I think it's fair to assume the first sign of spring in Columbia is whenever the Duck River becomes a little too big for its britches.
At least that seems to bethe case every year, although the past few major flooding incidentsseemed to occurin February. Perhaps our local waterway is a bit winded and worn out from the past year, andneeded a month off.
Or maybe it was just the time it needed to fester one of the worst Middle Tennessee flooding incidents in more than a decade one that caused several deaths, including a Maury County woman, who was swept up by the rushing waters, while trying to clear debris at her residence.
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency called last weekend's weather the worstsince the historic 2010 floods, which destroyed much of the Middle Tennessee area, including a large chunk of lower Broadway in Nashville. I remember Opry Mills also being a major victim, along with all of the homes and lives lost during that time.
It could nothave been a more awkward time (well, it could have been worse) to get flooded.
I was in my early 20s, living in Murfreesboro going to school at Middle Tennessee State University, and was smack dab in the middle of moving into a new home when the first round of stormshit.
It was as if the sky was a giant bucket full of water that had been turned upside down. There was no gradual buildup. It wasan instant soakage that gave no warning.
It was as if you turnedyour back for one second and suddenly found yourself standing in a foot of water, and it was rising fast.
When weather like that comes in an instant, there's sure to be panic. And boy was there, especially from myself who still had a few more trips to make before the move was complete.
Fortunately, my home and the rest of the movedidn't experience any real damage, other than a few sketchy roads that came close to swallowingup my Subaru.It was surreal driving around town that day, seeing so many cars submerged in the water, people running about and boarding up their windows.
"Apocalyptic" seems to be the word that comes to mind when thinking back to those crazy times.
Bad weather is something we've all encountered in our lives, especially if you've been a Tennessean for a while, whether it's flooding, the softball-sized hailstorms or tornadoes that make their way through yearly. Yet, every now and again, a cluster of storms comes along that's, as they say, "a real doozy."
Seeing the Duck River flood every year is always concerning, partly because being a Riverside resident gives you a front row seat to the party, and the stress. Major flooding incidents are also events a journalist doesn't necessarily look forward to, this one at least.
Sure, the opportunity to take really great photos, which capture the damage and devastation can be somewhat fascinating. There issomething about seeing the places you've been to, walked on and enjoyed,nowdeep underwater. It's why traffic always seems to back up around Riverside Drive whenever there's a new flood to check out.
But there's the other side of it, the one in which you're stuck waiting to hear about the people and places that were damaged,harmed or possibly killed. In a small town like Columbia, it could very likely be your neighbor, a family member or friend. There aren't very many degrees of separation if you've been here long enough.
It's nothing compared to the first-responders whose job is to suit up and put themselves in harm's way, the ones who volunteer to come face-to-face with death and danger to protect the citizens.
Perhaps the hardest part about dealing with a natural disaster, at least on the mental side, is accepting that it's a force of nature out of your control.The best thing you can do is bunker down, have an emergency plan in placeand pray for the best.
As tragic as discovering the aftermath of a severe weather incident can be, it can also serve as a valuable lesson. Not to make light of those who losttheir homes or, God forbid, their lives, Mother Nature can raise a lot of awareness when it come totaking the proper safety precautions during a storm.
For example,we've covered several stories over the years aboutfamilieswhose homes were damaged after a large tree fell on their house. There is also the tragic death of Spring Hill firefighter Mitchell Earwood last May, who was killed by a fallen tree during a severe storm at his home while off duty.
Seeing and hearing about those incidents forces you to consider what you would do if a similar situation were to happen at your home, where the safest places are and if you're prepared to handle the worst.
For me, I began to pay more attention to the massive tree in my front yard, which wouldcrash directly into my bedroom if it were to tip over. That's a pretty scary thought considering a lot of the really bad storms seem to happen during the overnight hours.
Living in a city with a major Tennessee river prone to flooding every year is another obvious reason it's important to become more aware of your surroundingsand how to take precautions in the event of an emergency.
Not every town floods like Columbia does, and that's an important thing to keep in mind.
I suggest at the very least, reachout to organizations like Columbia Fire & Rescueor our local Maury County Emergency Management team. They deal with the worst of it all. It never hurts to get a refresher course every now and again, because it's easy to forget it's not just your property, but your life and your loved ones'lives that are at stake.
If those old Chiffon margarine advertisements evertaught us anything, "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature."
Jay Powell is a reporter for The Daily Herald. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @JayPowellCDH.
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