This week's flooding is not only the big news of the region again this week, it seems it's the only news, looking at our top-five stories traffic. And like many of you, I treated this disaster for many as a bit of a spectacle, dropping in to Potsdam's Evans & White parking lot–what little of it was still dry–to watch water pouring over the retaining sidewall of the dam to sink most of Island Park for the bass.
But it was a deja vu moment for me, to look across at the sandbags losing the battle to keep the river out of the basements downtown. One of them used to be mine. I operated a printshop then, where the kitchen of Maxfields is now, and desparately counted the inches throughout an earlier flood season. I had had the sense to note the high water mark of earlier years, and built all the wiring in above it, but I also had about 15 tons of presses and equipment, with motors down below.
As the water rose inside, pallets became the new floor, then pallets on top of pallets. I could have cooked my lunch on top of the pump as it struggled through the days. And still the water rose. I was looking for cribbing and a hydraulic jack to raise up all the hardware, when the water finally crested and began to recede. Not by nature–the village dumped the impounded water to facilitate the search for a body. Like today's residents of Cairo, Illinois, I was spared only at the expense of others downstream.
For a while anyway. Like in Genesis, it was "the fire next time"–the whole block engulfed. The shell of the building was intact, but my shop was four feet deep in lye water, pumped in by the fire department and filtered down through charcoal and mortar.
How does the saying go? Twice flooded, once burnt, more careful? Something like that. Anyway, when I went to buy a house, I got one thirty feet up from the river level, on well-drained sandy soil. And when I thought about going back into business, I thought again. Stay dry everyone.