Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Weathering the storm.

Here in New Orleans, we knew to expect heavy rain from the outer bands of Hurricane Harvey. Since the city's Sewarage and Water Board's incompetence has put our neighborhoods at risk of flooding, everyone has been nervous about the severity of the downpour.

Yesterday the rain started around 1:00 pm. I was at work on the University of New Orleans campus. My office window looks out into a courtyard, and we could see the pavement within pool up with water. As the wind dashed rain against the glass, we could hear a strange geyser sound, and I caught video here - it must be that as the downspouts reach capacity, they back up and burst up into the air.

The campus was closed and classes cancelled at around 2:05. I was watching the weather radar on my screen and could see a lull in the action, so I stayed to finish the task I was working on. I left about 2:30.

As I walked toward the parking lot and my car, I could see that the road between was flowing with water; cars were slowly navigating through it, raising little wakes. It looked about 6 - 8 inches high. I was wearing flipflops, and figured I could make my way across. I stepped into the water, and was fine for about four feet, and then in a depth up to the middle of my calves, the current lifted and turned my sandal and I lost my footing. I went down on one knee.

There were people and cars all around and I felt embarrassed. I remember that my bag slipped from my shoulder and went in the water; I hiked it back up and struggled to my feet. I was soaked to the waist, my skirt streaming with water. I finished crossing the road. The water was more shallow in the parking lot.

My bag was now a bucket full of water. I fumbled inside it for the smaller bag that held my cellphone. All I could think of was how I didn't want to lose it. Luckily, it was still dry. I kept it in my hand high on my body, under my ruined umbrella, and waded slowly to my car.

Here the water was just up to the rims of my wheels. I watched other cars slowly make their way, and finally went for it myself. Traffic choked the campus road, but fortunately the south-bound land was a little higher than the northbound.  This turned out to be the most seriously flooded road on my route home. Elysian Fields beneath I-610 was not at all flooded, as I had feared. I made it home without further incident.

I worried about travelling to campus on Tuesday, which is my longest day of classes. But around 6:00 pm, we learned that schools, including UNO, would be closed Tuesday.

This morning around 2:30 am, the rain started falling. Lightly at first, and then hard. By the time I got out of bed, around 8:00, it was really coming down. I dressed. Cabin fever! Irrationally, I wanted to get out and explore.

I put on my rain boots and a hooded jacket. I felt irrationally excited. I got in the car and headed out for breakfast. I told myself I should stay close to home, but then I passed up Elizabeth's, which is only about five blocks from me, and continued on into the Marigny. I passed up Who Dat - my favorite tables are the outdoor ones, and now rain was really pounded. Was I crazy? Further into the triangle, and there was a parking place across from Horn's. I parked.

The hostess and three guys were seated outside, beneath the overhang. I furled my umbrella and said "Good morning!" I grabbed a table inside by the window, and ordered coffee and a bloody mary with my breakfast.  It felt like a festive morning, oddly.

I was one of two customers inside a room that usually hums with activity.  The darkness of the storm outside lent a gloom to the place. read a book and lingered over coffee, watching the rain pound fiercely outside and then slacken. By the time I'd finished my second cup of coffee, the skies had lightened and the rain had slowed to a drizzle.

Right now, around 1:00, it's dry. Although weather alerts have buzzed on my phone, as far as the local news goes, the city has not experienced bad flooding. The radar shows more coming, though.

We're bracing for it.

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