May 2006

20 May 2006 09:19 am

My little bit about the NH floods in the spring of 2006.

It’s good to know that you’re still going to work even when you’re state is in a “state of emergency.” It’s the little things that keep consistency and stability in your life, things you should be grateful for.


The cube farm was incredibly quiet, a ghost town of empty cubes, most of the people couldn’t wade through the water to get to their cars, and if they did, the cars wouldn’t start. Some people went through hell and—okay, I’m not going to say it, but you know what else they went through—to get here to work. Not that we got much done, the downpours outside, the flickering of the power, and news coming in from the outside about what had been evacuated, closed down, covered with water, and who knows what. Work has a fairly strict policy about unplanned time off. This policy is, basically, they hate it. Get your ass to work.

So we do. One person did actually wade to her truck and slog her way to work on a four-wheeling trail after finding all the roads around her had been shut down or blocked off. She was on her warning, so she couldn’t not be there. “It’s an act of God,” someone said. “I think they’ll cut you some slack.”

But HR didn’t cover “acts of god” in its presentation about the differences between planned and unplanned time off. So we were there at work, because dammit, come hell or, you know, these claims will be processed.

I managed to get myself out of work early and go take a look at the situation near my home. I live in a small apartment building on the North End, so there wasn’t much flooding in my neighborhood. But it’s a five minute walk down to the riverfront, so the real goings-on weren’t terribly far away. Nathan’s surprised to see me home. “You’re home early,” he said, standing there in bare feet in the middle of the living room.

“There’s flooding,” I said.

Really?” he asks, then strides over to the window to look outside. I’m not sure what he expected, maybe water covering the street and strip of grass below, maybe some old dude on a wooden boat.

“Not here. We live on high ground.”

“Oh,” he said.

“The National Guard is everywhere. We’re in a state of emergency.”

“We are?”

“Every else is. I’m not sure what state you live in.”

We walk down towards the Merrimack River to view the surreal. Traffic going into the power company’s parking lot is around the level of driving into an amusement park busy. Police have shown up and are directing traffic, making sure people aren’t taking up parking spots from people who have valid business at the company, and aren’t there to gawk at the doings of Mother Nature. A lot of people are milling around and cars have effectively blocked in other cars. Mist rises from the bottom of the dam—it’s like Niagara Falls, down to the onlookers, clad in rainjackets and ponchos, gathered at the fence to observe the falling water. No need to travel any longer! See the power of Mother Nature right here in your own city!


Many have given up on cars and have chosen methods of biking or simply by foot, as we have. The roar of the rushing water is a white noise to fill the quiet that’s fallen between the people watching the river. Despite the growing number of people, there isn’t much conversation. We all know that there isn’t anything for us to say that the river isn’t already saying to all of us.

You can’t control me. In the end, I control you.


All we could do was wonder if we should be starting to gather materials for an ark. Except my friend Noah was too far away at the time to ask him if he’s spoken with God lately. I was fairly certain he hadn’t, he’s the kind of guy who would give you a heads-up on that sort of key information.

The river is ridiculously high. Seeing the dam at first, you think—oh, what a nice waterfall. Then you realize—oh, wait, that’s supposed to be a dam.


Trees, full ones, not little ones, are nearly completely submerged. We move away from the observation area at PSNH (who thought the power company’s parking lot would ever be that interesting to so many people?). Camera crews from WMUR have started to arrive. Police squad cars have parked alongside the street, lights flashing. Trucks from the fire department are driving up and down Commercial Street.


We don’t see the National Guard until we get to Arms Park and the UNH-Manchester parking lot under the Bridge Street bridge.


Access to the river is entirely cut off here by police lines and the National Guard. The Guard members are entirely friendly, chatting with the curious people gathered at the police line trying to see the full extent of the flooding. One man has zoomed down on his Segway. Another man and one of the soldiers take off in a run towards the river—they’ve seen something being pushed downstream and it could be a person. After a look, they find out it’s a blue plastic barrel and trot back to resume patrolling the parking lot.


We take a walk up the stairs to the Bridge Street bridge. The river is splayed out below, weaving around trees and buildings that aren’t normally hugged by the water, much less taken fully within its embrace. A slight mist has started to fall, it seems the pause in the never-ending rain had come to an end.


A walk down Foundry Street brings us to the Granite Street bridge. Somehow, the force of the water seems greater because of the destruction you can see. At the Amoskeag Falls, it was the overpowering roar of the river pouring over the top of the dam, the water spilling over its banks and brushing up against the mill buildings. It’s destruction that won’t be seen in its entirety until the waters recede.


It’s even hard to comprehend just how high the water has gotten. These photographs where taken last spring from Arms Park (the above photos are of Arms Park from across the river).


But below the Granite Street bridge, the temporary bridge constructed for the highway expansion project has been half washed away, the water entire over the half that’s left. It’s truly surreal, so unreal that you gape at it from your spot on the higher bridge, and still it doesn’t sink in. This isn’t the kind of thing that happens from a rainstorm.


Part of a crane has been knocked aside and into the half gouged out access road near Jillian’s. The crowd on the walkway of the Granite Street bridge is larger than the people gathered at PSNH. It’s growing by the minute as people make the trip down from Elm Street.


The rain has started to fall in earnest now, the break granted by the weather entirely over. And the river has yet to reach its crest.

more on the flood:

02 May 2006 10:14 pm

I saw teh awesome license plate today:


Hot damn.