Wednesday, October 02, 2019

I was that idiot

You know the people who try to drive during extreme weather events and then get stuck in their cars due to rising floodwaters? The people we laugh at when we see them on the news? "Why did that idiot try to drive in this rainstorm? Doesn't he know that this city's roads flood during heavy rains!?"

Well, a couple of Thursdays ago, during the deluge caused by the remnants of Tropical Storm Imelda, I was that idiot.

That morning I went to TxDOT's district headquarters for a meeting. I wasn't particularly concerned about the weather at that point - the deluge forecast for the previous day had never materialized, and it was not raining at all during my trip to the meeting. I noticed on the radar that there was a rain band sagging southward through the city but I didn't think too much of it at the time. My hope was that it would pass through fairly quickly while I was at the meeting and clear out before I made my way back to the office. I wanted to get back there and wrap up a few things as quickly as I could, because Corinne and I were scheduled to fly to New Orleans that afternoon.

It wasn't too long before the storms arrived. The lights in the meeting room flickered with every lighting strike, and the windows rattled with the thunder. The guy from METRO sitting next to me received an alert on his phone that his agency had just suspended all bus and rail service. I received a text from Southwest Airlines informing me that my flight had been delayed one hour. The radar app on my phone showed ominous hues of orange and red. Things weren't looking good.

By the time the meeting had ended, the city was facing a serious flooding situation. However, my desire to get back to my office and try to make my flight overrode what should have been common sense. The radar indicated that things might be about to clear up; if I stay off the below-grade freeways and keep to major surface streets, I reasoned to myself, I should be able to make to back to the office.

So I (stupidly) headed down Washington Avenue towards Shepherd, and then made my way onto Kirby. Water was high in places, and the downpour was torrential, but people were slowly making their way through. It wasn't until I turned off of Kirby onto West Alabama that I began to get concerned: the water had gotten so high that only the very middle of the street was passable, and the rainfall was so heavy I could hardly see in front of me (the clearing that I thought I saw on my phone's radar app had, needless to say, never materialized). The further I drove, the deeper into the water I found myself. The water got to be so high that it was reaching the belts on my car's engine, causing them to squeal. It was only a matter of time before the water would cause my engine to stall out completely; it was at that point, coincidentally, that Southwest sent me a text informing me that my flight had been canceled altogether.

I was only a few blocks away from my office, but it was obvious I wasn't going to make it; I needed to find a place to stop and hopefully wait out the deluge. So I turned off of West Alabama and on to Buffalo Speedway, found a median opening at the street's highest point, parked and waited. I also took a couple of pictures:

The rain continued to come down, and the water continued to rise. I watched the curb of the median opening slowly disappear beneath the floodwater. Every time a truck or other large vehicle with enough clearance to navigate the floodwaters would drive by, it would send a wave of water crashing into my car, causing it to feel like it was about to float away. I continued to nervously watch my phone's radar app, and actually began to give thought to abandoning the car and sloshing my way in the rain and floodwater towards higher ground, such as a nearby building or parking garage.

Why didn't I just stay at TxDOT's office? I would have been high and dry there. Like I said, I was that idiot.

Thankfully, the rain began to let up, and I took a short video documenting my stupidity:

Buffalo Speedway drained relatively quickly once the rain stopped; before too long I was able to continue on to my office with no problem whatsoever. But still: I never should have put myself in that position to begin with. It just wasn't worth it.

Of course, as I mentioned in my previous post, our trip to New Orleans never happened. Southwest let us reschedule for later this month.

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