Friday, June 13, 2008

It was a wild, wild ride

My trip home from Nashville yesterday was like something out of a disaster movie...
I made it to Chicago O'hare just barely in time to get to my connecting gate to head home, only to get there and learn that the flight was canceled due to weather. I could get on a flight several hours later, but I assumed that the chances of that getting out on time (or at all) were very slim. I made the decision to rent a car and drive the 3.5 hours home. If you haven't seen the news in a couple of weeks, you've been missing some very serious flooding up here in Wisconsin. Up until very recently it was about 1.5 hours from my city.

As it was rush hour, I was stuck in very bad traffic for about an hour while trying to get out of Chicago. Once things freed up it was smooth cruising for a little while. Chris had told me that it was storming something fierce at home and to be careful, but neither of us had any idea what it would actually be like. Actually as it turned out, a tornado was sighted about a mile from our home earlier in the evening.

The weather did fine for the next half hour, then I started hearing about the tornado watches I was driving towards and the sky started getting darker and darker. By the time I hit Milwaukee the rain was so hard I could barely see the road and the lightning was spectacular. This was nothing compared to what I would soon drive into.

The storms grew stronger and stronger as I moved out of Milwaukee, continuing North. Soon the radio station had completely stopped playing music and exclusively covered the storms. As I drove into Waupun they spoke of severe flooding there and that the city had actually run out of barricades to block off flooded streets. I came upon a police roadblock, stopping traffic from continuing on...this is one of the major highways in Wisconsin, mind you....and they had closed a large stretch of it because it was under water in many spots. When I told the officer where I was going he told me, "you're in trouble, Ma'am" All of the larger highways were closed. He directed me to turn left and go to the cheese factory (only in Wisconsin, I know...) and take a right when I got there. That would take me on an INSANE ride down a county road. The water in the fields was up to the road, and covering it in spots. Thank God I was following a semi...I latched onto him and followed him for most of the rest of my trip. I could feel him just pulling me along, willing me to keep up and stay in his huge, strong escort and savior.

Eventually we got to the next main town and headed back to the highway, only to find that they had extended the closed section. Mr Semi led me down the frontage road for a few miles, and eventually back onto the highway. Mind you, the storm was SEVERE and I could only see his lights...not the road, not the divider lines...nothing. The lightning was unlike anything I've ever seen. At several times on the stretch before reaching the next city we drove through water a foot deep. I was driving an Impala and more than once I felt it be pulled towards the shoulder by the water. When we made it to the next town lightning struck no more than 50 feet from me. I have never heard such a noise or seen such hot light. Whatever it was that it hit threw sparks high into the air like fireworks. I cannot begin to tell you how terrifying that was. Every time the sky lit up I flinched and gasped for a was INCREDIBLE.

The radio guy said that the entire city had been closed and driving was not allowed anywhere in the city. The frontage road was a river and the highway had long stretches where the water was at least a couple of inches deep on the highway. Next the traffic came to a complete stop. There were emergency vehicles everywhere you looked. I assumed that they were either closing the highway again or that there was an accident. As it turned out, neither was the case...they were apparently trying to figure out what to do, because the water was very deep under the next overpass. I did get to continue on, but I was amazed when I passed that spot...the water was up to my car door!!! Things started settling down the closer I got to my city, about 20 minutes away...still storming but no flooding.

Nearly six hours after I left the airport I finally got home safely. Chris had the news on and they were showing photos of the flooding I went through one town down...I understood why they had closed the city. People were kayaking down the middle of streets, a full sized dumpster was floating down another road.... Countless towns had been completely shut down and no roads going in or out were passable. I have never experienced anything like this and it truly felt like I was living in some sort of disaster movie. I cannot believe that I made it home safely.

Please say a prayer for all of the people who have been left homeless or stranded. With more rain coming they will need all of the prayers they can get.


Jan said...

Oh my gosh, how scary! We spent some time in our basement during this storm. I can't even IMAGINE driving in it! I'm glad you're okay!

Textual Chocolate said...

are you sure you're not making this up? We haven't had a drop of rain in our neck of the woods! ;-)