Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bring Out the Ark!

Well, dear readers, a State of Emergency has been called for the state of Illinois, specifically the Chicago region. It’s kind of funny that I would live through roughly ten years of Hurricane Seasons and hurricane floods on the coast of Georgia, and yet this is the first time I have experienced flooding that has caused a State of Emergency.

The rain began last week with little drizzles here and there. I wore my rain boots for the first few days, but stopped when there were no real puddles that needed to be waded through. Yesterday, however, I finally brought my Van Gogh rain boots back out from the closet and it turned out to be perfect timing. From up on the 58th floor, my office-mates and I watched as what looked like a smoke screen rolled billowed towards Chicago from the West. The screen turned out to be pouring rain and our views turned to sheets of white as the storm engulfed the Loop.

As the rain finally let up, we all began to notice that it was incredibly dark outside. It was 3 p.m. and already it looked to be nearly 8 o’clock. Lightning suddenly ripped through the sky, followed shortly by a thunderclap and the sound of water once again tumbling from the clouds. An interesting note to make is that thunder sounds different when you are closer to (and sometimes inside) the storm clouds. Instead of the typical BOOM, the thunder sounds almost like a dump truck full of metal that was relieving its load.
My Van Gogh umbrella fell victim to the Chicago winds last week, but thankfully a coworker has a stash of spare umbrellas for just such an occasion. I waited until downtown Chicago was no longer “in the red” on and bolted for the bus stop. The bus made it two blocks in 15 minutes before I finally decided that I could walk to my next job faster than the bus could drive. I thanked my coworker over and over for her umbrella as I walked eight blocks in increasingly heavier and heavier rain.

By the time I left my second job the rain continued to come down, but not quite as heavily. I went home, packed my bag for my weekend trip to Georgia, and went to bed. Around 3:30 a.m. I was awoken by a flash. This obviously gave me a momentary heart attack before I realized it was coming from lightning outside. The sky lit up and rumbled for a few minutes as I tried to drift back to sleep. Suddenly, a powerful lightning bolt brought daylight into my entire room and was immediately followed by a crack so loud that it not only shook my room and my nerves, but it set off a car alarm.

This intensity of thunder and lightning continued for some time. After about 10 minutes the owner of the disturbed car silenced their alarm and I was able to go back to sleep. Three and a half hours later I was showered and placing the last few necessities into my bag. My roommate (shockingly) left before I did (she’s usually not up until noon) and it was the first time I thought to take a peak outside and see how hard it was raining. I lifted my bedroom blinds and my heart stopped. The curb along my one-way street could no longer be seen. A rippling pool of water covered the whole block, leaving less than half a foot of the sidewalk free of flooding.

I had obviously been checking periodically to see how the weather for my flight would be and each time a red exclamation mark warned me about flashing flooding in Chicago – but I didn’t think they were serious! This was Chicago for god’s sake! A major metropolitan city! Who expects one of the United States’s major cities to experience flash flooding. That was the kind of stuff people out West on prairies experienced. Not the land of gangs, CTA clusterfucks, and the Cubs.

As if on cue to add to my slightly strained nervous, the skies opened up once more with monsoon-like rain and Zeus-is-pissed lightning. I sent my coworkers an “I think I’m going to be late email” and began to brainstorm the best way to get to work with a rolling suitcase in the middle of flash floods. Walking to the train might not be so bad. But would everything in my suitcase be ruined? I certainly couldn't hold an umbrella in this weather. A taxi? How much would that cost? My car? My car!

I dashed to the window and pulled up my other blinds. Typically, my car was parked directly outside my building, but I had lost my parking space over the weekend and was forced to park a block away on a cross street. Small sedans on my street no longer had visible tires and even the rims of a CRV were completely covered with dark brown water. I went to the windows in the living and in the 3rd floor hallway, but I couldn't see my car. Sunnyside, my street, was a lake – a fact that was only highlighted as an SUV drove down the block, creating waves that went over the roofs of each parked car it passed.

Screw getting wet, I thought. Odie needs me! (For those of you that are unfamiliar with my unnatural obsession with my car – his name is Odysseus, but his friends call him Odie.)

I placed my electronics in plastic bags, my hairdryer in a Target bag, and my passport in a zip lock bag (I take my passport even when I travel domestically). I put on my spring jacket on first because it was still a bit chilly outside and layered my rain coat on top. I shoved my feet into my Van Gogh rain boots and left the apartment.

Rolling my suitcase was a joke. I made it as far as the sidewalk before lifting the bag to my chest and sloshing through the flood water. A fire hydrant on my corner was more than half submerged and I was forced to walk on the curb as I crossed the street when it was clear that the water was deep enough to flow into my mid-calf boots.

I waded through the waters, keeping a watchful eye for passing cars. The last thing I needed was a waterfall over my head. Taxis trolled up and down the street, looking for those of us unfortunate enough to be walking in this weather.

Finally, I saw my car. Apparently the cross street was higher than my block because he barely sat in an inch of water. I breathed a sigh of relief and finally headed toward my train.

Since arriving at work the rain has yet to let up and word on the travel-street is that O’Hare International Airport is cancelling flights left and right. As stated before, Gov. Quinn has issued a State of Emergency and photos abound a flooding all over Chicagoland. Engineers have opened the flood gates of the Chicago River so that it can release some of its stress into the lake, a geyser erupted out of a too-full sewer by the Ravenswood Metro Stop (Google that!), the Chicago Sun-Times has started a live stream of #CSTstorm photos (one which I contributed), and a sink hole swallowed three cars (and one very surprised driver who is doing just fine at Northwestern’s hospital) on the south side.

Of all the times to leave Chicago! Luckily, I have two friends who live either on or just passed the street where Odie will be spending the weekend. I have asked them to alert me to any flooding on this street and then I will…well most likely panic since I’ll be in Georgia and heck if I can remember where I put his spare key (and his primary one is currently in my suitcase since I was worried I would need to drive him to safety this morning). Fun times!  

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