The Other Side of the Coin

Sarah has written recently about the floods in our home town of Binghamton. It has been horrible to watch this destruction from afar.

Here in Texas we are having about as polar opposite an experience as is humanly possible. Here it just won’t rain. (Although we did just get a couple of brief storms this past weekend.)

Some have suggested that this isn’t as big a deal in comparison to the devastation of the recent floods in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania & Vermont. After what I saw this weekend, I can assure you that’s not true.

Chris and I drove to Austin on Saturday passing through Bastrop, Texas where something like 1400 homes were destroyed by wildfires in the past couple of weeks. These fires were started by things like sparks coming off a loose chain on a car, and a carelessly discarded cigarette butt.

As we drove along all of a sudden everything – the median, and everything on the side of the highway – was charred blackness. Tree stumps and chimneys were all that remained. And the smell – it was awful. Then there would be the random business or home spared by a quick shift in the wind. I didn’t think I’d ever seen anything like it… until I remembered touring Mt. St. Helens in Washington. Bastrop was like that.

Those poor people had five minutes to leave. That’s barely enough time to grab your keys and your kids and speed away. So sad.

There are other things, far less severe, that you don’t think about but that have very real (read expensive) consequences. Houses here are built on slabs. When the clay dirt gets as dry as it is right now, your house settles. In addition to those annoying and unsightly cracks in your plaster, your exterior masonry cracks, and your doors get stuck shut.

One thing I’ve learned in Texas is that foundations can be adjusted (most are underpinned with piers) but it’s expensive and requires removing sections of things like your poured concrete patio and your landscaping (more $$$). Then you have to fix all those cracks, especially the ones outside – to prevent more damage. (To avoid this you can water your foundation with soaker hoses – but with water restrictions in place twice a week generally won’t cut it.)

Oh and the type of grass native in these parts generally goes dormant in the summer, but in the drought it has actually died. So theoretically we’ll have to sod once it starts raining again. What a joy. (If we do this, I think we’ll level the back yard, install a sprinkler system and replace the fence that blew down in Ike a few years back all at the same time – cha ching!)

Ah, the joys of home ownership. On the plus side, our home has not been destroyed by fire or rendered useless by flood, so we’ll survive just fine. Sometimes perspective can be a real kick in the pants.

And once we get the foundation fixed maybe we can get on with redoing the bathrooms & laundry area (which we’ve been planning for months now but got held up when we realized we aren’t level).

7 thoughts on “The Other Side of the Coin

  1. Eileen September 19, 2011 / 6:09 pm

    I forgot the other major loss will be in our tree canopy. Estimates vary between 1/4 and 1/2 off all trees will die due to the prolonged drought within two years. That’s extra bad if we get a hurricane in that same time frame. Urgh!

  2. Joanne September 19, 2011 / 6:46 pm

    Drought TERRIFIES me. Its downright irrational, but drought makes me incredibly tense. What do you do without WATER? Obviously, floods are no picnics, but drought seriously could leave you with no choice but to leave forever. Not to mention the fires.

  3. Mom September 19, 2011 / 9:03 pm

    Truly, both ends of the spectrum are AWFUL! I reiterate, we need a water pipeline to the southwest instead of (or along with) one conducting oil.

    And, FYI, Joanne, WATER has killed our regional municipal water/sewage filtration plant, so we are boiling every drop that is consumed, cooked with, dishes washed with, teeth brushed with, etc. etc. Both floods and droughts terrify me — two ravages of Mother Nature that are virtually unstoppable 😦

  4. Robert Stiene September 19, 2011 / 9:56 pm

    Wow. Thanks for the perspective.

  5. Eileen September 19, 2011 / 10:14 pm

    Check out this local weather blog for the skinny on Houstons record breaking year:

    Also, I was looking on the Harris County flood warning system website to try to find our year to date rainfall total. ( if I’m using the historical rainfall calculator correctly we’ve gotten between 10-12 inches total rainfall since Jan 1. (average annual rainfall is 48-50″).

  6. susan September 20, 2011 / 6:39 am

    Hey…the weather channel had Binghamton as the #2 worst weather city to live in for the country…and some Texas town as the #1 (if I’m remembering correctly). It was the on other day while I was running out the door. So…you two see the two worst weather options….even the professionals think so!

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