We were all (our six family) allowed to take a few things with us.
A friend who lived in the nice area across one river told us they were going away for Christmas and left Dad the key to their house. So that’s where we went. Over the bridge (the very crowded bridge because everyone was leaving) to find shelter on the other side.
We had a lot of time to think while we waited in traffic. What was to keep the town we were going to from being flooded itself? Well, traditionally when they knew the levee was in danger of breaking they would break it further down and let the water flow over the farmland. We’d be OK.
We listened to the radio a lot that day, the night that followed, and the day after. We weren’t all that familiar with the area and they were giving instructions on how to evacuate. We’d be OK.
I was embarrassed that our family was towing a row boat. I felt so stupid.
Finally, we arrived at the friend’s home and settled in. Mom put my little brother to bed and us older kids had to be in our beds. My bed was closed to the living room and I could hear the radio reporting what was going on. About 1 AM, the radio told us to evacuate again. The levee had broken close to this town and the water was flowing toward the town itself, not to the farmer’s fields. I was old enough to understand the danger, but not old enough to know what to do.
We quickly got up (we’d gone to bed dressed) and packed the six of us in the car once more. The radio was like our connection to life. We listened to every word. We joined the rest of our world driving west on the highway as we were told. Another highway was flooded. We couldn’t go back to our home. What else could we do.
Dad didn’t know the area well, and we kind of guessed where the water was - even though they told us on the radio where to go. At each intersection more people joined us on the highway and the traffic slowed.
Meanwhile, the news on the radio was becoming more urgent. Go, go, go, the announcer said. Then he’d tell us that the water was heading downtown - only a few miles away from where we inched along.
The radio station began to move their equipment up to the second floor - just as a precaution, they said. Then they announced that the water was coming down their street and was almost at the station. Then it was in the station and they hoped to continue broadcasting from the second floor. We’ll keep broadcasting, they reassured us. We have a generator and can stay on the air quite a while.
So they continued reporting on the flooding while we inched along. More cars joined us. The four-lane highway became three lanes out and one lane in. Still we inched along. To say we were afraid was underreporting how it was. Mom was crying silently. My brothers were asking why this and why that. Dad didn’t know. He thought the break was to the south of us, but if so, why was it flooding downtown. He just didn’t have enough information to work it out.
The radio announcer became agitated. He told us that if anyone had the crazy idea of waiting it out, they were risking their lives. Go now, he said. Go, go, go. And we inched along.
The announcer began reporting which roads were flooded. If you were headed west out of town you needed to hurry. The water was headed that way. Yep. Terror. Full blown, out of your mind terror. The traffic on the freeway still was inching along. There was no way to hurry and Dad didn’t know a short cut - if there was one.
Now the radio station was discussing whether they were even safe on the second floor. Hopefully the rate of flooding would stop soon and they’d be OK. I began to peer out the window into the dark looking for flood waters that I imagined were coming.
Stopping here at 4,078 words.