Soundtrack in my head: 5th Dimension, “The Rainmaker”
All right, so maybe I talked a little bit too much about rain. Now people are dealing with flooding. My heart and prayers go out to those dealing with the flooding in Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska. And while this hasn’t been in the news quite so much, I was struck by the CNN video footage a couple of days ago of the flash flooding occurring in the Oklahoma City area, and pictures of submerged vehicles that I hoped had no one in them. I actually have my own Oklahoma City flash flood story.
In June 1990, I was working in Oklahoma City on an advance team for the Global Walk. Three of us were in a van driving through the city when suddenly, swift dark clouds rolled in and the skies opened. Rarely had I seen such heavy pouring rain as I did that day.
Our van turned onto a street that dipped under a viaduct. As we were driving, we noticed that a car ahead of us was stalled in a puddle underneath the viaduct. We thought that since we were in a van, we would make it, but to our surprise, the van stalled before we could even make it to the viaduct. We tried to start it, and the engine turned over, but realized that we would not being going anywhere soon. We were near a Denny’s and so one of the members of our party got out in order to call his auto club. We sat in the van and waited as it continued to pour outside, and after a few minutes our friend came back. But instead of walking back to the van, our friend just stood at the edge of the street staring at us and I couldn’t understand why. I opened the door to the van and to my surprise, the water was up to the running board step. I quickly closed the door, and while we were concerned, we felt that we were better off in the van rather than wading through the water.
Our friend continued to stare at us, and as we looked at him, he seemed to be floating backwards. I thought it was strange that someone could be standing and at the same time floating backwards until I realized that WE were the ones floating backwards. Yes, our van was now floating in flooded waters. We decided that we needed to get out of there so we got out and found ourselves wading through water higher than our knees to the side of the road. Luckily, there was no swift current, so we had no problem keeping our balance.
(I’ve since learned how dangerous such a situation can be. I was 22, ill-informed, and still “immortal” when this happened, but I’d be less cavalier about it nowadays.)
We walked into the Denny’s soaking wet and had dinner there. When we finished, it had stopped raining and to our surprise, the floodwaters from the viaduct had drained away. Our van had floated onto the median of the road. We tried to start it again and couldn’t, so we had it towed back to the place where we were staying–at the home of a defense lawyer who lived near the edge of town. It turned out that a couple of his clients, whom he affectionately referred to as “his criminals,” were auto mechanics, and so he had them look at the van to see what was wrong with it.
They lifted the hood and were surprised to discover a live garter snake hanging from the radiator hose. Apparently it had swam there during the flood and found the van to be a warm and comfortable place. Or perhaps it wanted to mate with the radiator hose.
The attorney we were staying with lived so far on the edge of the city that he was out of range of the tornado sirens. So he had a weather radio with an alarm on it. I had never seen or heard of one of these before—that is until it screeched at top volume at 3 a.m. on a shelf just two feet above my head while I was sleeping. Luckily there was someone else in the room who was lucid enough to figure out what it was and turn the thing off–otherwise, no one else would have been there to peel me off the ceiling. We ended up moving the weather radio to another room–because it was June in Oklahoma City and because the local NOAA weather radio station covered about one-third of the state of Oklahoma, this weather radio went off at least two or three times per day.