Sound the Collision Alarm, Flooding in Lower Level Engineroom forward

Not really sure which I had more respect for on a submarine; fire or flooding. I think most people who aren’t in a flooding situation will tell you that a fire is more feared. Between the round shape of the hull and all the stuff that can burn, fires have a tendency to spread pretty quickly. Plus, because of the nature of the stuff that typically burns, a lot of smoke is released which explains why we drill so much using emergency breathing masks that are temporarily opaque to simulate reduced visibility.

Flooding was the casualty that gave me recurring dreams though. You might even say they were nightmares since I do remember struggling to get out of my rack in a cold sweat only to find that the berthing area was all quiet except for Petty Officer T’s incessant snoring. I would sheepishly crawl back into the rack hoping no one had seen my momentary panic. But I can assure you I did not fall back asleep no matter how long we had field dayed the boat prior to my short sleep.

When they actually do sound the collision alarm, you don’t ignore it. In your head, you hope it’s a drill but if its done at an unusual time with no hint of a drill coming, you definitely get an adrenaline rush. I think that after five boats, that’s why I still sleep so light. I think if my wife ever really wanted to push me to the next world, all she would have to do is wait for some night when I was in one of my rare deep sleeps and rig up a collision alarm next to my bed.  Yep, that would just about do it as I tried to pull the curtain on my rack aside and hunt for my poopy suit only to find that I was not ready to answer the alarm. Can you spell heart attack?

Central Pennsylvania has been sounding the flooding alarm a lot the last few days. Remnants of Hurricane Lee (tropical storm?) moved slowly through our area similar to what Agnes did almost forty years ago. All up and down the Susquehanna Valley, people who like a nice water view are getting an up close and personal encounter with the water they love so much. Central Pennsylvania is a beautiful area with rolling hills, large expanses of open farmland and gentle streams and creeks that provide a nice backdrop on a sunny day. The typically winding and dipping roads are actually one of the fun things when the weather is nice since it provides you with an experience somewhat similar to what a Le Mans race would be. But when the skies open up and pour ten inches of rain in a day, all of those characteristics work against her.

There had been a lot of rain recently which helped to saturate the ground. Another Hurricane had recently passed to the east but dropped lots of water all through the tributary areas. Lee’s arrival came at a particularly bad time and its slow-moving nature made it a very productive rain maker. Those back roads quickly develop into dangerously unexpected obstacles from fallen trees and accumulated water. If it happens in the night, it becomes harder to see and results in a lot of accidents. Making the wrong choice in which route you travel will almost always result in unexpected delays at best and something much more tragic at their worst. This storm also affected the major highways which line the rivers and streams here. I have never seen a large stretch of the turnpike closed before but it was needed this time to prevent people from getting trapped.

Mandatory evacuations were in place all over the Harrisburg and Hershey areas. We still have electricity so far and water but many of the communities are already under a boil water advisory. The one thing I noticed was that even though the word had been put out days before that this was a very high possibility, how completely surprised so many people were that they would have to be evacuated. Plus, you could tell by their comments, how unprepared they were for even the most basic needs. The shelters are full in all of the counties around us and almost all of those people brought little to nothing with them. The worst part is that in the low-lying areas, they will not have much to go back to.


I seriously wish there was a giant collision alarm that I could sound. I wish even more that people would take preparation more seriously before the big event. At the end of the day, it’s still a choice isn’t it. Even the best preparations will not overcome the really big events. But being ready for the types of possible casualties in your area might just mean that one of the first responders won’t have to risk his or her life for someone who didn’t think they would ever be a victim. Well, off to the Church to help dry out the basement. Hopefully the rain will stop soon.

If you have a spare one, a lot of really nice people could use your prayers. The new water ride at Hershey Park is not very welcome at all.

Mister Mack

3 thoughts on “Sound the Collision Alarm, Flooding in Lower Level Engineroom forward

  1. I recall many years ago a wise old chief (well, he was younger back then) telling me something along the lines of “good luck, but don’t depend on luck, be prepared” as I was getting ready to leave the comfort of the shipyard on the Indy to go on a 3 month deployment on the USS Houston (my first “real” underway). That thought has been with me ever since Chief Mac said that to me. During that underway on SSN713 I experienced both flooding and fire in that inhospitable environment. The flooding, which according to the official reports wasn’t nearly as bad as I recall it, was a real eye opener. Being part of a “team” that battled the big green monster aged me more than anything I’ve ever been through, but what do I know? I was just a nub. It was PREPAREDNESS that saved the day there. Men (back in the days when it was only men on subs) doing what they have trained to do day in and day out, over and over.

    Shortly after that, I experienced my first “Fire in the Galley.” Again, being PREPARED is what stopped this little fire from becoming a full-blown blaze. (but a commonly heard statement on the Houston was “don’t worry about the fire, the flooding will put it out”)

    Those days, and the advice from the men I worked for have served me well both during my navy days and after.

  2. Years ago aboard the Thomas Jefferson the collision alarm went off during a drill period followed by the chief of the watch announcing, FLOODING IN THE ENGINE ROOM. I had just hit the rack after a long stint of troubleshooting something, and “knowing” that it was a drill, I crawled out of my bunk in middle level missile and sat on the floor. I remember seeing the damage control team hustling aft, then more people and finally came the all clear.

    It wasn’t until I went on watch that I found out that we really DID have a flooding emergency in the engine room that day, seems when they shot a decoy from the signal ejector some the reactant (we all referred to it as alka seltzer) was left in the tube to bubble and create pressure. Apparently enough was left behind to create a lot of pressure as it blew off the breach door scaring the crap out of everyone in the engine room.

    Fortunately, the only real damage was the breach door, but that day had a lasting effect on me. From that day forward, when an alarm went off, it was real until proven otherwise, There is a lot to be said about being prepared, and one thing that I learned that day is it’s easier to be prepared, than to wish you had actually prepared.

    Bravo Zulu Mac, another fine bit of writing.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s