Anatomy of our flooding disaster
Plus: A GoFundMe to get Cookie to his new Colorado home!
First, some updates:
We found a home in Colorado for Cookie, the dog we’ve been fostering for the last few months! Now we just have to get him there. We’ve set up a GoFundMe to pay for travel expenses for him and his new person.
The power is back on, which is huge. The running water is not back on, which kind of sucks. But we are able to get bottled water now and we found a cistern full of semi-clean water we can use for dishwashing and bathing and flushing toilets, so it’s a bit like camping. If we time the currents and winds right, we can wash some of the mud off our clothes in the sea. Time it wrong and we’re washing clothes in some flood-sullied skanky saltwater, which isn’t too productive.
When folks saw the damage to the road to Milina, they figured it would take weeks or even months to fix. And it probably would if you were to call in engineers and so forth. But the county road crew with a big front-end loader and some dump trucks? They can whip it out in a few hours — and they did. They filled the dump trucks with flood and land-slide debris from Milina, dumped it in the hole, and smoothed it over. Voila! The next time it rains it will probably blow out, but still …
The government response to the disaster has been, well, interesting. The Army came in and fixed a destroyed bridge and got the power back on. And a task force reportedly is going house-to-house to assess damage and determine the amount of federal aid folks will get. But so far as I can tell, no government agency has done anything to get potable water to the many people who are without it. That task has fallen to kind individuals and to the priest at the Milina church.
The initial impulse to simply flee our wrecked property and house and this place is slowly being replaced by a desire to stay and rebuild, although in a much different, more flood-resilient way than before. Perhaps we put a second story on our existing house, which would be totally against building codes but I think they’ll be lenient in these circumstances. Or we could build a terrace on the hillside above the flood line and put a tiny house there and turn our existing house into a sort of outdoor living space. We’ll see.
I drew up this little diagram of the floods that submerged our house not just once, but twice, after massive storms in Greece. I find it an interesting study in how human-made infrastructure intensified the flooding and damage.
The two major drainages (in aqua blue) come from the south (bottom of the picture) and their natural paths, which were altered long ago, appear to pass just to the west of our house. The eastern main drainage — the one I thought posed the greatest threat to our house — normally dissipates at the place labeled “check dam terraces.” It blew right through there, toppling fences as it went, and rushed through our parcel of land, but still missed hitting our house. The bigger, western main drainage had enough force and water to blow out a small bridge, but still missed our house and parcel by a long shot.
So what was the problem? The road, that’s what, or rather, the built up bed on which the road sits. It crosses the entire drainage just upstream from the sea, effectively forming a dam. Only one culvert, maybe six feet by six feet, provides passage for the water. That was clearly not nearly enough for the amount of water rushing down the natural drainages.
All of that was augmented by an artificial drainage created by the main road and a concrete driveway leading to a house on top of the ridge, which deposited large volumes of water into the drainage upstream of the main road (aka the Koukouleika Dam). Meanwhile, the road’s drainage system failed, meaning flash floods running off of the steep hillside to the west of the house ran over the highway and into the main drainage rather than in ditches toward the sea.
All of that water then backed up behind the “dam,” creating what we call Koukouleika Lake. Just behind the dam the water was probably ten feet deep or more; it was around seven feet deep at our house (and carried about four inches worth of silt, which now blankets the floors of our home, as well as everything in it). And until more culverts are added to the road and the drainage problems are fixed, it will likely happen again.