Thursday, May 6, 2010

Water, Water Everywhere

As my sweet mother used to say, "Lord have mercy!" What a week it has been!

I left home last Saturday a little before 7 a.m., on my way to South Arkansas, to the town where I grew up, for an annual reunion with a group of my old chums. (You can see photos over at Kelly's blog).

I had heard the forecast for Nashville for Saturday -- really hard rain, maybe up to several inches. Not a bad time to get out of town, I thought, even though I hated to be leaving Wife and Younger Son behind. But with Daughter hitting town Monday, and Younger Son with a playoff rugby game on Saturday, Wife just couldn't make the trip. (We decided once we saw our first rugby game that one of us would ALWAYS be in town when Younger Son was playing. It's rough out on that field). Wife was, however, kind enough to make butter gooey cake and key lime pie for me to contribute to our pot luck dinner.

Just as I pulled out of the driveway it started to rain. As I proceeded west down Interstate 40, it only got harder. I was thankful for modern technology as Wife and I stayed in close touch by cell . She was following the storm and told me things were getting ominous. Pull over if it gets too bad, she told me.

Just past Jackson, TN, after I had gone about two hours, I came to a virtual standstill. The rain was coming down in torrents. Wife was following the track of the storm on the Internet and I managed to find a local radio station, the announcers of which were telling people to stay off the roads, many of which were being closed. Flooding was threatened all around me and there were tornado and severe thunderstorm watches.

Since I travel this route at some point most every week to go to my office in Memphis, I have all the exits memorized. I decided I would turn back at Exit 60 and head back home. I was creeping along and had gone maybe two miles in two hours. When I finally got to Exit 60, it had been almost three. Wife had just called and said she wasn't so sure turning back was a good idea, that it had started raining so hard between Jackson and Nashville that part of the Interstate had been closed.

When I got to Exit 60, traffic was moving just a bit faster. I knew the next exit would be 56, just four miles further, so I decided I would give it until then and if things had not broken up, I would definitely turn back. I was seeing a number of cars that had just pulled over to wait things out. Mysteriously, I was noticing that there was hardly any traffic on the other side of the Interstate heading east back toward Nashville.

I called my friends in Arkansas who would be hosting dinner Saturday night and warned them that things were not looking good and I might have to turn back. I hated the thought of not making it but was also beginning to be a bit fearful.

At Mile Marker 59, I learned the reason traffic was so slow and why I had been seeing so few cars on the other side. The road dips ever so slightly at this juncture and water was pouring into that dip and covering both sides of the median. There was a police vehicle stopped in the middle of the east-bound lanes. Vehicles were still passing through going west though. There was a pickup truck in front of me that made it through. I was driving my Honda Pilot SUV and knew I had as much height as the truck, so I proceeded slowly and I would guess I was in water up to my doors for about 100 feet or so. I prayed, and about half-way through I was a little frightened. Soon I was at the other side, though, and there was no turning back. As I said, the east-bound lanes were now closed.

I called Wife and told her I had made it and was proceeding at a normal pace, and would not be returning home. Pray for us, she told me. Tornado sirens were sounding and the rain was getting harder, she said. I called my friends and told them I should arrive about "party time" after my three-hour delay.

Wife and I stayed in close touch throughout the day. Younger Son's rugby game had been canceled, as had most activities around town. She told me water was beginning to seep into our basement and garage (downstairs on the same level as the basement) but everything else looked OK. She said she had never seen such rain.

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I arrived at my friends' house and soon our group was all together. We had a great time, as we always do, talking, laughing and eating, starting hundreds of conversations that never get finished because one topic makes someone remember another and we have to talk about that, and then we forget where we started. We laughed to the point of tears many times.

I tell you, I love these people. Some of us go back close to (gulp!) 50 years! We were all in the same graduating class. When we get together like this, all early 50-somethings, we are suddenly 17 and 18 again. (No, we don't look it, but we feel it). I am so incredibly blessed to still have the connection with these folks. Thanks to all for another great time.

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We stayed up until well past midnight so I did not call Wife. I tried to reach her once during the evening but she didn't answer.

She called at 8 Sunday morning to tell me that things were disastrous in Nashville, that it was being called a 500-year flood. She and Younger Son were fine but were without power and water. I could sense the anxiety in her voice and I so wanted to get in the car and go home. You won't be able to get here, she told me. The Interstate between Memphis and Nashville was closed.

I was able to get on the Internet and see some photos of the devastation. I couldn't believe it. I saw some photos of areas very near my house. Fortunately we were spared any major damage. Wife called back about mid-afternoon as I was heading toward Memphis, and said power had been restored to our neighborhood and that made things much better. A water main had broken in our little suburb and that had caused the water shortage. Fortunately she had gotten some bottles of water before things got too bad on Saturday.

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It's Thursday night and I just came home this afternoon after working in Memphis since Monday. Wife assured me everything was OK and I had a full week scheduled over there, so I just stayed as I had originally planned.

It's rather surreal here. We're on the national news. Anderson Cooper from CNN is broadcasting from here tonight. The Cumberland River crested at 51.5 feet Monday night, but not before it went over its banks and into downtown Nashville. The downtown business district has been pretty much shut down all week with no power. Our beautiful symphony hall was flooded as was the Country Music Hall of Fame.

The Opryland Hotel, one of the iconic landmarks, is under about 6 feet of water, as is the Opry House. (Note to self: when it's back up and running I will finally attend a performance of the Grand Ole Opry!)

We have been declared a disaster area. Older Son has friends, a young couple, who lost just about everything. He helped them all day one day this week to salvage what they could Their house is ripped down to its studs and they did not have flood insurance. Seems that's the case with a lot of folks who, apparently, figured what are the odds?

We are changed by events such as this. We see this kind of things on TV in other places but now we are living it. We understand.

6 comments:

BP in NC said...

Bob,

I'm glad to hear the (relatively) good news for you and yours. We've been thinking about you this week and I've been checking the blog in hopes of getting this report. Thanks for the update.

Best wishes,

Barry Parks

Bob said...

Hey Barry! Of all the weekends I would choose to go back to "L.A.!!!" Great to hear from you.

Pencil Writer said...

Wow! I didn't realize that you lived in the Nashville area. Hope things improve there. And, hey! Where's FEMA? ('Scuse me for asking such an outrageous question.) But, be grateful you're not part of the New Orleans legacy. And now we have an oil spill . . . I best not say what I'm really thinking about that disaster. We have friends with a family member who was working that rig. He got out, but then there were 11 who they still haven't accounted for.

Hope you get your basement and garage back to normal soon.

Kelly said...

It was certainly a wild weekend...and I'm meaning that weather-wise!! I'm so saddened by the photos of all the devastation. The loss of life, too. Unbelievable! I'm thankful that you and yours didn't suffer and major damage.

Selfishly, I'm glad you were able to make it down. We really did have such a wonderful time. I hope your wife knows just how much we enjoyed the treats she sent (you failed to mention the chocolate thingys). They were ALL delicious! Don't forget everyone wants the key lime recipe!

BUSH BABE said...

I have been watching the news from afar and hoping that the damage is less than anticipated. I didn't make it to Nashville on my one and only American visit. Next time!!

Glad you and yours are okay.
:-)
BB

Debby said...

Gees, Bob, I finally got a chance to read this whole post yesterday. I read it to Tim as we waited for lunch to bake after church. Your pictures were eye openers. We don't get television any longer, so we had not seen pictures at all. We are glad that you and yours are okay. We are also glad to see know that you are pitching right in to help others.