Friday, July 23, 2010

White knuckle trip

My ride home from work last night was easily the scariest ride of my life.

The forecast for the afternoon had called for thunderstorms, after a morning of scattered rain and being saturated by heavy storms last week.

The Hubster called me around 4:45 pm to say, "Good. You're still there. Stick around the office for awhile, ok? There are tornado warnings up by us and if you stick around till 5:15 or 5:30, you should miss them."

Great advice...and I was still working anyway.

Knowing there was a second wave of storms due to come through, I left the office right at 5:30. One of the first things I heard on the radio was that I-43 northbound, my usual route home, was at a stand-still. The Hubster called again.

"Hey - the news says I-43 is going nowhere. You should catch Fond du Lac Ave and head over toward I-45." For those of you not from the Milwaukee area, this was rather scary news. I-43 runs north/south on the eastern side of the city, I-45 runs north/south on the western side. Most of the area between the two is, well, bad scary neighborhoods. Not the kind of area you'd want to drive through if you don't have to. But Fond du Lac does run on an angle to the northwest, and was really the best way to get to a freeway that would get me home quicker.

So off I went. I didn't get very far before the deluge of rain made Fond du Lac Avenue impassible. Around 30th Street, it dips down to go below a train trestle, and cars were already getting stuck in the huge puddle of water underneath. I wisely turned onto a side street and headed due north.

Within blocks, I was gripping the steering wheel going "OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD IN HEAVEN DON'T LET ME GET STUCK!!!" I was driving down the dead center of the road because the water along the curbs was, well, over the curbs, and here I was, this stupid woman driving a Honda Civic in a flash flood.

I got to Burleigh and turned east, thinking that 27th Street, a larger thoroughfare, would be a better option. Only there was construction along the curb line on Burleigh and there was an arm chair floating away with the construction debris. 27th Street wasn't much better. I only got a few blocks north before cars were turning around to avoid the lake that had become the road.

I saw myself as that stupid chick on the news, wet and disheveled, saying, "I don't know what happened. The water just came up from nowhere!" I didn't want to be that chick. I kept driving, backtracking and heading in a direction I didn't need to go in because it was the only way that was open. I drove down the center of the road when I could, hearing the water giving my Honda a car enema, praying I could just keep going.

Essentially what happened was I had driven myself into the very center of the worst part of the flash flooding.

To make a long story short, just about every main road was closed or impassible at some point. Both freeways were shut down, as well as the airport, and the Milwaukee Police Administration building was without power. I drove through areas where I looked up to see water stretching from me to the front doors of peoples' houses. I literally kept my car moving for fear that if I stopped, my car would either stall or be sucked into the flow of water and into a sinkhole or down a newly formed road river. (Go check those stories out - the pictures are just amazing.)

I haven't prayed that much in a long, long time.

I actually took off my wedding ring because I was hurting my hand, gripping the steering wheel so hard.

I kept looking for places to pull over and wait out the storm. Only gas station parking lots were under feet of water, and the establishments that had higher, dry lots were ringed by moats of fast-flowing water that were far too deep to attempt in my car. So I just kept moving.

Two and a half hours and a long long phone call later (during which my hubby directed and re-directed me) I finally made it home.

I'm thankful to say that we're far enough away from the city that we escaped its flooding problems.

But oh Lordie, would you look at that? Its raining again.

The one and only picture I had time to take from my phone. Its small and low-res, and taken after the water started to recede, but that side street was completely under water, covering yards and parking lots. That orange car was hopelessly stuck.

You can check out more pictures here:
Milwaukee JournalSentinel staff photos
Milwaukee JournalSentinel reader submitted photos 
TMJ4 - photos & raw video
TMJ4 main page - lots of news updates and video
(TMJ4 has also just reported that a house has just been sucked into a sinkhole)


Secret Mom Thoughts said...

Wow. Glad you made it home ok. Scary stuff.

Melisa with one S said...

Ugh. I've driven in weather like that. So glad you're okay!

Roger said...

Glad that you made it home safe and dry. Amazing how bad the weather was for you guys, yet we didn't get but a few drops.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

How terrifying! These rains and storms! Awful stuff.

Karen MEG said...

OMG what a harrowing experience!!!! I'm glad that orange car wasn't you ... so glad you made it home safe!

Krystle said...

Oh I hate weather like that!

And uhh, WISCONSIN!!!!!! Yay! :) Me too! Well, kind of - all my life up until about 4 months ago. Now I'm in Minnesota... boo! But I grew up in zip code 54014!