Summer storms


I brushed my teeth by candle light last night, weird shadows flickering against the walls.

I hung a flashlight on the shower curtain rod this morning, tried to see my makeup in the half-light of a cloudy pre-dawn morning and the swinging yellow of a flashlight bulb.

And I counted myself lucky not to have a basement.

They were calling for storms yesterday afternoon. I knew that, but the worst seemed to be passing north of us and I didn’t pay attention.

But I guess warnings flashed on the television screen and I’d eaten half a piece of peanut-butter and honey toast when our neighbor’s signature knock startled me. He wouldn’t come in, stood there on the porch in the hot sun and the heavy, thick air while the wind started to pick up, asked if we couldn’t move our car somewhere protected and maybe stay out of our kitchen, that tree there at the corner’s waiting to go.

We thanked him and promised to be careful but thought he was over-reacting. A young piano student ran up the walk and he shook his head, said terrible time for a piano lesson, headed home.

And while I started the lesson JJ looked up the warning. They were calling for winds up to 70 miles an hour, quarter-size hail. He called my sister home from the coffee shop, left to park the car in the city garage, hurried home to beat the rain.

We didn’t get the wind or the hail, but we got rain – a month’s worth over the space of a few hours. Basements filled with feet of water in places and roads flooded beyond passing and creeks turned into raging rivers, overflowing banks and turning yards into ponds.

Lightening struck near us and the power went out all at once and we spent the evening in darkness, ferret noses twitching whenever we struck a match. And the rain still came.

I didn’t know the damage until I got to work, saw it in the exhaustion of the photographer who’s a firefighter by night. Firefighters pumped basements all night long. Photos poured in of water flowing down roads. The borough called a it a disaster. I wondered how long before the freezer lost it’s cool, the meat and fruit stored there spoiled.

Today I drive around town, looking for damage, for residents spreading belongings out to dry. They’re calling for scattered rain today and if it comes the flooding will start again. Business owners are crossing fingers, hoping to stay open all day.

Someone invites me down to see his basement, a stinking film of mud and sewage coats everything and I flee as quickly as I can. Another tells of seeing her pet rat swim through the basement.

We missed it all, in our house on higher ground.

And I’m awfully glad.

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