Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hearty stock Part II

While it should be known that the correspondent is crazy, he's not insane. His descriptives have awed me for years. Why this guy isn't blogging this stuff himself is a mystery. But I am honored to pass it along. When things have settled down some, I will go back to harping on him to start a blog or maybe join me here. Until then, read, link and share this fine writing.

(The second of a two part post)

It wasn't long before we hit the first serious water crossing the road. I saw
the brake lights come on ahead of me, the car slowing to a mere walk as it drove
through. Then the sheets of water stopped splashing out from under it and it was
on pavement again. From the car's tail lights I judged my little scooter, the
Mexican Pontiac, could make it. It wanted to make me hold my breath, but we came

Then another low spot, water rushing across the road at a furious pace. The
first car made it. So did I. Behind me the cars were stretching out the
distances between themselves, although I could no longer see them.

Driving on pavement and not water, I kept my speed at 10 MPH. I'd lost sight of
the car ahead--until I came around a corner and saw it enter a block-long river
across the road deep enough to have wild ripples and waves in it. I came to a
dead stop. The car ahead stopped, then moved forward at a creep.

Suddenly I saw it come to a dead stop, a third of the way through. Flooded?
Engine dead? What did I have in my car that would help me get that driver out
and all the way back to land?

Then I saw reverse lights come on. The car was backing out, but backing at the
wrong angle. It was going to leave the road. I flashed my lights rapidly, but
the car did not stop. It was attempting to turn around in the road in the middle
of the flood water!

And amazingly, it made it.

I pulled over as far as possible, killed my headlights and turned on my
flashers. There were still no cars coming up behind us. I got out with my
flashlight and waited for the driver to approach me. When the car pulled
alongside and stopped, I saw it was a woman. She was near tears. She said she
simply could not make it. She knew the road dropped two or three more feet ahead
of her and there was no way she would attempt that.

I asked her where she lived? She pointed behind her to a house just on the other
side of the raging water. "Right there. That's my house. I can't get to it. I'm
a nervous wreck already. I'm going to my sister's and then call my husband.
He'll be worried sick. I just couldn't do it..."

I noticed lights behind me. The first car following me had made it through where
we had been and was slowly approaching. As the badly rattled woman drove away I
stood in the road and waved my flashlight back and forth rapidly. On this night
such a signal could only have one meaning. The vehicle kept coming. It was
Kerry, my friend from work.

"Don't try it bud. You won't make it. I saw that lady almost swamp her car
trying to get through."

"That bad, huh?"

"Yep. I'm sure as hell not going to try it."

Kerry had noted the woman was driving a small car similar to mine. He was in a
Jeep, legendary for their ability to go almost anywhere.

"I'm gonna try it."

"Your choice, Kerry. But I don't have any way of getting you out if you don't
make it. And you'll never be able to walk in that kind of water. It'd sweep you
off your feet and right into the creek. That would be bad."

Kerry laughed and said he'd be slow and cautious. He rolled ahead as I stood in
the road, trying to keep an eye on him while also waving my flashlight
frantically at the next two cars creeping up behind me. They stopped dead in
their tracks, watching Kerry and me. It began to rain again but I ignored it,
standing in the road.

Kerry pushed on into the water. Soon I heard his exhaust pipe go under, the Jeep
making a loud gurgling sound as it blew out exhaust gasses. From the glow of his
tail lights I saw his rear bumper disappear after moving just a few more feet.
Yeah, Jeeps are tough, I thought. But they ain't boats. All I could do was
watch. Kerry was moving at a snail's pace and I held my breath. I've only known
him a few months, but he was a nice enough guy that I didn't want to watch him
die in front of me.

At a point about thirty yards beyond where the woman stopped, Kerry stopped. I
could see steam forming around the hood of the Jeep. I thought he'd made the
last mistake a person in that situation could make, going in deep enough to
where the water reached his fan, which would immediately blow water all over the
engine, shorting out the plugs and distributor, killing the engine instantly.

In the wink of an eye I formed and forgot five or six different ways to get to
him. I had no idea what to do. Over the rushing water and the rain I could hear
nothing else. Then, remarkably, I saw his reverse lights come on too.

The damned fool had NOT flooded out. But he was giving up, backing out slowly.
The chilly water rushing against his engine block was raising so much steam he
looked like a ruptured boiler, but he was moving. When he got out of the water,
he did a quick turnaround and pulled up to me, grinning like a teenager who'd
just talked a cop out of a speeding ticket.

I said, "Don't let that engine die, whatever you do. It wouldn't start again for
a month if you don't leave it running until she dries herself off."

"Yeah, I know. I don't think we're going back that way tonight."

"I kinda figured that. Which way are you going to go?"

He thought only for a second, then said, "Up 231, hit 36, and then pick up 59
and head south from there, I guess."

"Me too. It's at least forty miles out of our way, but it beats dying out here."

"Yeah. Were you signaling those guys like you signaled me?" He pointed to the
cars turning around in the road and heading back the way we'd all came.

"I did, but I think they were all watching you. If you'd made it, they'd have
run over me, probably." He laughed again.

"This ain't gonna be over until we get there. Be careful."

"You too."

And he drove away. I got into my car, turned around slowly on the pavement, and
got through the other rough spots we'd forded before they rose to high to pass
too. It wouldn't take them long, not with it raining again.

Then back to Greencastle, north on State Highway 231, and the long, long, loop
around Highways 36 and 59 to the same damned road I'd left an hour and a half
before, this time going in from exactly the opposite direction. From here I had
only two choices left, both of them reasonably close to each other. I took my
best shot first and it was clear. I was out of the low ground and heading
higher, towards home. I came in over two hours late. I was soaked, exhausted,
rained on every inch of the long way, but I was alive. So I guess that means I
won. It would have been difficult to have typed this if I had been stupid last
night. I wouldn't be here and no one would have found me in time.

Today's news is carrying more about the great Midwestern floods now, since it's
obvious this will affect food prices and fuel shipments to the Coastie bastards
who run the networks. They're worse than even I thought. They horse-whipped a
far greater portion of the country than I had known.

In our local forecast they predict no rain now for at least 48 hours. It will
take two weeks minimum for the land to dry with no rain at all, and no one knows
what is coming behind that 48 hours.

Indiana has exceeded its all-time high flood levels, set in March, 1913. Some
rivers are four feet over their records now. Four FEET. When you calculate that
out into acres covered by water, the area becomes staggering.

No one knows the condition of some towns now. They were evacuated and no one has
been back to see if anything is still standing. Poor Clinton, turned into an
island town sometime on Saturday, is being partially occupied by citizens who
simply declared themselves to be police. (Some looting has already been reported
and no one will be surprised when the first looters are dropped in their
tracks.) Their county Sheriff said as long as they didn't shoot anyone "who
didn't need it" that was just fine with him. His small force was needed elsewhere.

A little town named Elmira was fighting a tooth-and-nail battle with flood
waters approaching their town, using bulldozers to scrape up topsoil from fields
and make berms ahead of the water. The farmers who owned the land had no
complaint about their fields being turned into dams. There would be no crop this
year anyway, and most of them had friends and family in town. Every person who
was physically able was filling sandbags and reinforcing the berms, when a
person came running down into the field screaming that water was nearly into the
town, coming from *the opposite direction of the flow*!

Luckily, Elmira had a few National Guardsmen and they held the line in the
cornfields while citizens and volunteers raced to the other side of town.
Working from late yesterday afternoon, nonstop through the night, they held the
water just 125 feet from the nearest house in Elmira before the situation was
stabilized. A local TV station interviewed one weary older farmer. He said he
didn't know what to make of it. That water, according to him, didn't have no
reason to have come from that direction. It didn't make sense. Several
townspeople agreed, saying that a flood approaching from that direction was
impossible as far as any of them could see it. But it did and they stopped it
just in time. The reporter closed that story by saying that when this was all
over, the town was going to call in surveyors and engineers to explain it
because all common sense said it simply couldn't have happened.

I saw a few helicopter films while busy and running in and out today. Interstate
65 is flooded in several places, semis and cars stranded on the hills now.
Everyone with a boat is trying to ferry them out to safety. I was surprised to
see a helicopter videotape, the TV station choppers being pressed into use as
rescue craft too. Then the newsman said that had been filmed by one of the few
National Guard helicopters left in Indiana, a battered old Nam-era Huey. As I
reported earlier, most of our Blackhawks are fighting another war much farther
from home.

Ham radio operators have set up their emergency communication systems now.
Temporary cell phone towers mounted on trucks are being moved into high areas
where it's possible to do so. Now that the freaking rain has stopped and
aircraft can fly, many private pilots are ferrying people and things around the
state. It's beginning to come back together. Slowly, we're starting to realize
just how hard we've been hit. No one has yet come up with any kind of
explanation for it, but that will have to wait. There's too much to do now.

I've two large trees down on my property, apparent victims of wind. One lays
across my driveway even now. I roared out into the grass and went around it last
night and when I made it back to the drive I knew I could never do that again.
Trying it even once more would have sank the car, probably even the truck. It
was the last bit of luck I needed to get home.

Figuring I'd seen enough and had been through plenty, I called the shop and told
them to forget about me coming in today. I got to Brazil and picked up the new
radiator for my tractor and fifteen more gallons of gas in cans. Both will be
put into good use around here ASAP. The National Weather Service has been saying
all along that what has happened here since Friday was not exactly--ahh,
possible--and they're disturbingly quiet about what's coming in 48 hours. More
than likely, they have no idea themselves. They didn't predict this. They could
never have have predicted this. It just does not happen. Weather of this kind
has never been seen here since even before they began to keep accurate records.
Weather of this kind just doesn't make sense anywhere.

And we're still months away from the end of the "average" tornado season.

The fighting back against nature continues. I gotta get up off my butt and get a
few more things done before dark. A third of the state has been formally
declared a federal disaster area. It's far from over yet.

Tuesday, 8:42 PM

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