Thursday, November 16, 2006

Flash flood

I should have known to expect bad weather this morning when I walked out to my car to find the air temperature in the mid-to-high 60's. I should have known something was up when I saw my 70-something neighbor retrieve his recycling container from the curb while wearing nothing but shorts, socks, and bedroom slippers. And I should have had a hint-and-a-half that something was coming when I heard every weather forecaster say "Heavy rains this afternoon, flash floods likely." But somehow I didn't get the message.

I work on the top floor of our facility, so when it rains, we know about it. It began to come down in buckets this afternoon. Nobody had really come to work expecting rain, not even me. But I was better prepared than most because I wore my usual Fall/Winter/Spring ensemble of a black raincoat and an Irish tweed cap. When I left for the day (early, because I had received word from a friend in a nearby city that her basement was taking on water, and mine would probably be getting flooded soon), it was with the cap pulled down, the collar turned up, and all the buttons buttoned tight. I looked like a cartoon flasher, but I stayed dry - well, except for the coat, the hat, and the lower parts of my legs.

But I couldn't head straight home. I had to pick up my aunt from my cousin's house in Moosic. Moosic is on the sloping edge of a valley, at least the part of it where my cousin lives. When you get off the highway you drive down a hill, turn onto a one-way street, drive along that street for a while, and then turn and go back up another hill for a little bit. No problem.

Except there is a problem when the rain is coming down like it's being shot from a fire hose. Going down the hill was no problem. Going along the one-way street was no problem - until I got to an intersection where the water was about two feet deep, with more water pouring down the hill all the time. Several people appeared to have decided to park in the deepest parts of the intersection. I quickly realized that they had in fact volunteered to provide an object lesson in why you should never, ever drive into a water-covered area - you have no way of knowing how deep the water is until your car stalls in the deepest part.

So there I was: stopped on a one-way road about twenty feet from a flooded intersection, staring at stranded cars in front of me and the oncoming headlights of cars approaching me from behind. I turned on my hazard lights, my four way flashers. The cars kept approaching. I pulled over to the far right curb. The cars kept approaching. Then some SUV-driving idiot decided to plow into the intersection from the cross street and the water sloshed in all directions, nearly reaching my car. The approaching cars swerved around me, heading into the water. Screw this, I thought, I'm going in reverse.

I put my car in reverse and, first making sure the way behind me was clear, began to drive backwards. I made it a few dozen feet when more cars approached from behind. I stopped and let my hazards signal a warning to the other drivers. One of them edged into the flooded intersection and promptly got stuck. Another SUV driver assessed the situation and decided to turn around and drive the wrong way down the one-way street.

Fine, I thought, clear a path. I nimbly turned my Tercel around and followed in the SUV's wake. Vehicles continued to head towards the flooded intersection, despite the growing procession of cars driving the wrong way . I flashed my lights at anyone who approached. Many of them kept on going. Oh well. I tried.

I found a side street that led uphill and took it. Another street that would have gotten me closer to my cousin's house was also blocked by water, so I had to backtrack again and climb higher up the hill. Finally I got myself one street uphill from my cousin's house. I swooped in, did a quick turnaround in his driveway, and picked up my aunt. We headed out on an alternate, uphill route back to the highway.

The rest of the trip home was slow but without incident. My house did not get water in the basement, and neither did my aunt's. Some roads around Nanticoke are closed, and there is scattered flooding throughout the region. Hazleton has declared a state of emergency, and parts of Wilkes Barre Township have been evacuated, are without power, or are under water.

But it could have been worse. It could have been snow. There will be plenty of time for that, later.


Gort said...

Plains is a mess. I had to leave work ealry because of basement flooding at Mrs. G's Mom's house. There was about 2 feet of water in front of Pocono Downs side entrance (happy day suckers)and like your commute some idiots tried to go through it.I turned around and took some back roads only to encounter mud/rock slides. In the end my 10 minute drive home lasted about an hour. This was worse than all the fun in the summer.

cooper said...

So, Harold, this was a "mission drive"? Happy Turkey Day!