(Note: you can
see a photo of the flood by clicking here.)
Shanghai's Flood of the Century
(by Vivian Krigline, August 2001)
We had a storm system come in on the
afternoon of the August 5th. I knew something was coming because I got a
headache on Saturday that didn't quit (until later Sunday). We went out
to dinner Sunday evening to celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary, and
had just gotten home good when it started raining very hard -- complete
with thunder and lightning! The rain lasted all night, which isn't
anything new, except...
Our friend Mark was here and getting
ready to leave on Monday morning. He had to be at the bus to go the
airport by 10:00. Michael, Andrew and I had class on Monday, also. We had
already decided that I would take Andrew to school by 8:45 and I would get
to class by 9:00. Michael would take Mark to the hotel to meet the bus by
10:00 then come on to school.
Monday morning it was just drizzling a
little and from our 4th floor apartment in the middle of the complex, all
looked normal. Andrew and I got going (he did wear his rain boots and I
had on my tennis shoes) around 8:30 for our 10 to 15 minute walk to his
school. I should have known something was wrong when we stepped out the
gate of our complex. The traffic was at a standstill and water was
covering the bicycle lane and part of the road.
I should have turned around and gone
home! BUT, we are in Shanghai, not Columbia. Nothing closes for any kind
of weather here! Mind you the sidewalk on our side of the street was also
torn up due to construction. Well, Andrew and I decided to go for it. We
trudged through the mud along bricks next to the street to get to the
corner to cross over our first highway. No problem on our side of the
street. But, when we crossed over, there wasn't a dry place to get onto
the sidewalk. So we stood in the middle of the road for a few minutes
debating whether to turn back or get wet crossing to the opposite
sidewalk. Of course we decided to get wet and keep going. I got wet,
Andrew was still dry!
The next intersection has the expressway
overhead and a six-lane highway with bike lanes on ground level. You
guessed it. The areas next to all the sidewalk curbs were flooded, and
yes, we kept going -- wading through the water like everyone else! (Oh
yea, we were certainly not alone on the streets -- everyone else was
trying to get to work too!) However, Shanghai people wear better clothes
for floods! The ladies wear skirts or mid-calf length pants and sandals
(no socks) -- the men just took off their shoes and rolled up their pant
So, off we go. Halfway to our
destination (Andrew’s school), we stopped at the Carrefore department
store to buy socks because my shoes and pant legs were soaked. Andrew had
his dry shoes with him but no dry socks for the day. I also called Michael
to warn him of the dangers along the roadway and to see if any one would
be at school. Andrew’s teacher had already called our home since we were
15 minutes late and she was worried!
So we kept going -- two and a half
blocks to go with very little dry ground in between. We did wade across
the main street, eventually getting to a dry plaza to cut through, but
when we got to the sidewalk opposite Andrew’s school -- it was flooded. So
in we go again. This time Andrew’s boots weren’t quite tall enough. A
passing car kicked up a wave, and it sloshed in over the top as we crossed
the street! The cars/taxis, bicycles, and motorcycles were still moving
(at least those that hadn’t stalled and flooded out). OK, Andrew is safe
and relatively dry now. It is around 9:15. So I head off.
My school is only about 1.5 miles (2 km)
from Andrew’s school, but there is no direct route. Go over two blocks to
Gubei Lu, then up two blocks and cut through on a side street about a
block and a half then back down HongQiao four blocks. I’d never walked it
before (I take a taxi), but since I couldn’t get home without swimming
four blocks, I decided to give it a try. After wading across one street, I
found dry ground and walked two blocks over to Gubei Lu. No taxis were
available, so I walked two more blocks and found the side street to also
be dry. I took that street over to HongQiao. Now it is 9:45. Not bad, I
only have four blocks to walk -- I should be at school by 10:00. About
half a block up I noticed that traffic was at a stand still here as well.
Good thing I didn’t get a taxi -- I later heard of others taking two hours
to get through the mess in a taxi or bus. Now there is no turning back.
And so far everything along the sidewalk is dry. However, after three
blocks, I see a crowd of people. When I got to them, most were just
looking at an accident holding up the traffic I had just walked past. But,
up ahead was more trouble. You guessed it – the street and sidewalk was
flooded out. I only had a little more that a block to go to get to my
school. And there really wasn’t anywhere to go!
I pause a moment to remind you of where
we are. Remember our stories about the three wheel bicycles used for
deliveries all around the city? Well, because of the weather, these guys
were not making deliveries. So, being the resourceful people that they
are, they were offering rides (for a price) through the flooded streets.
So, yes, I, Vivian (by myself) decide to negotiate for such a ride to get
the remainder of the way to school! The guy also gets two other people in
his little cart with me, and off we go. We had to dodge the cars (that are
now trying to “float” through the bicycle lanes because their lanes are
not moving), the motorcycles (that are still plowing their way through the
water), and the other bicycles and carts like ours. I had already decided
to have fun, so I was doing fine!
The end of the story should come at this
point since it was just a short distance to where I wanted to go. But, the
driver apparently didn’t know where I needed to stop, and though the three
of us in the back were trying to get him to stop he didn’t until we were
again knee deep in water. (Both men with me were Chinese, but one spoke a
little English -- they were kind and tried to be helpful). Up ahead is a
major intersection – another overhead expressway with 8 lanes of traffic
and bicycle lanes on both sides of the street. It is also a major bus
stop. The other two men wanted off at the next bus stop across this
intersection. Well, we couldn’t turn around where we were to let me off,
and I was not going to get out to swim the rest of the way back! So off we
go to drop off the two men. Unfortunately, the water was much deeper on
the other side of the highway. Water was starting to come into the cart
when the cars went by (meaning that the water was almost two feet deep, so
I got wet anyway!). We eventually made it to their bus stop. The whole
area was flooded except the narrow “bus stop” island between the street
and bicycle lane. All I could see was water, all the way up the street.
Somehow my driver (who had be exhausted after peddling through all that
water!) managed to turn around. When we got back to the intersection, it
was now jammed with stalled buses and cars, bicycles, etc. trying to go in
all different directions at once (by now many of the passengers had gotten
out, wading through the water to try to find alternative ways to get where
they were going) . I held on, now probably wetter than if I had walked,
and my weary driver wove our way back up the flooded street. It was 10:30
when I made it to the dry sidewalk in front of my school. When I entered
the office there were just a few people around. None of my classmates were
there and my teacher wasn’t there yet either.
Now, just a few minutes later, Michael
came in -- still completely dry! He said he was able to walk those four
blocks down Hongqiao (from the hotel where he left Mark) without getting
wet. (This was the same street I could not get through!) At a few points,
he did have to very carefully balance along a small brick retaining wall
next to the shrubbery and even “swing” around trees and bushes to keep
from falling into the water. The water may have also receded an inch or so
in some places since I had been there. He also had to rent a three wheel
bicycle to get across the flooded street in front of the school! (I wonder
if it was the same bike I had used?) Oh well. My adventure was much more
exciting than his!
My teacher also arrived shortly
thereafter, so the two of us went over our lesson.
The trip home was basically uneventful,
as most of the water had receded by noon. We had another storm Thursday
night that brought more flooding around town. But we were not as affected
this time. Andrew got his chance to ride in a three-wheel cart that
morning to cross a flooded intersection, but the rest of the walk was dry.
Thus ends yet another adventure. I
suppose if I were back in Columbia, I would have been in my car, hoping it
wouldn’t stall or flood out! Then I would have had to walk through the
flooded parking lot like everyone else. Or maybe the Highway Dept would
have closed the roads and everyone would have stayed home. Not much
excitement in that!
Our experience made me feel so much
sympathy for those people all over the world that have to endure flooding
like we had a taste of. Monsoon rains plague much of Southeast Asia from
India to the Pacific Ocean. Thousands of families here had to clean mud
and sewage from their ground-floor homes, as do countless others affected
by floods annually. We have friends in this region, so I am reminded to
think of them when I am trudging through our small rainstorms! I hope you
do the same!
Well this is far too long and it took
far to much time to write. But I just had to take the opportunity to put
it on paper. It is certainly an adventure I will never forget!
© 2001 Vivian Krigline. As far as I am concerned, people are allowed to print
this article, or link to it, for personal or classroom use.
(see Website Standards and Use Policy)