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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Great Northeast Flood of 2006

My family does not get together all that often. My sister Leslie lives outside of San Diego. My sister Marcia lives in Charlotte with her daughter Alex and our mother. Leslie wanted to go to this party in Binghamton, the hometown of my mother, my sisters and me, on July 1. We had gone to this same party two or three years before, with my sister inviting my mother's first cousins from NYC, Donald and Robert, who were also born in Binghamton but left as children, to the party. The last gathering was quite successful, my mother had a great time visiting old friends, and the idea to replicate the experience appeared sound.

It wasn't a total disaster, but the Thomas Wolfe quote about returning home felt rather apt.

June 27: the Greens from Charlotte head for Binghamton. It ends up taking them three days, because of heavy rains along the way.
June 28: Leslie flies from San Diego to Albany, in part because it's cheaper than to fly into Binghamton, and in part to spend some time with her youngest niece, who she hasn't seen since before her first birthday, except in pictures.
June 29: Leslie, Carol, Lydia and I were planning to drive down to Binghamton, but hear that the main route I-88, was closed from Exit 16 (near Oneonta) to Exit 8 (around Sidney). Moreover, a culvert has washed out part of the road, killing a truck driver in EACH direction. An alternate route, taking the Thruway to Syracuse, then down I-81, is not an option because, and I can't help but to hear Arlo Guthrie's voice, "The New York State Thruway is closed, man," from just west of Schenectady (Exit 25A) to Syracuse (Exit 34). We stay put.
June 30: We drive down to Oneonta in two cars, ours and a rental. Leslie will need one in Binghamton, but I'm happy that she got one now, because sitting in the back seat with the car seat in the middle was a little tough for me. The water has receded a little in the town, which did visit Carol's parents. But we got started much later than we planned, so Carol and Lydia stay overnight, while Leslie and I continue to Binghamton., Actually, before that, we stop to get bottled water, which proves to be a really good idea. When Leslie and I hit the city limits, we saw fireworks, which we felt must have beckoned our triumphant return, but was actually a scheduled event after the Binghamton Mets game. Even in the dark, one could see how high the river had crested, and parts of the side roads we passed were still closed.
July 1: With a friend, I attend a farmer's market, Usually, the parking lot is empty for the vendors, but their were stalled out cars there where the flood waters had been only a day or two before. Carol arrives with Lydia, upset because she drove past her uncle's flooded farm, which, fortunately, does not put him in bankruptcy, as we initially feared. Inexplicably, Lydia throws up - three times; she hadn't before that, nor since. Meet at this party with my other relatives. The river is less than a block away, moving rapidly, caring various items, barrels, clothes, down the river. The house next door to the party, which is lower, was so flooded a couple days ago, that the American flag hung on the first-floor porch has a water stain. Something was picked up by the water and smashed into the side of the garage when the water receded. The party house basement is still fully flooded, and there is furniture drying all over the yard. My sister Marcia, my mother and niece drop me off (I had ridden in with Leslie, but she was going to be singing at a club.) Somehow, she didn't get the word that the side door was going to be left unlocked for her benefit and slept in her car in the driveway, much to the chagrin of our hostess.

To Be Continued...

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