Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Not Deja Vu All Over Again....Luckily

In the aftermath of Irene, thoughts turn to an earlier storm. In June of 1972, Hurricane Agnes wreaked havoc throughout large portions of the northeast, including little old West Corners. Dad and the rest of the department worked for well over twenty four hours straight during and following the storm rescuing trapped people, pumping flooded cellars, and various other incidents.

The department had what looked like a pretty decent-sized boat; at least it looked decent before Agnes came. It was a V-hull with three rows of seats and an outboard motor. There was only one pond of any size in town and, on a normal day, the boat wouldn’t even float in Nanticoke Creek, which flowed through town. The boat was plenty big to serve the community.

When Agnes arrived, Nanticoke Creek didn’t stay small for long. It raged over its banks and flooded a big swath of the surrounding area, including a nearby trailer park, trapping a number of folks who had ignored evacuation orders.

Dad and the crew got the boat ready to launch. There was no problem floating it now; plenty of water was available. Not a strong swimmer, he was nervous, but he had a job to do. They got the boat in the water and started upstream. That’s when the trouble began. The boat and its motor were no match for the now rampaging creek. At full throttle, the boat would do little more than stand still. The boat would go cross stream, if angled properly to handle the current, so they adjusted.

There were no swift water rescue teams or Gumby suits then. Thick hemp ropes, hip boots, and waders were the primary tools to get these people out. Going cross current, they walked in to the stranded folks by holding onto the side of the boat operating cross current. Not a textbook maneuver, but it worked. Nobody died, but there were a whole lot of very tired firemen after that.

The boat? Well, shortly after the floods were over, a “For Sale” sign went up on it.

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