August 23rd, 2007


A real "character builder"

I left work today at around 5:20. I got home at 7:30. Over two hours on the road, and it's not even winter!

Instead, it's basically a monsoon out there. Two strong waves of thunderstorms rolled through northeastern Illinois, resulting in 4-5 hours straight of severe weather warnings and numerous reports of funnel clouds. Winds at O'Hare Airport were clocked at around 80 mph for a while earlier in the day, and it's been raining to beat the band since a bit after 1 pm. (The air traffic control towers at O'Hare, Midway, and the FAA center in Elgin were all evacuated due to the high winds and severe weather.) [ETA: Official rain total for the day was 2.35" at O'Hare]

My ride home was normal for about the first mile or two. Not even raining. After that, I went about 8-10 miles without seeing a single stoplight that had power. I saw two 18-24" diameter trees that had been broken off about 8-10 feet up; the first had apparently fallen in a narrow gap between two houses, definitely missing one and possibly missing the other. The second had landed on a power line, which hadn't yet snapped, but was looking like it might at any time. I saw a 9" limb that had fallen with the heavy end wedged in a fork in the tree about 8-feet up and the rest of it completely covering the entrance to a dead-end street--I hope nobody has to get in or out of there in a hurry. I saw a cop setting up flares to warn cars away from a downed power line in the road. Three times I had to drive through several inches of water; I think the scariest patch ended up being about 6 inches deep; enough to momentarily scare me, but not enough to either flood the engine or float me away as long as I kept my wits about me. Thankfully, I don't have to drive through any true "low" areas on my way home; I think all three areas of high water were just due to too much rain falling too fast for storm drains clogged with debris from the first wave to keep up. Visibility was near zero a few times due to the sheeting action of the rain.

On the plus side, I've now identified the second half of an excellent escape route from work to home, for the next time I need to bypass the heaviest traffic areas again. If not for a navigational error in judgement (where I took a detour to try to bypass heavy traffic that wasted about 20-30 minutes just to sit in even heavier traffic and eventually turn around and head right back to where I turned off my original route), I probably would've been home before 7 pm. (Now if I can just find a good first half, I'll be in business...) Traffic on the standard major roads was at a complete standstill, but the route I picked had almost no traffic until I got close to the spot where that route always has heavy traffic during rush hour.

As of 6 pm, ComEd was reporting approximately 265,000 customers without power. We're not one of them; I got home and not only was the power on, the clocks all reading the correct time were a good indication that it had never gone off.

And even though she left at least a half-hour before I did, I managed to beat kateshort home by a good 20 minutes. (Thank goodness for cell phones, so that we could keep each other updated on our progress and each know that the other of us was okay.)

And in between storm cells on the way home, I saw a heck of a light show, what with all the cloud-to-ground lightning out there.

Looks like there's a third wave of massive storms shaping up in southeastern Iowa now; that'll probably get here sometime overnight at the rate these things are traveling. A few more days of this and you may start seeing large wooden boats popping up in backyards all over the area and a parade of animals...

I almost wish I'd taken a sick day today like I'd considered doing; then I would've been home eagerly watching the storms the whole time rather than at work wondering if my house would still be standing when I got home.

Feudalism: Serf & Turf