August 1, 2008

The Flood of 2008?

Well, I never woulda thought that it rained THIS much, but apparently it DID.
In some places in the south metro, there was up to 8 inches of rain recorded OVERNIGHT from Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning - and for the first time in many years, the major creeks around the area were flooded well out of their banks. In the older Indian Creek section to the north, it would usually get pretty bad - but the Tomahawk section to the south was usually okay. Not so this week. Tuesday AM, it was raining pretty good, so I decided to stick to the main roads. Tuesday afternoon, the same deal - and then Wednesday morning was practically a monsoon, and I knew better than to even try... took the roads again. I hadn't been on the trail in a couple days, then, until Thursday afternoon on the way between jobs I decided it had been "long enough" for any water to go down. I was close... quite close to being exactly right. We're not talking about anything MAJOR, like road destruction or washed out bridges -- without stepping onto the soap-box for TOO long, you'd have to disrupt automobile traffic to have something be considered "major" news. Still, the City of Overland Park has a lot of work ahead of them in clean-up, which is appreciated.

After passing a section of trail that had the top layer of bitumen blown off the previous, and tossed like trash into the adjacent bushes, I thought to myself that there might have been a lot of water through here... then I turned the corner and saw the above. This is a heavy wrought iron fence that has been pushed over a bit, and is loaded with debris. Check out the size of the log in the bottom left foreground of the shot. I have to apologize -- my camera that's built into my phone isn't top-notch -- or it's SO humid that the haze is just apparent in each of these shots.

Another fence bites the dust -- this one not quite as robust, it's all the way over and choked with debris. It trails all the way downhill under the bridge that crosses underneath Metcalf at about 133rd Street. Note the mud that has dried on the trail surface. Thankfully, OPPR had already been thru and has bladed most of it away. Metcalf itself is on the same elevation as I am in this picture, so you can see the water wasn't too awful far away from the road - but it wasn't quite over the bridge itself, shy by only a couple feet, I'm told.

Here the debris line is apparent on the chain link fence that was just installed only a couple months ago when this new section of trail was finished. This is directly underneath US-69 highway - and yeah, the highway wasn't in any danger, but that's a LOT of water. I would have been swimming had I tried to ride thru here 24 hours earlier.

From the same area shown above, this is looking thru the fence down to the water. It's still up quite a bit, too. Normally, its barely a trickle running over the underlying bedrock. Today, it's moving quite fast, and still probably several feet deep. Still, the water has fallen nearly 12 feet from where it would be even with the trail surface. A lot of water, indeed.

Here is a section that looks like it could have been snapped in the Georgia swamps. Looking far deep into the photo, the water extends really far back into the woods. This is roughly between Antioch and Metcalf, and close to I believe 137th Street - a place where the trail goes back on its own and doesn't really parallel anything. This is looking west, and the main creek is behind me. This is normally a BONE DRY ditch that goes under the trail and feeds into the creek. The bed of that ditch is an eight-foot drop down from the trail surface. Although I didn't get it in the shot, the water is right up onto the edge of the trail here, and therefore, eight feet deep, approximately - and just STANDING. The feeder under the trail is probably clogged with debris. This was taken Thursday afternoon. Friday afternoon, the water was only about a foot lower. It smells WONDERFUL, too.

I took a pause from the carnage of the flood to ge a shot of this marvelously restored Farm-All tractor that is parked at the back property line of the Deanna Rose farmstead park. The workhorse of yesterday becomes the backdrop for my workhorse of today -- although I have to remember that a picture like this might not be too far out of the question. The bicycle isn't exactly new, and tractors aren't exactly antiques. But, still -- I like it. If it was a John Deere, you might not even be able to see my bike! Although it's muddy here, there isn't anything to suggest the water was this high, although a fence about 500 feet behind me on the trail to the east was knocked down, so parts of the farmstead were probably messed up a little. The fence that, last week, seperated me from getting a shot like this was also missing today.

And while I'm on the subject of thanking the City of Overland Park for their efforts in cleaning up the trail and the surrounding area, I also have this to thank them for***(see note). This is 143rd Street, between Pflumm and Blackbob roads, Thursday evening. Thursday morning, those bold white stripes were NOT there. NOW they ARE. After YEARS of campaigning, bicyclists are finally making some good headway. Something Overland Park said they would likely not do, we now have a bike lane - marked on the road surface, and as I write this Friday night the improvements continued - today they added the bicyclist sillouhette marker inside the lane, making no mistake about what it is there for, and signage announcing the fact to drivers. I can't say that I feel any safer, because I've been up and down this stretch for three years now - but new cyclists certainly will, and drivers will know what's up. Besides gas prices, that is. I was so elated that I stopped to take a picture of it, and didn't even notice that I was also catching a 70's Corvette in the frame as well. In fact, I didn't even notice what kind of car it was until I reviewed these photos this morning. For me, this is huge -- I grew up in the car culture, as we all did, I suppose -- but, my Dad subscribed to Motor Trend, Car & Driver, Road & Track, Automobile, Hemmings Motor News, Super Chevy, and more. I grew up totally soaked in a thick lather of cars, cars, cars. I worked on em, drove em hard, took road trips for no reason, and worked 12 years at a wholesale auto-parts supplier. For me to give up on cars, that's a big deal. For me to not even notice a Corvette approaching me on the road... well, my Dad would be sad, but proud at the same time, I think. At least I can still pick 'em out of a crowd - but it wasn't the subject of the photo. To think of what my grandfather grew up with: seeing a recent picture of him when he was maybe a few weeks old, the family perched in front of their "unknown" truck (they all looked alike in the late 20's) -- the car, only recently invented and made affordable enough for everyone to attain, it was prominently featured in family photos as a matter of pride and societal placement. It was a big deal. My Dad, growing up in the age of American Grafitti and James Dean, cars equalled cool - he drove all the greats; Mustangs, GTOs, big Buicks with big engines, eight cylinders was a minimum - well, until the gas crisis in the mid 70's that is. Then, cars became more sensible in the family driveway - but still good ones. I had high aspirations growing up -- someday, *I* will have a nice car, too... and I've had some nice cars, but mostly decided out of neccessity, not out of true desire. Certainly not the way I see pictures of the 2009 Corvette ZR1, and drool... only for a moment, knowing that EVEN if I could ever hope to afford such a luxury, it gets gas mileage in the single digits. Looking at the way I view the world now, I know that dream had changed - and I'm realizing it after the dream has changed of its own accord, spurred by my actions over the past few years - commuting, and spreading the word and seeing more and more bikes on the road. As exciting as some of the 2009 model year cars are, I get more excited about the 2009 Dura-Ace, and that new single-speed mountain bike that will fit fenders and studded tires - and might get me thru the winter. It's interesting that in only perhaps one more generation, those proud photos of "hey, I just bought a new car!" may not even happen anymore. It's hard to tell, but I think MY kids are on the brink of the twilight of the car culture - at the very least, as we know it today. I'm not sure how I feel about all that - it's a concern bigger than these blog pages; a concern for the manufacturing base that helped weave the fabric of this nation, yes including the oil industry. What will we do as a nation? It's an interesting time. And here I am, getting excited about a simple stripe of paint on a road. It represents, to me, something of a finality, an admission by the powers that be - someone had to sign something for that line to get painted. Someone that perhaps two years ago, didn't want to. Now, perhaps, they felt compelled to. The same way nature had decided the path I took to work over the last three days, nature is also deciding the future for us. It's an exciting time to be alive - and view it as you will... exciting is not always neccessarily equated with positive events. Getting laid off from Ford...that is "exciting", too, for different reasons. The next five years.... the more stripes we see on roads, the more change will come - and it will bring a flood of excitement.

***and the idiot award goes to me for temporary insanity: the new section of bike lane, even as I typed it out at 143rd street between Pflumm and Blackbob - that is still in Olathe city limits. Overland Park doesn't pick up the tab until after you are east of Pflumm, where the road narrows down to old two-lane country-style roads until you reach Switzer. 143rd is slated to be improved and widened in 2011, I believe, and at that time a lot of pressure will come to bear on Overland Park to make sure there are bicycle accomidations involved. For now, the prize goes to Olathe - but to be fair, Overland Park's portion of 143rd near Pflumm isn't wide enough to allow for an extra stripe, so they technically get a pass until the road improvements begin in a few years. But, I did mis-state the original atricle, so I apologize for the confusion.

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