Well, not sure if nature counts by threes, but this summer has brought three unusual events our way.
The first unexpected event this summer was the earthquake. I grant you, by California standards--or almost anywhere in the world far less tectonic plate stable than the east coast, it wasn't much. Still, since I felt it--and saw the walls move--it was plenty enough for me.
Then, the second event--Hurricane Irene decided to waltz through central Pennsylvania, as well as other parts of the north east U.S. No matter how loudly and heartily I sang "Goodnight, Irene"--she just wouldn't leave. We watched as our lovely tall evergreens in the back yard began falling: one...two...three. Several days later, the tree guys (who were SUPER busy these days) arrived, whipped their noisy saws into action, slung rope and pulley over a neighbor's tree, hoisted, dragged and pushed the downed trees through a large grinder.
That was quite enough for me. But, nature had one more little treat in store--the third event.
Hurricane Irene gave way to Tropical Storm Lee. As rain fell day after day, we watched anxiously to see if our usually dry basement would stay dry. This past Wednesday, both my husband and I had plans to be out of the house for separate lunches. I went to the basement around 9:30 a.m., just in time to see a portion of the basement floor with a slight inch of water creeping in and bubbling up.
We both changed our lunch plans and went to work. While I began syphoning up water with our wet vac, my husband made a quick trip to our friendly Ace is the Place Hardware store to rent an industrial size wet vac.
We worked solidly for five hours--emptying the vacs by lugging buckets up the basement steps. Finally, with the rain continuing, we gave up. We managed to rig up a small pump which normally is used in the winter to keep water off the swimming pool winter cover. By attaching a long garden hose to the pump, and then running that hose up the stairs to the family room level, we were able to have the water run down a drain in the laundry room.
That system ran all night. By morning, small patches of dry floor began to appear. We turned on the dehumidifier, and set up a floor fan. With the rain slowing down, then stopping, we "won" the water battle.
What was ending for us was just beginning for the area. The Susquehanna is a lovely old river--almost a mile wide where Harrisburg, our state capitol, sits--this river can handle a lot of water. But it begins to flood at 17 feet. The original forecasts were for the river to rise to 29 feet.
Suddenly everyone was making the obvious comparison--to Hurricane Agnes. Hurricane Agnes wasn't much of a hurricane, back in 1972. But this low-level hurricane stalled over Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York. Between June 19 to 24, Agnes dumped upwards to 19 inches of rain in Pennsylvania. Rivers rose, creeks rose, and even long-forgotten canals filled.
In Harrisburg, water backed up the Paxton Creek, which had been channeled into a canal which few people knew even existed. The result was that Harrisburg had water all around it, almost cutting it off.
At the time, my husband and I were living in an apartment outside of Harrisburg. We had recently had our first child, our son--who was six months old. We were not greatly affected, except by the excitement of the news.
So, when the comparisons began this time to Agnes, it brought back memories as well as a frisson of dread--would Lee be as dramatic as Agnes? Well, yes and no. The river level did not break the Agnes record--it crested just over 25 feet. But still, for all the folks who were displaced, who lost homes to the flooding, the height of a flood matters little.
This photo--taken for the Patriot News by Sean Simmers--shows a neighborhood in Harrisburg called Shipoke. We have three friends from church who live in houses facing the Susquehanna. All of them had to evacuate.
Here are some other photos by the same photographer.
Some places that had not been affected by Agnes were flooded--for example HersheyPark, a favorite tourist destination. Both of our children had worked there-so we had a frame of reference as we looked at photos of some of the places we knew. The roller coaster was not designed as a water ride.
Lee has moved on--and, with 15 1/2 inches of rain, it now takes its place as the SECOND wettest tropical system to dump rain on Pennsylvania, right behind Agnes.
Let's just hope that the rule of threes holds--that there are no more unusual events at least for this year.