Thursday, June 2, 2011

Daddy, where do sand bags come from?

"Well, when a woven polyester bag, and some worthless sand love each other very much..."
Umm, never mind. While unloading bags from my pick up, I saw the "bag made in Indonesia" label. That's where the money is. Making the bags, not filling them, especially if you're in the Interlake, 'cause these are REALLY expensive bags. They're made with "special" sand, probably from Birds Hill/Garven Road somewhere, and filled in Winnipeg. Yup, I was told that these "special bags" travel up Hwy 6 120km to get dumped at a Provincial Park where they are loaded by hand onto pallets to be trailered to the properties where they are needed.
I'm pretty sure someone out there can tell me what it's worth to send a semi-trailer on an almost 400km round trip from Winnipeg, but I'm guessing it's close to $1000. Lets just say I'm wrong, and the Province has a super deal going... $500? At the low low price of $500, it would take 70 trailers full to pay for a sand bagging machine, and I saw no less than 10 trailers today. That was how many I SAW while repairing pallets and loading my own sand bags, not how many trailers actually came.
We're looking at about 4km of dike, an average of 1 meter high, needing about  40 bags for every meter of dike... high school math, don't fail me now...oh never mind, there's an app for that. City of Fargo has a calculator, so let's call 4km 13,000 feet, and a meter 3'.  About 400,000 bags. I say about, because some people are at 4', and have quite a "rampart" built to withstand the onslaught of a lake that's very angry. We'll get to the anger the lake has developed in a bit, but for now stick with me on the bags, which I think could easily top a half million in this area alone.
There was a machine working in St Laurent... I assume they're done with it now. Sand is plentiful, available almost anywhere nearby. I don't get it.

Pallets are in short supply. They take a beating, and we're using whatever crap was available. We repaired a dozen or so to keep the volunteers busy loading, since I have a few hammers in the truck and at the cabin... nails, crowbars. We'd pillage the completely wrecked ones for pieces and patch them up for another beating.
A bus full of High School kids from Fisher Branch showed up and piled as many pallets full as there were pallets available. Great help, great work because it frees up the people building the dikes to concentrate on that, instead of loading the bags onto pallets at a staging area a 2 km drive away.

Today was spent ferrying bags around, until the heavens opened up, turning the already wet, muddy yard into an impassible bog. The ground is saturated, ( given the level of the lake, and the fact that the beach head is basically sand, it's a no brainer that it's consistency is akin to a cool pudding or a nice mousse on top), and the trike finally couldn't pull the trailer with 15 bags (15x40#=600#) through the ruts. Then we built our "test cage" made of a 16 ga welded wire mesh. We built them 4' x 2' x 2' and held them together with "hog rings". I don't plan to remove these... they'll become a part of the beach head, and offer protection from the waves for the rest of the summer or longer if needed. Eventually, they will likely support vegetation, since the sand is up to the top of other similar height dikes already.

Tomorrow we'll receive about another 2000 bags delivered by a skid steer loader on tracks. Fortunately he'll pound through the neighbours undeveloped property. We'll build enough cages to fill on Saturday when some reinforcements come out.

The place is ever changing... and as I said the lake is angry. There were times I've enjoyed the Pacific Ocean from a chair in the sand under the canopy of my Airstream trailer, thinking, "This is the life, great surf, nice waves, falling asleep to those rollers crashing in, I wish we'd have that sort of sound back home. The same thing was said when we went for a beach day in the Mediterranean. No more... please stop.

The new lake levels have changed the depth of the areas near shore. We used to be very shallow, meaning the waves lost much of their strength before getting to shore. The areas that were knee deep last year are now chest height or deeper, and the drop off is far more pronounced and no longer a gradual slope, allowing the waves to land with almost all of their strength. Standing on shore, your boots get flooded with each incoming wave... there's no point in wearing socks.

On the upside, we've gleaned at least 5 railway ties that were "harvested" from the lake, a bird house, and a nice 14" BF Goodrich tire with enough tread left to...

There are folks out here who have been going at this day after day after day, many are older, living out here.

It's brutal, thankless, frustrating work.

One neighbour summed it up this way. "We stay dry together, or sink together".

My back hurts... I'm getting into a tub of hot water.

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