Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Storm of the century

What started out as a much coveted rainy day in the city turned into a much detested torrential downpour. I was on my way to work, like any other normal day, except that the traffic was a bit heavier due to the thunderstorms that began in the wee hours of the morning. I arrived at work late, but understandably so because any water on the roads is cause for panic by the water-retarded El Pasoans.

The day began routinely, but as I sauntered into the employee lounge to get my caffeine fix, I noticed the news reports. The rain we so desperately needed kept coming and coming and coming. There was no end in sight, which is rare as usually we get rain for about 20 minutes maximum and then it disappears. This was not the case. On the news I saw areas flooding...areas that looked extremely familiar. The majority of the rains and the damages were being reported on the westside of town...quite near my house.

There was no way to get home in my car. The freeway was closing as it was flooding rapidly, the side streets were flooded over. My boss came in at 9:45 am and said "Get outta here while you can." I caught a ride with my assistant's mom in her big suburban and we barely made it. It took us 2 hours when it normally takes 15 minutes. We had to drive through flooded areas of the freeway that were so deep, the water was almost right up to the windows. Thankfully we made it before it got worse.

I saw the streets being ripped apart, people wading in water up to their waists, cars being swept down into arroyos, mudslides near my friends and relatives, dumpsters and barbecue grills being swept down the streets. The 6 month old Blockbuster video being broken down, flooded through, and its contents running into people's backyards. The Sun Harvest had produce, sodas, and other grocery items flowing out its doors and down the street. People being rescued from their cars before the raging floods swept them away. The river overflowing, arroyos breaking, the levee collapsing. People being evacuated from their homes. Something the likes of which I have never witnessed.

This city is not prepared for conditions such as this. We barely have rain. We don't have the drainage necessary and we certainly don't have the resources available for the "natural disaster"esque situation. No, it was no Hurricane Katrina. As far as I know, there were no fatalities. There was a huge amount of damage though, and to a city like might as well have been a hurricane.

There has not been a storm like this in over 100 years. Amazing. I guess it's such a big deal because we've always felt like the invincible city. No hurricane, tornado, cyclone, typhoon, tsunami, or any other such thing could ever get us. But alas, the came, it saw, it kicked our asses.

Now we are in a state of emergency. How totally insane; yet, it just goes to show that anything can happen.


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