Several weeks ago, after reading a legislative update from Minnesota Congressman Jim Oberstar, I emailed him and suggested that he consider tweeting some of his updates on Twitter. Today I received the following reply:
Ms. Jody Scott-Olson
Royalton, Minnesota 56373-0184
Dear Ms. Scott-Olson:
Knowing of your interest in a Twitter account for me where you can be updated on current legislation and other relevant issues, I am pleased to report that you can now follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JimOberstar.
With best wishes.
James L. Oberstar, M.C.
Alexa has been sick. As she makes her slow recovery I’ve taken her on car rides to no where in particular, just to get her out of the house for a short time. I love our drives, I love the rural landscape all around me. I especially love this time of year because after so many months of seeing nothing but blankets of white, the gold and green patchwork farmland that spills to meet the cerulean blue sky takes my breath away.
As I was driving I wanted to describe the view to someone I’ve been exchanging letters with and this is what I wrote: To Mark in AZ.
Round, tractor tire-sized bales of flaxen hay dot the landscape as periwinkle sheets of rain daub the western horizon.
On swizzle stick legs baby calves lean into the misty April breeze.
One calf is the color of oatmeal and I name him Norman.
He stands still as a Bonnie Mohr painting.
His eyes are black like buttons floating on soft peaks of whipped cream.
With his jaw high he faces spring as the wind smooths his downy fur from his eyes.
A nearby tractor awakens the earth as the Midwest wind twirls her, sleepy and unexpectant.
Dusty plumes roll and scatter as her dark rich scent whispers her fertility to the wind.
Naked trees watch shivering impotently.
A gust blows and Norman’s mother calls.
On new legs Norman runs.
Blue sky, red barn and the gentle color of Norman; my American landscape.
By this morning the Platte River had risen considerably and the water has continued to seep into the basement at a rate of about 5 gallons every half hour. It was a very long night last night, and obviously, I’m almost too exhausted to type.
If the river continues to rise at the current rate, I estimate that it will breach the river bank in 2 days..if I’m lucky. The ice and snow has not yet melted completely and the rain continues to fall at an alarming rate. For the first time in a long time, I’m afraid.
I called the city this afternoon and asked the receptionist if the they had discussed an emergency plan for Elm Street, since it appears certain that the street will soon flood. The woman at the city said that no one had discussed the river yet but that they should, she said she’d contact public works right away.
If I felt afraid earlier, her reply terrified me. The river is not only moving faster than I’ve ever seen but its a few feet from breaching the river bank and the city hasn’t even thought about it? It certainly doesn’t instill confidence. Worse yet, we have maybe 2 days before the river spills onto the street, so its too late to think about sand bagging. It is also important to note that the lowest point in the river bank is directly across from the side of the house. Also the street is higher than my neighborhood so the water will without question flow towards my house and my neighborhood.
Within a few hours I saw a public works truck drive up Elm Street…then another, then a squad car, then a city truck, hours after that the DNR arrived. I watched as they all stood talking in the rain for a very long time, no doubt discussing how monumentally screwed we all are. After that Elm Street went from being a city street that saw about 2 cars a day, to being a parade route.
Do you ever feel like you have to think for everyone?
I was listening to the local news today and they were talking about the flooding in the Red River Valley area. I looked out the window watching the rain fall and considered volunteering to assist in their sand bagging effort. As I contemplated my schedule and watched the rain from my home office I noticed that I could see the the river from where I was sitting.
I live on the corner of 1st and Elm Street. Elm Street runs along side of my house and is more the size of an alley than an actual road, I assume this is partially because there are no more than 2 houses actually on Elm Street. It is this narrow road that separates my yard from the banks of the Platte River. I assume the reason the house is so close to the river bank is because the structure is about 107 years old. It’s been completely renovated from the floor up as well as added on to. Today, there are more rules and local ordinances regarding set backs from rivers and lakes, rules that didn’t exist when this house was originally built. Being able to see river water from the main floor of my house inspired one response from me. I turned on my heels and headed for the basement where I found standing water at the base of the stairs.
The only upshot is that the basement flooring is ceramic tile because the house is so close to the river. Whoever put in the large squares of ceramic tile was also smart enough to put in a floor drain. Unfortunately, the drain was placed inexplicably on an incline which renders it almost useless unless the water level gets significantly higher.
For the past 7 years I’ve operated an online bookstore called Madeline West. The basement level of my house is where my library is housed. The books listed for sales on my website weren’t effected because the water had not eeked into that section of the basement. What was damaged was the boxes of unappraised books nearest to the basement door.
Instead of volunteering to sand bag the Red River Valley, it seems my week is completely booked. It’s going to be a very long week of clean up and the rain is expected to continue on for remainder of the week. It seems I need an emergency plan, the water levels on the river will without question rise.