Serenity Survives, Long Live Serenity

It’s day two of groundhog day err agility showing.  More dogs, more jumping and a lot  more sitting around.  None the less, yesterday actually turned out fairly productive with each of our dogs going 4 for 4, made a blog post and even got some photo shoots in at Chain O Lakes and Lake of Geneva.  Regarding the latter, it is now very obvious where the Chicago discretionary money is heading – straight to Wisconsin.  Good lord those houses around that lake are HUGE.  Also had an entertaining conversation with a Spring Grove Dairy Queen employee who thought the green Arctic Rush flavor jar was apple and not lemon lime.  DQ probably owes me a free blizzard for training their staff.

While digging around the Internet for some details for this post I stumbled on this quote.

Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm.. anonymous

This seemed a perfect intro to today’s post.  This is actually a pretty popular quote on the net but none of the references attributed it to anyone in particular.  A shame since it is a pretty insightful quote – ESPECIALLY if you own a bridge named Serenity.  Note, I was really looking for relevant quotes from the movie Serenity when the one above came up.  If you recall, Serenity was a project to give access to the back of our lot (link here).  When it was designed consideration was given to how high to make it to account for the seasonal flooding that had occurred in the past.  Since building it, our Springs were pretty tame and as far as recollection serves, the stream stayed in the banks.  That was then.. this is now!

Welcome to the record flood of 2013.  The shot above is actually a few days after the water started to recede.  Still high, still displaying the awesome power associated with unbridled water.  The weather heads were calling for flash flood warnings but based on their accuracy over the last couple of years there was not a lot of concern given.  Well, at least until I headed off to work that morning and saw the massive flooding – Peoria was under attack by the Kracken.  All I could think of is whether Serenity was going to survive or not.  It was engineered for the worst… but maybe not for record amounts of waterfall.

Eventually Linda and I headed down to assess the situation.  Apprehension abounds.  Feelings were not getting any better at the first view of the stream.  What you couldn’t tell from that shot is the missing trees that used to be along the banks (now middle of the water path).  A quick look to the left revealed that my “debris” buffer was GONE.  There was a tangle of trees that was serving as insurance if anything decided to break away upstream.  It had already caught some large branches etc. during the smaller expansions.  That area was now free of all tangles – hell, even the bank had eroded significantly.

One of the trees was found shortly after…

SAVED.  the roots were tangled up in another bank tree which prevented it from harming Serenity.  Hopes were building especially when a hesitant glance downstream revealed she still standing tall.

Hit the jump to see more details of Serenity’s battle

That was a huge relief, but from this distance it looked like it had been through a battle.  Based on the massive amount of brush and mud covering the bridge it was completely underwater at one point.  The left side took a heavy blast of everything picked up off the banks upstream.

This might have actually been to Serenity’s advantage since the brush would have slowed the impact against the pillars – it was also braced against the strongest part of the bridge – there are four pillars under that section of the bridge.  I tried to pull a lot of the bigger branches away, but the large section of tree was not budging an inch.  That clearing would have to wait for dryer times.  What really needed to be done is to get the extra weight off of the deck.

The cross supports that provided all the strength to the deck actually worked against itself in this scenario – it held the deck up like it was designed to do, but they provided a perpendicular surface area for the water to pound against – the decision to go with heavy bolts was a very wise move in hindsight. The following shot is a downstream view of the bridge.  Based on the crap on the bridge, guessing the deck was at least 2-3 feet under water.  Time to pat my brother Dan on the back for helping on the design and a snide laugh to all those people who chided us at the time for over-engineering it.

Linda snapped this shot when I was struggling to free up the larger branches on the left side of the bridge.  The big branch next to my leg ended up being attached to the trunk of a larger tree.  The hopes of freeing it enough to push into the water ended up being fruitless.  Part of that is due to having no leverage thanks to the sloshy mud – will need to get the ATV down there to winch it out.

This isn’t to say Serenity didn’t make it out of the battle unscathed but definitely took less than it did battling the Reaver horde.  It wasn’t really noticeable until I stood next to it, but the downstream vertical supports were pushed out from the pressure against the deck.  The one on the far bank was the most impacted.

That fact it is still there at all is an engineering feat in its own.  Not sure what the best resolution is to that yet, but possibly hooking up a come-along and see if it can’t be ratcheted back.  There needs to be additional thought given to that – don’t want to snap it off the footing brackets.  One repair that has to happen soon is to re-brace the footings.  The first set of pillars on the far bank  were already closer to the water than I wanted, but now they were almost in the water.  This has to be fixed and likely the most time consuming and costly of the repairs.  It needed to happen at some point – just accelerated by the flood.  And no, I am not sure how that is going to be done yet, but nothing a little noodling can’t resolve.

Here is a better shot of how much the water eroded the banks.  There was a full set of those 12×12 patio blocks between the pillar and the end of the bank before the flood.  There was also a covering of cement around the pillar to keep the water from leaking down the pillar (a chunk of that cement is laying to the right of the pillar).

The following shot shows the base of the vertical support that was pushed out in the earlier shot.  Jury is still out whether the post shifted on the pillar or not – there is a steal bracket that fixes the wood to the cement and based on the bolts we used would not think it could shift.  The fact it is slight off may be a result of the original pillar placement and where the deck width landed – the fact they were even close based on how I sighted them is a small miracle in itself.

The expanse of the decking gave a little with the force of the water.  This is not surprising especially if it did take some blasts from upstream trees – pretty sure it took at least two.  This pushed the center of the deck inward which is noticeable from a straight on view.

But all that really matters is Serenity is STILL standing and still sturdy – walking across it gave no indicating there were any stability issues.  Serenity took the most violent attack Mother Nature could throw at it and survived.

However, Vegas took it a little harder.

If you recall, there were design considerations for this very event – check out the last (fuzzy) image on the Vegas Project post (link here).  The ATV winch should easily pull that back into place – hopefully it will still span the banks otherwise it may need some new pillar work.

In case you were wondering, I did find the movie quote I wanted.

River Tam: Storm’s getting worse.
Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: We’ll pass through it soon enough.

Yes, Captain, we’ve made it through!

2 thoughts on “Serenity Survives, Long Live Serenity”

  1. Congratulations!

    “a snide laugh to all those people who chided us at the time for over-engineering it”

    I don’t think that was me, but I’m not sure. 🙂 My mantra, as I’ve said before, is “Anything worth designing is worth over-designing.” (A mantra that often prevents me from following through on my designs.)

    Here’s the problem, though. What you needed to do is to make the bridge weak enough to go down and then request government disaster relief! And blame upstream communities for the flood (oh, I forgot, you already did that..)

    Seriously, though, it’s a massive achievement for Serenity to have survived that flood. I can’t imagine what it must have looked like down there when it was underwater. Good thing you didn’t go with my chunnel idea. 🙂



  2. Not sure if you were on the chiding side or not (don’t think so) but Linda definitely was along with many of my friends at work. Each of those would have been starting on their replacement bridge had they been in design control. I will say, I have kidded Dan about some of his “over” designs but coming from me that’s testament to his mantra! (ask to see his shelf design sometime … but don’t bring up the christmas house display).

    Are you knocking our fine socialist government? now, now, I’m sure some hard working bridge builder would surely step in and do his patriotic duty to pay just a little bit more in taxes to help shore up my bridge – oh, and I blame Bush for the flood.. not my upstream neighbors.

    To be honest I was TOOO scared to go down there during the flooding – got a lot of emotion tied up Serenity and I didn’t want to see it suffering and not being able to do a damn thing about it.

    for the record, I’d probably go the draw bridge route before the chunnel idea.. although I heard you can pick up a certain tunnel boring company really CHEAP these days.


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