I don’t know about y’all, but when I see those news stories where drivers get trapped in dangerous floodwaters after attempting to cross rain-swollen roads, I always think to myself, “what in the world was that dunderhead thinking?” Well, I can now definitively report to you exactly what at least one of those dunderheads was thinking, and that dunderhead is me.
Like so many areas of the country today, we are experiencing some pretty significant flooding here in Knoxville (Tennessee). I’ve seen plenty of scary flooding scenes on TV over the years, but I have never come face to face with rising water myself. Until today, that is.
I left my office at lunchtime today, driving my 2007 Honda Odyssey minivan, and intending to be back at my desk in an hour. A big thunderstorm had just hit as I left the building, but I figured that the heavy rain wasn’t any different than any other heavy rain though which I’ve driven a million times in my life. As I got to a side road known for occasional flooding, I could see that there was some water in the road, but honestly, it just looked like a large puddle. I am a very cautious person when it come to things like water, and I had absolutely no worries about continuing down the road.
And then everything just happened so fast that I can’t even quite figure out the exact series of events. All I can tell you is that one minute I was driving down a heavily traveled, wet road, and the next minute my car was stalled out, and water was rising so fast that it was soon up to my ankles inside the car. After that, it was to my knees. I had dialed 911, and I was trying to explain to the dispatcher how serious the situation was, as people on the side of the road, at the edge of the water, began yelling at me to abandon the car immediately. I decided that they were correct, and I took the plunge, holding my briefcase with ipad, cellphone and laptop over my head. The water was chest high, and swirling in a way that made it hard to walk forward. I fell once, swallowing a big mouthful of muddy floodwater before regaining my footing, but I finally made it to “shore.” It seemed like it took a lot longer than it probably did.
I didn’t really know where to go or what to do. Rain of Biblical proportions continued to fall, and I was soaked, covered in mud and freezing. I slogged through the ankle deep water down the block to a library. Once I got inside, I allowed myself to fully grasp what had just happened. I began shaking uncontrollably, and I went in the bathroom and cried. Seeing water rising into my car was terrifying. And all I could think about once I got into a dry building was what would have happened if I’d had any of my children with me, particularly my toddler or my infant. What if I’d had all four of them with me? How could I have gotten everyone out and safely to dry land? The very thought will certainly give me nightmares tonight.
I now understand for the first time how ostensibly reasonable people “accidentally” drive into flooded areas. Except, I really don’t. I am still not entirely sure how I failed to see that the wet spot in the road was actually a raging river that would in moments begin rising quickly. Like I said, it just all happened so fast.
Tonight my car remains underwater. My very sweet husband has been taking care of insurance issues and other logistics because I am so shaken up and exhausted by what happened. The insurance guy tells us that the car is likely a total financial loss, which we SO DID NOT NEED after the catastrophically awful year we’ve had. Aside from the car, though, this whole thing just seems unbelievable to me; I still can’t believe it actually happened.
Have you ever been in any kind of natural disaster? Were your kids with you or no? How did you handle it. Tell me in the comments below.
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