How dry I am

As you might have heard, it rained in these parts on Friday.


My little ranch house sits on a hill in town, partway down the hill so all the water went rushing by, high above the areas that flooded. My basement stayed mostly dry — a little damp in the corners, but no worse than usual.

My family’s manufacturing company is located right in a frequently flooded area, and I expected to find people bailing out the lower level rooms this morning, but mysteriously it also emerged merely damp.

My parents, on the other hand, live at the top of a hill outside of town, and the water came rushing into their finished basement. Carpets and walls were destroyed, the whole bit. Mom spent the better part of Friday night running the wet/dry vacuum, hoping to hold it at bay, but there was simply too much water.

There are no longer any dehumidifiers in stock in any store in Butler County.

Some of our employees also were hit hard: One fellow had a foot and a half of water on his first floor, the basement having filled totally.

Worse for many of them, though, is that Friday was also the day that we — my
parents really, who own the company — announced that we’re shutting down the manufacturing department, having been forced out by our supplier. It’s traumatic for us all. We’ve been in business over 30 years. We’ll keep the service business open, and will rent equipment and sell parts and tools, but the biggest part of the company will be closing.

I’ve been thinking of writing about it here, the efforts to find a way to keep going, negotiations with the supplier, planning to announce what’s going on and to transition to some future business, our worries for our employees (all of them like family to us). But of course I had to wait until things were made public before publishing anything.

Anyway, so we’re laying off many people. For those guys, Friday had a whole other “when it rains it pours” quality. Some of our employees are months from retirement. There aren’t a lot of open jobs at other companies in the area.

What with that, and with seeing all the photos of Etna and Plum and so forth, I have felt surreally blessed all weekend. (Except for the Steeler game.)

I haven’t heard from some people I expected to hear from over the weekend, and I suppose many of them will be out of touch for a while. It reminds me of other disasters — the 1989 earthquake in San Francisco, 9/11/2001 in NYC and DC — where I knew people who were clearly at risk and wanted to reach them to find out if they were OK, but phone lines were busy or down, and people were focused on actually making themselves safe before reassuring worry-warts like me. But the difference for this event was how slowly it all came down. At first is was just rain, usually so harmless. If it had been snow we’d have taken it more seriously. I’d have send people home early if I’d understood what was happening. Instead I myself stayed until late and almost couldn’t get home at all — and I live just a mile from the office.

I didn’t go straight home, actually. Knowing I’d be in a shaky set of mind after the announcement, and that I’d be better off around people rather than sitting alone with my cats, I’d made plans to meet people for drinks. So I drove through the rain and flood to a bar downtown. My friends were there, but almost no one else. Had some drinks, split a chicken roll-up, talked about inconsequential things. Eventually the friends left to tend to their own families, and I went home at last.

I think I still didn’t fully grasp what the rain was doing, how much of it there was. If you’d like a better understanding of what happened, Anne presented a nice explanation of the weather behind the disaster — she has a second career waiting for her as a waether personality. And there are many alarming and sad photos in the Post-Gazette. It doesn’t come close to the impact of the hurricanes in the South, but it’s terrible all the same.