Friday, June 23, 2006

Turn Around, Don't Drown!

You could still see the signs of flooding that last night’s storm brought through on my drive into work this morning. Most of the roads that resembled lakes last night now revealed the amount of debris that had been dragged in with the rush of water. Tree stumps, leaves and a whole lot of garbage were strewn about the streets. It didn’t take much effort to make out the lines where water sat through most of the evening and finally receded in the morning.

It was around 5:00 last night, while I was waiting at a red light, that the radio station jumped from Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie” to this:

**beep beep**
“The National Weather Service in Cleveland has issued a flood warning in Medina County. A flood warning is imminent or has been reported along streams, creeks, and rivers in the area. All interested parties should take necessary precautions immediately. Never attempt to drive through or walk across a flooded area. The water may be deeper than you think. Turn around… don’t drown!

It didn’t take long to sink in that I had no other choice but to travel right through Medina County to get home! I’d used my last fifty cents to get a Diet Coke from the vending machines, which eliminated the Ohio Turnpike as an option. I thought, “Oh well. How bad could it really be, right?”

Wrong. It was a mess. Luckily, I was ahead of the storm for most of the drive down I-71, but my windshield wipers and I were still battling very heavy amounts of rain and we were beginning to taste defeat.

A lot of hydroplaning and prayers later I was headed for the off-ramp to Rte 18. I found refuge behind a truck labeled “Area Wide Safety” with tall, orange cones in the back and a driver who seemed to be experienced with this pretend-your-car-is-a-boat way of driving. I prepared myself for the roller coaster roads of rural Ohio that would lead me back to Summit County where there wasn’t a flood warning. I had envisioned dry roads and bright rays of sunshine once I crossed the border at Medina Line Road. Raining? In Summit County? No… it’s Medina with the flood warning.

I followed the Area Wide Safety truck, my new best friend, for six miles up and over the hills, down through the newly formed rivers, right up to Medina Line Road where, just as quickly as he had taken me under his wing, he abandoned me to speed through a yellow light. I sat at the intersection marking the border of the two counties, companionless, and finally realizing that the roads of my hometown looked no better than what I had just been driving through. Apparently, Mr. Area Wide Safety truck had let the storm catch up to us and then deserted me.

I did some more hydroplaning, thought I might lose control, and emerged from the country roads victorious. Once I left the country behind and entered the city I began to feel more confident. I reached the mall and continued on my way home, being cautious of any dark looking water on the roads because I had learned this usually means there is a lot of it. I was concentrating so hard on spotting the road ponds, in fact, that I didn’t realize just how bad traffic was ahead until I was there.

Police cars and Hummers had most of the streets blocked off. I thought I was okay when I saw all of the traffic from the area was being directed down the park road I take everyday, but when I finally turned onto the road I saw the destruction that this storm had brought. I spotted the abandoned Volkswagen Jetta in the middle of the road with water up to the headlights and then I really saw what was ahead. The line of traffic that I put myself in was driving through what appeared to be a lake and as they slowly pushed themselves through, giant waves would make their car disappear until they resurfaced on the other side! I wasn’t so sure my little Ford Focus could make it through there. All I could think to myself was “Turn around… don’t drown! Turn around… don’t drown!”

I whipped my car into the only above water parking lot I could see before I reached the stream and sat there contemplating how I would get home. You see, I live in the middle of a Metro Park and all of these roads that they had closed take you right through that park. At the moment I couldn’t think of a way to get from here to there. I was convinced I was going to have to sit, illegally, in this company’s parking lot, watching everyone else as they drive through the flood while talking on a cell phone, until the downpour stopped and the water receded. I was almost defeated when I realized I did have another option, which was to turn around and go back the way I came to the main city streets. Provided that I didn’t run into any more closed roads it just might work.

After exchanging horror stories about the flooding with Jon and nearly an hour later, I made it home. I pulled into my garage, which was the obvious victim of a street flood surge, and got out of the car. I opened the door to the laundry room and led Jack outside. We walked out the back door and took in the continuous puddle that was my back yard. I looked down at Jack who cocked his head to the side and gave me a look that said, "You've got to be kidding me, right?"

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