Monday, May 16, 2011


For FHE last week, we wanted to do something service-oriented. Since the people in Utah are continually praying for moisture, and spring has been particularly snowy and wet this year (who says prayers aren't answered?) that means runoff puts us at the risk for flooding - click here if you want to see the areas of impact expected.

Personally, in the seven years that I've lived in Utah, I haven't seen a real need for the moisture that people keep praying for. I remember walking to a graduation party in Ohio, saying how glad I was that I would probably never have to walk through wet grass again, because I was moving to a desert.

Well, that's not quite true. Not only did I not move to a desert. (Utah County is considered a steppe climate), I also have to walk through wet grass all the time. I have not yet seen a need for prayers with regards to precipitation, but I'm not a farmer and water has always run freely from any tap of any place I've lived. I'm sure I take water for granted...

Anyway, in preparation for the flooding, the Provo mayor has written a whole blog on what to expect and how to get sandbags (here) and the city is accepting volunteers to bag sand. (Did you know? Provo has the highest volunteer rate in the nation. Between 2006 and 2009, our average annual volunteer rate was 63.6%, and Provo residents, like the BYU student in the photo above, devoted an average of 149.7 hours of service per year.)

Bag sand... It's something that, from what I can tell, has been done for a really long time in order to curtail the raging waters of snow melt, saturated riverbeds and flooded natural levees, but it isn't something I've ever done. I guess growing up in Ohio - and more specifically Troy - we were lucky that the levee was built in such exaggerated terms that unless God decides to flood the earth again (multiple sightings of rainbows already this year tells me that it won't be this year!), I don't think flooding from the Ohio river is much of a threat. Still, Ohio is wet. And I'm surprised that we haven't done more sandbagging when I was growing up.

It was hard work, and I didn't expect to like it. The weather was rainy and nippy, and before I warmed up to the task, my fingers were numb with cold, making every time I hit them against something sting with pain. But sometimes it is nice to get your hands dirty, and get sand under your nails. No, that isn't right. It isn't nice to get little granules under your nails, and I should have definitely worn gloves before I decided to plunge my hand into the sand, but whatever. After a while, my hands were numb and I didn't notice when I took a chunk of skin out of my knuckle. My little group of three worked alone on one side of the sand dune while the rest of the group was on the other side.

We were trying to come up with the most efficient way to fill the bags, and came up with a very quick method of having one person set up the bags under the "funnel" (an orange construction cone, mounted upside down on a wooden horse) while another shovels in the sand, the third person removed the bag from the station and tied it.

It was hard work, and we were complaining of back aches and pains, and if I had gone much longer on the shovel, I would have definitely gotten blisters. But the efficiency and the tangible evidence of our labors made it worth it. And our groups was really kicking butt! Six shovelfuls filled the bag (probably a little too full) and we did almost five at one time. At one point, we figured out how many bags a minute, but I don't remember the figure.
This picture isn't from our group, but it shows the tools we were using. The girl on the right is using a sandbag as a chair. My group didn't do that - I was on my knees most the time, moving from one cone to the next. There wasn't time to just sit in one spot.

It was nice to do something different than childhood games and such for FHE, and afterward, we were treated to an ice cream cone from Macy's.

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