Surviving Flood Invasion 101

We just finished stuffing essentials in our attic. We learned a lot from Ondoy. Then I saw this email circulating. This is pretty useful.

from an experienced flood victim
By Gwendolyn So

Unbeknownst to many, my family and I are experts when it comes to flooding. By this I mean that for almost 10 years when we lived in a low part of Sto. Domingo Street in Quezon City , we experienced flooding INSIDE the house at least once a year and if I remember correctly, sometimes it was twice or even thrice a year.

The first time it happened we were in shock, but as it happened more and more it became routine. Here are some nuggets of wisdom that may help:

1. I learned that once the water reaches knee level, the gates can’t be opened anymore because of the water pressure. We thought we still had time to take the cars out but realized we were trapped. That time our cars submerged. Make sure you know which area near your residence is considered higher ground and take your cars there EARLY.

2. Do not despair so much if your cars submerge. They can be fixed. It’s expensive and takes a long time for the smell to go away, but it’s not the end of the world. After the flood, just let the car dry. We were still able to use our Hi-Ace and Mitsubishi Lancer despite their having been half submerged in floodwaters.

3. I learned that heavy stuff, like the ref and shelves, FLOAT. So every year from then on, we would TIE DOWN heavy appliances like the ref (too heavy to carry upstairs but in latter years we did lug it all the way up to the 2nd floor), the big shelves with wedding souvenirs and knick knacks and my dad’s collection of wine. How did we do that? Tie them to the windows.

4. Adrenalin will give you superpowers once you decide you’re not afraid of a little water and start saving what you can. In my case, it was my collection of books. They’re not rare first editions but regular books. However, I love my books and I’m not letting them drown! I was able to move and carry our heavy sofa powered by my body’s own adrenalin hormone.

5. You can have fun in the midst of disaster so I took out our cameras and starting taking pictures. It was to make everyone have a good laugh as we surveyed the chaos around us, the cockroaches and rats swimming by, the black inky spots of oily stuff occasionally floating around.

6. Apparently, no matter how much you’re enjoying yourself frolicking in the water and saving what you can, once the cold water reaches your chest (especially your nipples), you start to shiver and it gets hard to breathe. This is the time to give up and go upstairs.

7. If your electricity stays on, go to the switch box and turn off all the electric outlets downstairs but not upstairs.

8. Cleaning after the flood is a pain. Once the waters recede, you are left with mud everywhere. They stick so you have to get the hose and start using the walis tingting (how do you say this in English? It’s a broom made of just think twigs/sticks tied together in a thick bundle). You just keep the water running and sweep, sweep, sweep like there’s no tomorrow.

9. You must scrub the walls with disinfectant. If you only rinse with water, it will still smell. We used Lysol. Scrub, scrub, scrub like there’s no tomorrow.

10. First time water got inside our house, we didn’t know we had to use Lysol and that the drying process is super vital. So, after a few days, there was this nauseating smell and later we found molds growing everywhere! We had returned the furniture and appliances to their normal places and the walls behind grew molds. Yuck!!!

11. We were still able to use our ref that floated in flood waters. Just clean and clean and dry and dry.

12. Once electricity is available, get out all your fans and dry everything thoroughly.

13. Yes, paint will peel off and wooden drawers and shelves deform. Salvage what can be used. Once they dry, it’s still ok but sometimes the drawers get stuck because the wood expanded so you have no choice but to destroy it because icky water is still trapped inside.

14. Wait at least 2 to 3 days to dry everything. Use fans and hairdryers. Do not, I repeat, do not be in a hurry to return stuff you saved to their original places.

15. Have this mindset: Ah, it’s good Im now forced to do a general cleaning of my house. Now I have no choice but to do it.

It is easy to go insane after this kind of calamity, to despair of the material things we lost (especially the cars), but please be thankful you got away with your life and that of your family and loved ones

The Ondoy Experience Uson style

I never really got around to posting about my family’s Ondoy experience. I spent the first half of last week cleaning and taking care of things at home I didn’t have time to plug in my laptop and get on the interwebz. The 2nd half I was at work and found more important things to blog about other than my story (read: Donate to Philippines from Abroad and Project 100 and Oregon for Ondoy).

So here is my tale.

Let me start first with the fact that it NEVER used to flood here in our street. In our village, yes. In our street, never. We’ve been living here for the past 20 years and not once have we been threatened by flood. Add to that the following facts:

  • our house is higher than street level
  • from the garage there are still steps to get to the porch
  • from the porch it’s one big step to get inside the house
  • from our living room and dining room there are two steps to get to the rooms
  • our house has practically two floors except that it doesn’t hehe

Anyway, Saturday, September 26, my dad woke us up telling us to charge our phones and that there’s water in our street. We woke up in a hurry, curious. We charged our phones and watched the water slowly rising, confident that it’ll never rise enough to get in. We saw people walking to get to higher ground (well to our area), with bags filled with their things, we assumed. It wasn’t an unusual sight. Water was slowly getting into my dad’s clinic. We called 5 guys from the street to help us raise my dad’s dental chair, table and couch on a makeshift elevation my dad made. We thought that would be enough. So we had lunch and took a nap.

By afternoon, power was out. Globe signal reduced to zero. Water was rising. It was creeping up the first few steps to our porch. Worried about the car and the clinic, we didn’t know what to do. So we decided to just save items from our living room and dining room.

It all happened very fast. We were carrying books, food, clothes, a matress, papers, laptops, cameras and other things that we could save up to our attic (good thing we had one). Water in the living room and dining room already up to my knees. We carried the fridge and the rice dispenser to our elevated hallway. We couldn’t do anything about the piano. Then my sister started to shout from her room. It was still rising. We rushed to our rooms trying to save what we could by putting them up on our beds. More books. More clothes. DVDs.

Our two dogs were inside the house. My sister’s pet dog we took to the attic since he was a wee one. The other big one we placed on top of a tall enough table and hoped for the best.

By 11 the water in the lving room/dining room was waist high. In the porch it was a bit higher than that. Inside the rooms the water was knee deep. We heard from our neighbor the next day that the water in front of our house was neck high. Outside, our cars have become submarines, and my dad’s clinic an aquarium. It was bad.

We went up to the attic, prepared to go up to the room in case we need to. It was still raining. The water was still going up.

By 1, the water level stopped rising.

And by Sunday, all that was left inside the house were silt, puddles of water and ruined furniture. My dad’s clinic was much worse, and so were the cars. It took him til Monday to see the clinic’s state and to open the cars to see what needs to be done.

It was devastating. But after hearing what happened to other people on the news, I couldn’t complain. Material things are easy to replace. We still have a roof. We managed to keep our beds dry. We still had food and dry clothes. And we had each other. Others weren’t so lucky.

I didn’t have time to take pictures. I quickly secured my camera to keep it dry. So here are some photos from other people.

Our house basically looked like the pictures Judd took of his. But we were all ok. There was nothing we could ask for. Of course I’m saying this because we managed to save a lot of stuff. My books were ok too. :p

Amazing the things that the storm brought in. Bayanihan has never been so alive! Celebrities were braving the water to save their neighbors (Hello Ryan Agoncillo, Gerald Anderson, Jericho Rosales – let’s not mention the other guy). People were risking their lives for strangers! And people were dying to save their families. The private sector worked overtime to send relief goods, help, rescue to the families who were most affected by the storm.

And even ex boyfriends/old “friends” managed to emerge from the dredges of mud to ask how me and my family were doing and if we needed help.

And have I mentioned how great my friends are?

Special shout out to Loren, Oshti and Weak. For helping keep me sane during that really long weekend.

Pepeng is veering away from the Philippines. Let’s hope it goes away for good. There’s so much to be done. Lives to restart. People to help. And a nation to rebuild.

Nag ala-Titanic

Just posting to say that our family’s fine. We got through ok. Our house was more than a meter above street level so the water was only knee level at the highest area in our house (plus we have an attic so we had somewhere dry to go and we can go straight to our roof should we need to). Our furniture, cars, and my dad’s clinic were all wiped out. A lot of things got destroyed but we managed to save our beds, clothes, computers, cameras and most importantly our dogs and ourselves. We had food and water that lasted until Monday and we didn’t have to scrimp to make it last. We were lucky. Others weren’t.

Material things we can replace, lives we can’t. So I’m glad to find that families and friends are all accounted for. Still waiting for word from a few but I’ve heard from other friends that they’re ok. I hope.

We’ll post about the ordeal the next time. Right now I’m all about trying to get our lives back on track immediately so I can help out without having to worry about my own home. It’s easier that way. We’re almost done.

To friends/family who need help, please let me know how we can assist you. We’ll do the best we can.

To friends/family who texted/called/dropped by and were worried… THANK YOU! You have no idea how much that meant to us.

To neighbors who tried to cross the raging flood water thinking we needed rescue, our many thanks. We really can’t thank you enough.

It was a long weekend. But as I was saying we got lucky. There are others who had it 100x worse than we did.