June 16, 2010
The rain began during the early morning hours of June 15....didn't think much of it until we heard we were under an orange alert..... The French issue these weather warnings and I have certainly learned to take them seriously. Remembering the flood of 2002 in Chateauneuf de Pape when we were stranded for hours, I thought the worst that could happen would be to be stranded here at the house. ...how bad could that be.....we are at the top of the hill....have lots of food....lots of wine.....pas de problem....Oui? Mais Non....
The rain continued to fall...in fact it was raining sideways. Never have I seen so much come down for such a long period. Xavier and I struggled through our morning errands.....boulangerie, Hyper U, winery etc. Had a great lunch and were headed for a sieste when the water started to roll out of the fireplace...black sooty water. The sideways rain was now flowing down the chimney. Beaucoup torchons and a bucket and we were in control....for the moment. Whoops, the pool is overflowing....X tends to that. Oh my...now no power. Not to worry, we have a generator.... crank it up....How much diesel do we have????
I step out on the porch and there is a roar that I have never heard before....It does not stop....What is it? "Xavier, come listen" and then OMG, we realized that it was the river that most people do not even realize is there. THE RIVER IS BACK! I grabbed my camera and we headed down the driveway. And there at the road (or where there was supposed to be a road) was a raging river. It had traveled through neighbors yards, broken their walls, washed out the driveways......And we both now realized that we had no way out! Oh my, the rain is still pouring from the sky....when will it end.
Back up the driveway, thank God for our high ground. Fall asleep on the sofa ....and finally fall in bed at 2AM....still raining but maybe a bit less.
Up early at 6AM....walk back down the driveway to see if waters have receded.....notice that many neighbors did not make it home ......Water has receded but still flowing.....lots of damage.....In direction Les Arcs, the road is gone and we find out that the bridge at Clairette is out (by the vineyards on the way into town). But the good news is that there is a way out through Taradeau. Sadly, we learn of 10 dead and 18 missing persons. Centre ville Les Arcs is a disaster. Cars piled on top of each other in front of the Casino grocery ....In front of the gazebo, a giant hole opened and the river flowed through the center of the parking lot into the area behind the tourist office.. ...2 houses destroyed.......unbelievable. And at the other end of the street through town....cars are piled up in the pharmacy. Centre Ville is closed so I was not able to get photos.....but saw some that a guy here in the neighborhood had taken.
We learn that there were 200 people who spent the night at Hyper U last night. ..our neighbor being one of them.....another could not get any closer than Flayosc......and we have yet to hear from some. Draguignan is also a disaster ....many people had to be airlifted.....and lots of damage.
As the day goes on, we have neighbors showing up....using power here for charging cell phones etc. One, in particular, has yet to connect with her husband. The telephone is ringing ringing since TF1 (French TV) ran a story on Les Arcs.....I will post this video once it is up on their site as it is unbelievable. Shows what a disaster downtown is. Also hearing from American friends and family that it made the Today show & CNN.
We are now in the Vaucluse for a couple of weeks......hard to leave Les Arcs with so much going on ...but have guests arriving so must go and, frankly, are very greatful that we could get out. There was a time when we thought that it would not be possible.
Everyday we saw new damage and more devastation. The most incredible was the gorge that was created. Many of you who have been with us know the road we take to go home...the one that runs by the cemetery. Well, the river created a HUGE gorge with multiple waterfalls and it is ultimately what destroyed downtown Les Arcs. After my initial shock and reaction, I turned to Xavier and said, 'you know, it could be beautiful" . There are no words to describe it and my photos don't show the massiveness of it because I could not get close enough. When we go back I will work on getting photos to post.
We thank all of you who have written, called and checked on us. Say a prayer for lives lost and for those affected by this tragedy.