Oh Dear God.... not again - was the first thought that ran through my head when I opened my hall door at around 8.15pm, on Monday 24th October 2011 and looked down at where my neighbour was pointing. Rain water, up to the step and flowing right around to the back of the house, threatening to make another dramatic entrance into our house and into our lives from both angles, just like last time. Not on my watch.
'Oh My God, we're flooding again' - I half screamed and cried simultaneously both into the phone, as I hung up on my friend, and at my husband who was busy in another room. I could feel my panic and my tears rising as fast as the murky floodwater gathering outside. Oh God... Oh God.. We can't go through this again..I thought, as memories of months of upheaval flooded back to me. You'll pardon the pun, I'm sure. However, I quickly pulled myself together as I gathered my thoughts, rolled up my sleeves and pulled on my wellies. This water will NOT invade our house, I silently promised myself. Like I say..... NOT on my watch.
We knew how serious this situation was and exactly how little time we had before our homes would flood. The last time this happened, 16th August 2008 to be precise (yeah, that's right.. 'summer') we had about 10 minutes from the point of water being at the step to it flowing over the threshold. It was still pelting down out there and we had approximately 10 minutes to save our homes. 10 minutes.... and counting.
Ths is from 2008 and is how big the flood would have been with another 10 minutes of rain
Now, we've not been complacent since the last flood, I'll have you know. We're always on floodwatch any time there's heavy rain and anyone who follows me on twitter and Facebook will attest to that fact by virtue of my tweets/updates. Last Sunday/Monday was no different. We watched that rain and the road outside for build up for two days running and all seemed well. I put my hands down our shores and pulled out soggy leaves and grimy gunk at 3pm on Monday. Mr Jazzy did the same on Sunday. All was fine the last time we checked, which was at 7.15pm as we returned home in the torrential downpour after collecting Mr Jazzy from the bus stop and our WiiBoy from trampolining class. It was very heavy rain, apparently a month's rain fell in a 24 hour period in Dublin causing absolute mayhem everywhere. To us though, it was exactly the same as on 16th August 2008. We were assured by our local council after the last flood that the problem was fixed and that it would never, ever happen again. After all, we live on a cliff. Oh, did I forget to mention that? Yup, we're approximately 20ft up over-looking the sea and not a river bank in sight. Ironic, huh?
So, as hubby and I quickly dressed for flood battle, which took all of two minutes, we all tried to recall what it was we did last time and endeavoured to do it quicker this time. I spotted the two green and purple sentinels standing guard next door and remembered... 'WHEELIE BINS' I shouted out the door, struggling to get at my wellies ..... 'we used wheelie bins last time,' Well, eventually we did. This time we kicked straight in with them. But first I moved our car to the nearest dry spot. You see, our driveway houses two shores, into which the sewerage and waste water flows from 6 houses. Our neighbours had recently unblocked them but best to keep clear... just in case.
Then I went for our wheelie bins, but as I couldn't push them from back to front garden against the pull of the flood water, I abandoned all social niceties and simply grabbed our neighbours two proud, guarding receptacles out front. I found another dry spot and unceremoniously dumped the contents and we went to work. We were also conscious of the large lake which was growing ever bigger on the road outside, just like last time
At some stage, in the middle of all this mayhem, Mr Jazzy remembered that we'd also called the emergency services the last time. Yes, the fire brigade were there for 3 hours pumping out our floodwater, I recalled.
Good idea, let's call them. So I dialled 999.....and was put on interminable hold. While only silently panicking to that point I could feel it all slipping away as I half screamed and cried, yet again, to anyone within earshot.... 'I'm on hold...for the EMERGENCY services? How the flipping hell can that be?'.... Ok, admittedly I was a little more ... colourful.... than that in my choice of language. I simultaneously phoned the local Gardai from another phone and they eventually answered. They explained that a state of emergency had been declared in our Capital city and that they themselves, even with their secret contact numbers, couldn't get hold of them. God help any seriously ill person needing an ambulance, that rainy Monday night in Dublin.
So, we were completely on our own this time, it seemed. It was totally down to us to save our homes. And that's precisely what we did. NOT on our watch....
Back to rely on our good ole ever faithful friends, the lowly, and utterly under-estimated wheelie bins.....and our real-life human friends too, in the form of our fantastic neighbours who once again came to our assistance. Community spirit is alive and kicking in our village.
We quickly got a system going whereby using pots, pans, buckets and anything we could lay our hands on, we (adults and children alike) frantically filled one wheelie bin which one of the men would drag about 100 yards down the road to the nearest unblocked shore, while we started filling another wheelie bin. This system was in place in a number of homes. The primary aim was to keep the water from getting above the front step of our homes and gaining access. Clearing the water from the front also lowered the water level at the back of the house. Please....please flood water, don't destroy our lovely 3 year old extension. Anything else was a bonus.
And we did indeed get a bonus. The Gods themselves shone on us that night and decided, in their infinite wisdom that being flooded once was more than enough - especially since we live on a cliff and decided to turn off that giant tap in the sky, with minutes to spare. NOT on their watch...
To put it in perspective and to give you a fuller picture of our predicament that night: if the rain hadn't stopped when it did then using wheelie bins to remove the flood water would have been the equivalent of using thimbles. Yet, we would have continued bailing out that floodwater as, in our minds, to use thimbles was better than doing nothing.
Even though the rain had stopped we carried on working feverishly to clear all water threatening our homes and those of our infirm neighbours. However, we also wisely used the breathing space this god given bonus afforded us and deployed teams to clear the on-road shore blockages and to assess the real problem that brought this to our doorways again.
Three people headed to that real source of the flood..... the visible over ground ever-growing river flowing down Quinns Road with speed and with nowhere to go. Finding the lowest point of gravity it diverted into our estate. But the real problem was, just like last time, the one none of us could see, but knew was there. The deluge of water, draining from the many estates leading onto the Quinns Road, that was thundering underground at a ferocious rate and couldn't, for whatever reason, 'turn the corner' to gain access to the famous 5ft diameter drainage pipe that takes all of our water out to sea. That underground deluge also found the same lowest point of gravity to divert to.... the under ground pipe from our estate which joins that system just at that 'corner'.
Note: Last time it was that 5ft diameter pipe that was found to be 40% blocked by huge tree roots and builders debris from a recent extension at the tennis club. That was deemed, by the council, to be the primary cause of our previous flood. That drain hadn't been examined or cleaned in years.
Soon our homes were out of danger so we all joined in in manually clearing the leaf and debris blocked roadside shores, that had not been recently cleaned by the Council. Our husbands, under the dark cover of night and with no protective gear had to stick their hands, through a foot or two of filthy flood water, down the shores to remove blockages to allow the water flow freely. The Tanaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) of our country was spotted poking his head from behind a nearby bush then promptly disappearing. Presumably to phone the man he knew was right for the job...our local very hard working Councillor who appeared on the scene just as we finished up, at around 10.30 that night. We thank them both.
We were exhausted after our 2 hour frantic dash to save 18 homes from being flooded again and know that we have a long, hard battle ahead to ensure that the Council solve this problem once and for all this time. We are clear that we need constant, regular drain maintenance and road sweeping. We need an urgent engineer's report on that large drainage pipe to see what the blockage was this time and we need them to separate our drainage system from the current connection point and lay a new pipe to join in further down. We are blessed to have an active Councillor and Residents Association to support us in our endeavours.
NEVER again should the waste and sewerage water from a large portion of our village be allowed to flood our much smaller housing estate.
We have no doubt that our prompt, yet frantic actions on Monday night saved the Insurance companies a fortune.. Our claims the last time round must have amounted to about a million Euro. All down to the Council's inaction.The council no longer employs road sweepers to clear drains. Cutbacks, to save money. Yet another false economy in this era of Austerity. It costs more to clean up after these events and to lay costly pipes then it does to provide regular maintenance. House Insurance premiums increase for everyone when more and more flood claims are made, but those making the claims are at risk of not getting further flood coverage.
We are reliably informed that had we flooded on Monday night we would have been covered but thereafter our Insurance companies would have refused flood cover. Even though...... we live on a cliff !! For cryng out loud... how ridiculous is that?
We are so relieved that we didn't flood on Monday and know how close we came. Those shores in our garden? Just as the rain stopped Mr Jazzy checked and saw that the level of waste water in one shore was right to the top. He didn't dare open the sewage one.The next stage was those shores to pop....letting God knows what spew everywhere.
We were saved by 10 minutes, the rain-gods turning off the tap, fabulous neighbours........ and very deep wheelie bins!
We're safe for now but there's more rain due on Saturday and tons more leaves to fall from the trees, so floodwatch will begin anew then and we'll be ready to go into action at short notice if needed.
We are thankful to be safe and that no-one was injured or lost their lives. we know others weren't so lucky and our hearts go out to them and to their families.
PS: Photo credits to ShankillFalls Photostream