Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Great Flood of 2014
(Or, What I Did On My
Summer Vacation)

There are a million stories in the soggy city. This is mine.

If you're not a Detroiter, this may be news.... we have gotten unbelievable amounts of rain -- four to five inches at last report -- hitting Detroit and Wayne County between 1630 and 2000 hrs last night. Widespread devastation. Took me about seven hours to get home (but get home I did).

The pictures below tell the tale....

It started looking bad on I-696 heading west in Warren approaching the Hoover exit.... solid wall of water. The cars were doing something I've never seen before... stopping, doing a 180 and driving UP an entrance ramp the "wrong way." Hey, waterver works.

So I'm on the I696 service drive, which is beginning to flood as well.... so I pull right into a side street. Ironically, "Newport", which is north-south and perpendicular to the freeway. This is flooded out too.... so I pulled into someone's driveway and just stayed.

(The lights were off and nobody appeared to be home, so I don't think anyone minded.)

And there I waited for the rain to pass.

And waited.

And waited......

It was about this time I sent my first report on the event on Facebook.... (following is unedited to correct voicetotext insanities)....

I am on a driveway in front of a Random House house somewhere in Warren Michigan Street is so flooded vehicle can't pass water is over and over the top of the tires in Durham car stalled in the water all over the place I have never seen flooding like this I'm not anywhere near lake I hope whoever is POC driveway I'm in doesn't come home and find me here here water is coming down like sheets incredible! I'm probably relatively safe until the owner of the house gets here and then I'm going to have to do some splaining....

Well the rain stopped... but the water drew higher....

....and higher.....

....and higher.....

(Yes, those are my feet. Does that count as a selfie? God I hope not.)

After a bit when it became clear that the waters here weren't going to get any worse, I took a walk to the end of the street to see if there was a way out.

There wasn't.

This is the I696 Service Drive on the north side of the freeway, looking west.

 Some of the residents, looking like refugees.

And I decided to talk a walk to the freeway to see what I could see.


You see that mini Niagra to the right of the bridge? That's not a natural feature. That's, um, new.

Before the bridge started to subside I got on it to get shots of the freeway. The sight below is I-696, water to the top of the Jersey walls down the middle.  The white diagonal line is from the fence.

Straight down the middle. Note abandoned car to right.

Floating down the middle of the street is this little wooden carved model of a Model T, obviously made as a high school shop class project or something. I took it from the water and claimed it under the salvage laws. :) 

Later in the evening a man chortled when he saw it under my arm. "I was trying to throw that out!" he said. "I made it years ago. The flood must have dumped my trash can!"  I asked him if he minded my keeping it. He laughed. "Knock yourself out!" So I did.  It's now on my desk .... where it will serve as a memento.

Now you see the flood waters pouring down next to the Fairfield Street Bridge (mile marker 24.5 on I696). If you look closely you will see the bridge subsiding. The water is eating away the soil and rock underlying the bridge and the pylons begin to collapse.

Here you see a car abandoned under the bridge, lights on. Large numbers of Darwin Award candidates on bridge.

At this point my camera ran out of memory.

After this, I went back to my car, and proceeded to try to leave.... drove up Newport to Martin Road, found it blocked.... chatted with someone coming the other way (turns out he lived on Grove Pointe in St. Clair Shores, a block or so from my now-long-since-demolished (alas!) elementary school, Gordon). Waters closed off Martin, waters closed off 12 Mile, waters closed off 13 Mile. Chicago Road he said was dry; he'd just come up it.  We wished each other luck and I proceeded to drive....

In circles.

For the next four hours.

Here and there I stopped. Pulled into St. Martin Des Porres Church parking lot to rest... the rising waters forced me to leave.... I drove off helter skelter in any vaguely northern or western direction trying to get to my home....

.....and everywhere, everywhere, water.

No. way. out.

I will admit that aroused something I've not felt anywhere outside of Bosnia... a feeling that no matter how smart I think I am, no matter how resourceful, things happen that can't be coped with, can't be argued with, and can't be overcome.

You gotta understand, this standing water was on what passes for the high ground of residential Macomb County. We were nowhere near either the bridge nor the Clinton River. The waters were acting in ways that were completely unexpected--due (I later found) to the fact that the Great Drain at 12 Mile Road leading into the lake was closed for repairs at the time the storm hit, which is why the waters had nowhere to go.

In other words, things weren't working as they were supposed to work.....

I. did. not. like. that. Oh no.

I finally found myself having completed a circle and at a spot about a block from the church.  The road was 3/4 blocked by abandoned vehicles that couldn't handle the flood waters and drowned. (The vehicles, not the drivers; I later found only one person had died in this mess, a lady who had a heart attack.)

I'm a pretty law abiding guy. But. Sometimes however you have to act, um, in accordance with circumstances rather than the laws. So. I figured (this being an emergency) I decided to try to drive on the sidewalk past the floodwaters to the dry roadbed I could see a half mile off.

Ooops. Bad move.

Pulled off the road onto someone's lawn and proceeded to sink into the mud. No joy. My little 2009 Chevy Kobold, which had mastered the waters beautifully throughout the night, found the mud impossible to traverse.

And there I sat.

By 2:00 AM traffic had stopped except for emergency vehicles. I saw a dozen or more tow trucks drive by.... and no, they didn't stop for me. :( 

As the witching hour approached, two young men with a "kinky cab" pickup passed me and stopped. "Hey mister, does your car run?"

Thank God. "Drives through the water fine but I'm stuck in the mud."

"Not a problem!" They stopped, pulled back, and hooked a heavy duty tow line to my car.... the driver DOVE UNDER THE FLOOD WATERS to attach it to the front of my car chassis..... got out, and a minute later, I was on the move. 

I made a point of tipping them with the first bill that came to hand in my pocket. Later discovered it was my day's pay. Oops. Oh well. They earned it.

And home I went.

At last I found a way across. The waters receded from Twelve Mile Road and I was able to cross to Mound -- passing a hundred abandoned vehicles in a scene that reminded me of one of the early chapters of Stephen King's The Stand -- got to Mound, and headed north.

And home.

Today, I mostly stayed home--couldn't get to work--so here we were.

The whole ordeal took a lot more out of me than I expected--since I could not go to work today due to the roads out, I spent most of the day asleep--and the rest of the waking time with that special sadness that follows a Memento Mori.

Driving in circles as I did at one point, desperately trying to get home and finding There is No Way Out..... served as a warning.

"Protect What You Have." - Art Spiegelman, 1972

1 comment:

  1. Hi....use to live on Newport 27000 block.....where were you hold up at?? Loved your play by play...glad you're ok....very sad for my old neighborhood.......love your writing will be visiting here again......J


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