notes from the commute: surprise storm edition

Well, people (and especially Scot), I realize I've been incommunicado. And I realize that some of you (mostly Scot, I think) may be aware that my general vicinity (which is definitely an island) (in the South Pacific, for new readers) was hit by a tremendous and sudden storm. And those people (and definitely Scot) were a bit worried about me.
We are/I am fine.
But, oh, do I have a story...(if only there could be music, just at this point - but I'll tell you, I've tried and not been able to crack the whole music embedding thing.)

I left the office at 5:00 after a truly tedious day. I had shuffled my poor boss from one meeting to another from 9:00 till 3:00 when I put him in a car for the airport. It was stressful but off he went. Paris. On a 6:45 flight.

So, as I was saying: left the office, feeling sort of washed out, arrived on the street and had a quick look skyward. (I had known that rain and a possible thunderstorm was expected. I did not have my umbrella.) I decided, whilst walking the block to the corner, that the greenish tinge in the sky demanded a ride on the subway rather than my usual 15 block jaunt to the train and proceeded underground during the first rumble of thunder.
A train arrived pretty quickly and I rode it three stops and exited (still underground).
I got a seat on the 5:27 and settled in.
I was surprised when I noticed the fellow sitting behind me and to the right was completely soaked.
(Too much detail at this point? I ought to rein it in, don't you think? But it's a long story and I could post it and not post tomorrow!)
The couple sitting across the aisle from me were going to my town to see his parents. She was doing her make-up, snapping her gum and chatting loudly. This caused me to reach for my puzzle and iPod.
The train left the station on time.
We moved slowly through the tunnel (the first 5 minutes of my commute is underground).
We suddenly stopped.
There was much convo between the conductor and the motorman (?).
We were told: a. There was a lightning strike. b. There was severe weather. c. There was debris on the tracks.
They reversed the train (So CLOSE to being able to get home!), pulled us backwards into the station, opened the doors and told us (this all took about 30 minutes) that there was now no rail service of any kind.
The woman visiting the inlaws took out a bottle of vodka cocktail and drank it.
I phoned K who was working uptown and we made plans.
I exited the now-closed totally mobbed (angry mobbed) station and went upstairs to see a wet and in-shock city.
Thousands of people with no rail system = some mayhem.
I walked across town and waited for K.
K had been editing for a very kind woman who heard him planning with me on the phone and leaned over and handed him her car keys.
Imagine such a kindness?
It took him some time to reach me and we set off to escape the city with the news radio on.
As we approached one method of egress we heard that it had been closed. We heard that the highways beyond it were closed meaning we'd have to take a sub-highway home.
Plan B was put into operation - a slightly less-used bridge uptown.
We sailed across the bridge with some ease, night had fallen, and we found ourselves in what I like to describe as a sort of post-apocalyptic Mad Max sort of setting.
The area we had driven into was one of the areas that had been devastated by the storm (which, incidentally, lasted about 15 minutes). Of course, as this had just occurred, no one was aware of which neighborhoods had been destroyed.
It was a straight shot from this section of the city to our town. About 13 miles.
It took us just over 5 hours.
We crawled so slowly that, at one point, I exited the vehicle, went in a chain-store, found and used the loo and went back to the car while K had driven less than half a block.
We stopped and ate in the most hideous food establishment I have ever beheld. That we do not have some sort of food poisoning is a miracle. It was populated by pregnant diners who, no doubt, could not sit in stopped traffic any longer than we could.
We inched for many hours until K was miserable and uncomfortable and I took over whilst he navigated with his iPhone.
We left the two-lane road at that point and dodged and wove through about three miles of downed trees (hundred year-old and mighty trees) and around downed power lines.
There were police and firemen and the mayor and his accompanying motorcade.
There was a fatality not far from the apartment we lived in when the boys were little.
It was surreal.

We arrived home (Oldest manned the pumps, Youngest was asleep, Middle was out) to downed trees and limbs.
It was 1:00am.
My boss was delayed three hours but made his meeting (whew).
We had a glass of wine and slept the sleep of the dead.
We rose early to return the kind loan of the car (and there was no rail service).

I thought I'd have some closing thoughts, but I don't seem to. Perhaps I'm still exhausted.
The Weather Service will now determine if tornadoes hit the city, but it's hard to imagine one didn't.
I'm sort of sorry I was below ground. I would have loved to have seen it.

I can't decide which is better...


Hilary said…
That night was crazy! When I left my office it just started getting dark, and the lightning just beginning. I have never seen such large bolts in my life. I made it about an exit or two on the LIE when there was a huge gust of wind, the temperature dropped seven degrees instantly, and the sky totally erupted. I couldn’t see five inches in front of me. One of the girls from my office, who lives in the Bronx, left right after the storm hit. She made it to Great Neck when she got a call from two co-workers who were stranded at the Manhasset station when they stopped the trains. She circled back, and picked them up. Then she stopped off at the Douglaston station to get another girl that was also stranded. About 10:00 she got them all to the city where they were able to complete their commutes…. I keep thinking about the poor lady who died. Visibility was so bad on the roads; she probably thought she was doing the “safe” thing by pulling over. What a shame.
Holy Shit! I was in the concert Friday night after we drove in after the storm and though we had terrible rain and wind, no damage. Then they announced the rails were down and I immediately hoped you had made it home already.

Jen said…
Wow. I did see the Tuvalu headline but you have just made it real. Glad you are all ok.
Crazy Mom! said…
I know that was very very scary and I'm grateful all are well. Here in Hotlanta, we have tornadic activity more often than anyone would like, so much so that the county has installed warning sirens and loudspeakers telling people to SEEK SHELTER. (The first time Moe heard this, when he was about 3, he said "Is that God?") We've spent hours in the basement staring at weather maps on tv, wondering when it will be safe.

And I'm glad you're safe.
RW said…
I too was thinking about you.
that first video is so full of anticipation.

I am happy they decided to go inside when they did.
eurolush said…
Just finished watching both videos. Holy Scheisse. Thank god the storm wasn't happening during our cupcake extravaganza, circa July 2010. Though I may have been able to order more than one cupcake had I been Scheisse!

PS-Glad you're safe. I did think of know...during and all.

PPS-Knew you'd figure out a way around all of it.
Paola said…
We heard this on the news but didn't realize how BAD it was.
Must have been awful I suppose, in a town like yours. Surreal, as you said.
The kidness of the woman is amazing but what strikes me is that I've heard so many people being so kind to you and Icouldn' thelp but wonder ... now realize that it is YOU both that bring out the kindness in people.
Stay safe!
Unknown said…
Glad you made it home safely... eventually! I have some friends living in Brooklyn, one who just moved there from Seattle in May, and she had never seen anything like it.

East Coast summer afternoon thunderstorms are one of the things I miss most about living there, but wowza! That one truly takes the cake!
alice c said…
I did not know - but I am so glad that you are all safe.
Scot said…
ABC News stated that the poor woman who died was so nervous, she changed seats with her husband right before the tree fell on their car. How sad is that. I guess that when it's your time to go, it doesn't matter where you're sitting.
To think that the entire storm was targeting one person is just creepy.
As much as we've read of Middle's penchant for film, did he get any shots of the srorm?
Anonymous said…
I love a good storm...from the comfort of my couch.

HAPPY you're all safe.

Anonymous said…
WOW. I have not been near a computer or a TV, so didn't know about this recent tempest. I too am glad you and yours are okay, and hope that your poor city and its inhabitants are okay too. What an adventure, though, and I love the way you told it. The first You Tube clip is amazing to behold. Thanks for including it.

Anonymous said…
How terrifying! But your post is proof that New Yorkers are as tough as any deep woods survivalist--imagine all that scary weather but no one panicking.
I do love the woman drinking the bottle of vodka.
And the woman handing your husband car keys.
Your writing--it's just
Magpie said…
I headed north that day - the color of the sky in Harlem was striking and ominous. It poured, but by the time I was home, it was over.

(I'm guessing that you must work near me, just triangulating your data points...)
KPB said…
holy moly.

that's about all I can say about that.