Acqua Alta, but not in Venice !

DAY ONE

Writing into the night for yesterday’s post, I slept rather late this morning. Opening the shutters mid-morning, I was greeted by the surprising presence of a large laguna where there used to be pastures, and a canal had replaced the street in front of our gate.

The “canal” had in fact spread into our drive way. A closer inspection revealed a depts of about 30 cm/12 in of water near the gate.

Just like the last time when we had a bit of a flood, about two years ago, the drainage grid across the driveway acts as a barrier. Behind the cypress-like, tall evergreen in the upper right corner of the picture above, is a barn we use as a garage for our Renault. Last time, I removed the car while the water was still passable and parked it behind the house. This time, I slept a little too late and the water is already too deep to cross safely. We are hereby stuck at home. No worries, right? Last time, the high water lasted barely 24 hrs. But by late afternoon today, it became clear that this flood is going to be different. Flood levels continue to rise steadily and water is beginning to wet the concrete floor in our gardening shed.

DAY TWO

Well, well, well, the river Charente is officially causing concern right and left. The headline in today’s regional paper reads: ” Les niveaux d’eau pourraient être les plus hauts observés ces vingt dernières années ” meaning, the water-levels may be the highest observed during the last 20 years. More worrisome even was this front page announcement :

“The flood has only just begun …” Hell on wheels! That statement seemed to be true in our small corner of the world also, not just in Saintes which is the next town downriver, about 20 min. east of us.

A truly annoying incident, however, was a young man who passed by in his jeep four (4!) time just because he could. The car caused such a forceful surge and high waves that the wood pile collapsed, the garbage container fell over, and logs and brooms, planters, and other assorted stuff started floating hither and fro, banging into the gate and the walls of the barn. The door to my neighbours vegetable garden across the street was pushed open by the force of the waves as well. Idiots!!

DAY THREE

Today’s newspaper upgraded our flood from the worst in twenty years, to the worst in thirty years. I’m not sure that is a desirable development …

Even the discarded toilet way in the back is halfway submerged now …

Of concern today is actually the barn next to the garden shed, the one with the whitish double doors. It’s a two-story barn and the lower level is crowded with left-over building materials from our renovations and also broken-down furniture, even some antiques which were earmarked for resale when Covid-19 stopped all plans involving strangers. There’s plenty of space upstairs, but who could carry it up over the rickety no-banister stairs? There’s no one here but us ancient chickens! No, if it all drowns, so be it. It’s not worth risking life and limb.

This morning at 08h37 the cover over the rain drain was still above the water level …
… while the cover was fully submerged six hours later.

There’s still a good 10 cm to the lower edge of the doors, we’ll know more by tomorrow morning.

At least the roses enjoy the moisture!

DAY FOUR

You’ll forgive me if I seem a little distracted this morning. Not only has it rained all night, it continues to rain non-stop. The flood gage reads 7.55 m @10h00 this morning which constitutes a 10 cm rise in water levels of the Charente river during the last 24 hrs. We are approaching the levels of the Great Flood of 1994. Additionally, our boiler has stopped working and it’s beginning to feel chilly in the house. Coincidentally with the dead heating system, this happens to be the coldest weekend in a while. Naturally. Doesn’t it always work like this? I haven’t been out to survey the expanding lake in the garden yet. I feel chilly enough as it is, so I don’t want to add wetness to the discomfort equation, I’m sure you understand.

I called the firm whom we pay to service our system to request an intervention, as we call an emergency around here. Today been Saturday, I was rerouted to the on-call person’s phone who was currently intervening somewhere near Angoulême, about an hour upriver. I left a message. Twice. Three hours later, I called a local, independent plumber. He suggested immediately that the gas may have been shot off for security reasons. Can you believe it? That had not occurred to me at all. Our boiler is quite old, so … Long story short, I called City Hall and they confirmed that the gas had indeed been shut off the evening before along our street. The nice lady also informed me that the Red Cross had set up shelters for flood victims like us. Guess who called not five minutes later? Sandrine, Red Cross volunteer, offering hot meals, coffee, and a cot! Isn’t it fantastic? For the time being we’ll stay home, mostly because of Covid-19 concerns, but it’s good to know help and support are just around the corner – quite literally, the nearest shelter is in walking distance, or swimming distance, if you like 😁

I think, I’ll better post this before they shut off the electricity as well, as has happened tonight in Saintes. I checked on the barn with the old furniture a little while ago. Flooded. I’ll let you know how it all played out.

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