the same token, we have mile-long trains carrying all giant cars full of coal past our town to the power plant every day to generate electricity. How big is our planet? How can we continue to burn everything on it?
Did I mention this showed up out my kitchen window Monday morning? They’re supposedly removing an old oil or gas well. I’m nervous. They were supposed to be done 3 days ago. They, like everybody else, worked through the flooding. Ok, my pic won’t upload. It’s a giant towering rig, complete with a flag on top, out my kitchen window, making lots of noise and smoke, and surrounded by lots of cars, trucks, and a trailer.
I went to church this morning to check in with folks. Basements flooded, barns flooded, church roof was leaking, some, like us, were dry. Part of the sermon was on the deaths and rebirths we have in life. It got me thinking about the death and rebirth of my health as well as some other deaths and rebirths in my life. I can’t help but think this somehow related to me getting off the cog. Or maybe I am insane…. or having a midlife crisis… or maybe I’m right in thinking the world has gone crazy, and I don’t want to be crazy. Most of all, I’m finding all of this extremely stressful for some reason. Help! I’m drowning in my own thoughts!
FYI, the Bronco game ended. The 5:00 news was cut to about 10 minutes, barely mentioned anything of importance on the flooding, and started another show right on time. Syria. I guess that’s more important than what’s going on right here, right now. Pay attention to that, not this. **** (that was me swearing)