As you must know by now, our new and improved levies are getting their biggest test yet. I heard on the scanner at about 3 pm that the river level was at 33.9 feet and still rising, albeit, slower than previously expected. Thatís just about as comforting as being told the dikes didnít rupture--yet.
Those majority commissioners of ours ordered a mandatory evacuation of all areas that were affected by the Agnes flood of Ď72. Yeah, itís better to be safe than sorry, but the river is expected to crest at a level that would not exceed the top of the dikes, so weíre evacuating, potentially, 200,000 people based on what? Are the dikes damaged, or eroding somewhere along the line? Do the county engineers know something we donít? Or has life as we knew it just last night come to a virtual standstill as part of someoneís game of Ďcover your ass?í I was standing on the very spot where the dikes broke at Charles Street in 1972 and I didnít see any evidence that the dike was about to fail. Whatever. I know not of such things to any great degree.
Today was surreal times ten. It was a beautiful sunny day, while my coworker and I monitored both WILK, WNEP, the Emergency Management Agency and both the local police and fire frequencies. Iíve been listening to WILKís extended coverage of the on-going emergency all day long. And all day long theyíve been telling people to make sure they packed the correct evacuation supplies before abandoning their homesteads. Thatís undoubtedly very sound advice. So, we got ourselves some bread, milk, smokes and a half of Rolling Rock. Weíre hunkering down.
Besides, if Iím to be swept away by raging flood waters, thereís really no need to be sober that I can think of.
Then thereís this that I snagged from the Citizensí Voice Web site:
Wilkes-Barre City's bicentennial events, including the Beach Boys concert planned for Monday, have been postponed, organizers announced Wednesday morning.
The postponement is due to heavy rains and the possibility of flooding.
New dates will be announced later this week. The celebration was scheduled to begin Thursday and run through Tuesday. Updates will be posted on the Internet at wilkes-barre200.org.
I know weíve got more important concerns right now, but that sucks. It sucks for the tireless organizers, the generous sponsors, the deserving residents, and especially for Mayor Tom Leighton. No matter what becomes of the big celebration if and when it comes about, everyone involved in putting this now-postponed celebration together did a bang-bang job. Kudos to them.
After most of my workday was washed out due to customer cancellations, detours and whatnot; I toured the city from one end to the other on my trusty Hummer. I felt oddly displaced while wandering through my own hometown. Nothing was right. Nothing was normal. The usual hustle and bustle was replaced by a whole other strange sort of hustle and bustle.
Some folks were stuffing belongings into their cars. Business owners were hand-trucking their inventories away to waiting vans. Sirens blared almost nonstop and from every direction possible. Military, medical and WNEPís helicopter buzzed overhead. A National Guard convoy passed me and a long traffic backlog on North Street. A huge television truck saddled with all sorts of electronic gizmos and sporting a CNN logo parked along the dike on Riverside Drive, as did scores upon scores of curious onlookers. Geisinger (South) Hospital was being evacuated as I pedaled past it. Police officers were directing traffic as traffic lights began to malfunction. Still more police officers scurried in and out of headquarters. The City Hall parking lot was a vacant lot. I stopped and talked to a city detective about an up-and-coming druggie up here in Nord End a ways. And as he bid me adieu and I began to pedal away, the EMA guys in the field asked for a current river level reading. There does comes a point when surreal feels more like sublime.
When I arrived, some ĎHose Dudesí were shouting at some chuckleheads standing on the Black Diamond Bridge to get the hell off of the bridge. Honestly, it kind of pissed me off. Those chuckleheads generated a call to 911 by putting themselves at risk, thereby causing the quick response from the fire department honchos. Truth be told, I was supposed to be the chucklehead out in the middle of that bridge for the purpose of snagging me some decent pictures. Thanks a lot, you boobs.
Itís, um, 6 pm as Iím yammering on here. And Iím figuring the next twelve hours ought to be, at leastÖvery, very interesting. Or horrifying.
Either way, I gotta go.
Cross your twelve fingers, toes, ear, nose and pubic hairs.
Wilkes-Barre has been through more than itís fair share of upsetting trials and tribulations. And with the city poised and ready to make the long-promised big comeback, the very last thing we need is an unnamed natural disaster of epic proportions. What we need is a major reprieve on this one.
Wish us luck. We not only need some, I think we deserve some.