Under the best circumstances, I would have been home, high and dry, in no time at all. Instead, it took me over two hours. All day long, the local news app on my iPhone notified me of flood warnings. Everytime I looked outside, the sky was grey but there was no visible rain. Apparently it rained steadily all day long, just not big rain and big wind that would have made it obvious through the plate glass of my office building, just an unrelentingly soft, summer rain. I gave it not a second thought.
Close to the end of the day, a coworker commented that she’d learned her lesson the last time it had rained and she’d gotten stranded on the Southfield Freeway. The Southfield is an outdated freeway which runs below grade with service drives on either side at street level. Even a minor fender-bender creates terrible back-ups. I noted, perhaps a bit smugly, that I had multiple ways home without driving through low-lying areas, or getting onto the Southfield.
My older daughter (who has been rear-ended twice in the last few years) and I had an appointment with the chiropractor, so I texted my daughter to confirm. Turned out that she didn’t want to go. If she had, I’d have started off taking those side streets home to pick her up. Instead, I got on the Southfield…just for two exits to a main East/West road. I passed the first exit, the one I would take if I were driving home. Soon after, I saw the error of my ways. I sat on the highway for over an hour and a half. Somewhere along the way, I called my chiropractor and canceled my appointment.
At some point a police car cut down the shoulder ahead of all of us. Later, a few cars got on the shoulder and cut ahead. Twenty minutes later, a few cars came back on the shoulder, driving the wrong way back towards the on-ramp. A few more got on the shoulder going forward…later they all came back on the shoulder. I was baffled.
As time went on, more and more cars turned around and went back down the shoulder. Eventually I saw that this was directed by the police. This one policewoman came past several times, soaked to the skin. I did wonder why her car didn’t include a rain poncho for such emergencies, but apparently it didn’t and she was completely soaked. Later a man in a polo shirt with a flashlight started helping out. It turned out that he was also a police officer. They had to turn around three lanes of rush-hour traffic into one shoulder lane. I took this photo of the second police officer next to water gushing out of the freeway…apparently a water main break under the highway.
So, finally released, I turned around and drove back up the shoulder the wrong way. When I got to the service drive, I did a u-turn and was on my way. I got home about 15 minutes later, passing very slowly through several areas of deep water over the road. In the meanwhile I’d called my older daughter and asked her to start dinner. It wasn’t until I arrived home that I learned that she’d gone out. She was at a friend’s house in a neighboring community. My city had dug up our roads several years ago and laid in new storm sewer lines…her friend’s city had not and the water rose over the curbs, across the lawns, and into the basements of the houses.
Eventually my daughter, who’d had the foresight to bring her Hunter boots, donned them and picked up her girlfriend on her back and waded through the flood to her friend’s van. They drove slowly through the flood to our house to spend the night.
It wasn’t until I was home that I learned of the magnitude of the flooding. This is the worst flooding in Detroit in recent history…there was a few hundredth of an inch more of rain in one day than in 1925, but the modern freeway system impedes the re-adsorption of the rain to a large enough extent to make this flooding far worse. I got a text from my boss that, just an hour after leaving the office, the first floor of our office flooded and I should work from home today. And so I did.
Find the Joy in the Journey…and the blessings of a great work-family that steps up to unusual challenges.