By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
I was sitting at home last week working at my computer when suddenly I heard what sounded like a downpour outside. A twinge of panic shot through my chest. I quickly leaned back in my chair and jerked my head sideways to see out the window.
It was sunny, no rain. The rushing sound lasted only a few seconds, so a neighbor must have opened a garage door or something. I slumped with relief and thought, What the heck is happening to me?
Last week here in Brentwood and throughout the region, it rained almost nonstop for three days. The initial deluge was so heavy that Deer Creek burst over its banks and turned Brentwood Park into Hurricane Harbor. I went over to take pictures for the Brentwood Spirit and stood with a few neighbors on the edge of Russell Avenue as the water rushed by at our feet. A bright yellow softball floated by – a foul ball finally found, then lost forever.
For a few hours on that first day a low section of Manchester Road near Dorothy Avenue was a canal. A homeowner on Dorothy reported 5 feet of water in her basement. The boat that’s kept in a shed behind City Hall, the one that to some might look silly in a town with no lakes or rivers, was suddenly a brilliant purchase. Rescuers used it to ferry a few business owners, stranded drivers and residents to dry land.
That aluminum johnboat was the face of Brentwood to the nation, seen on the network evening news shows. I don’t get cable TV but probably the boat made appearances there as well, above scrolling headlines like STRANDED IN ST. LOUIS and TRUMP DISSES FLOOD, SAYS HE’S SEEN WORSE.
A familiar sight in Brentwood and elsewhere was the car stalled in water up to its headlights. Not because the water suddenly overtook the car, but because the driver intentionally drove into 3 feet of water thinking he or she could make it. Of course, creationists will use this in their argument against evolution.
The flooded roads in Brentwood subsided by that night but elsewhere in the region it got worse over the next few days. Highways were closed. Cars and buildings were swept away. A news camera caught a floating home smashing into a bridge and disintegrating, like celery stalks into a juicer.
I’m fortunate my basement got only a little wet. And yet for three days I fretted that it would get out of hand. I worried that the water table would rise, whatever that means, and the sewer would back up into my basement. That’s never happened to me but in this flood you heard about it a lot.
I pictured myself knee-deep in excrement, and doubted that I’d hold up well in such a crisis. Less like Rudy Giuliani after 9/11 and more like O.J. Simpson in the white Ford Bronco. It’s not just the property damage and stench that would get to me. I’m afraid I might have a spiritual crisis as well — the sewer rising up like sins I thought had been forgiven. Sounds like a Stephen King movie.
But none of that happened and now my basement floor is bone dry. My wife and I think the water may have come from big holes in the basement window-well covers, so we replaced them. I’ve been meaning to do that for a year but haven’t had time due to my busy schedule with Netflix.
The crisis has passed but I can’t get over that panic I felt with the downpour sound. Can a rainstorm give you post-traumatic stress disorder? Channel 5’s Kay Quinn, a Brentwood resident, reported this week on St. Louis flood victims now suffering from “toxic stress.” Of course, they actually lost something – furniture, cars, homes. All I lost was my nerve for a few days. I’m fortunate, even blessed. And hopefully still forgiven.