Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Driving the Storm

Florida weather is quite interesting. I was driving back, from the south of the state, when the Emergency Broadcasting System interrupted my hits of the 80’s station. In the middle of Flock of Seagulls the announcer says that there is an extremely powerful storm cell traveling over the central portion of Florida. The report goes on about golf ball size hail, wind gusts up to 60 mph and severe lightning. The storm is moving at 15 mph and traveling east.

I am about an hours drive from where they reported the storm and I figured it would pass before I get there. I figured wrong.

45 minutes and 3 more emergency broadcasts later I was driving through the worst storm I have ever seen. I cannot describe the rain. It was so heavy that it felt like I was driving under water. Like I was in a Plymouth Submarine. My wipers could not go fast enough to clear the windshield. The lightning that I was witnessing was multiple (5 or so) strikes at a time. Not off on the horizon but directly in front of me. I realized that it was not safe for me to continue driving so I pulled off onto the shoulder. Since I was unfamiliar with the area I waited until I was close to an exit, just in case I had to exit the turnpike.

As I was waiting for the storm to pass, or at least lighten up, the radio sounded again with the beeping fax machine sound of the EBS. “…There has been a tornado sighted in Port St. Lucie. There are reports that it threw a police car 150 feet into the air. Seek shelter immediately….”. I was a little nervous. I look up at the exit sign I was idling in front of and it reads: PORT ST. LUCIE ½ Mile.

I was not going to sit and wait for a tornado so I decided it would better to continue driving. I figured I could beat the storm in a few minutes. I continued driving into the most ugly green as pea soup clouds I have ever witnessed. I was IN the storm clouds. My car was shaking from the wind. I still couldn’t see anything further than 15 feet in front of me.

I traveled about another 5 miles when I started to get scared. I do not think I was ever that scared in my life. (Except for the time I worked in a nightclub and a car crashed through the front of the building. Or the other time I worked in the same nightclub and there was shooting out front and an overweight lady grabbed me and used me as a shield. Or there was the time that one of my siblings found all the Christmas gifts in my mom’s closet and my parents threatened that there would be no Christmas unless someone confessed and I took one for the team, and said it was me, although I DIDN’T DO IT.) Anyway, I was scared. I pulled over again.

I sat for a minute or two and realized that I was about 15 feet away from a creek. I watched the creek rise. I could see the level come up to the shoulder of the road. I decided it would be best if I kept driving. I didn’t want to be swept away.

I was listening to the radio to check the status of the storm but I was in between broadcasting locations. I did hear the EBS in Spanish but since I failed Spanish in 10th grade I had no idea where the storm was going. I thought it best to proceed north to the first rest stop on the turnpike, 32 miles ahead. If I was going to wait out the storm I could at least have a Whopper and fries while waiting.

20 miles ahead the storm stopped. The sun was out. It was gorgeous.

I pulled into the rest stop to evaluate how many ways I could have perished. Besides the possibility of an accident with other vehicles, I could have been hit by lightning, swept away in a flood, tossed around in a tornado or possibly just driven off the road into an embankment or something.

The worst part of the trip; the toll was $13.70. I want my money back.


Effie said...

Ohmygoodness!!!! I'm glad you made it through the storm!

We call that kind of rain Kentucky Rain because, when I was little my family drove down to Nashville, Tennessee for a convention going through Kentucky. While in Kentucky it started to rain and it rained so hard you couldn't see anything- the wipers couldn't keep up--it was like someone unzipped the sky and the water just poured out--it continued for half an hour and Dad had to pull over to the side of the road. After it was all said and done, there was the most beautiful rainbow, but it was awfully scary all the same...we didn't hear about any tornados though, so I think yours was much worse!

Anonymous said...

Toll roads drive me nuts. I'm sure you've driven your share of the Jersey Tpke. Once, in downtown Philly (on my way to that cursed IKEA) we made a wrong turn and ended up taking a bridge over to Jersey. The bastards made us pay to come back in to the city. w'sup with that?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Hey Barry, the same thing happened to us trying to find our way back to lehigh after a ben harper concert! We ended up going over the ben franklin bridge and getting lost in jersey trying to find our way back to PA, and then we had to dish out something like 10 or 12 bucks to cross back over!
And Bill, your storm story still has me laughing every time I think of you sitting in your car hearing about a tornado in port saint lucie and looking at the exit that you so smartly pulled over near, and reading "port st. lucie 1/2 mile"! I would have freaked out! Thanks for sharing such an amazing event!

Susie said...

Damn... my white knucles would have been shaking! Glad you made it home in one piece. How was the Whopper?

Anonymous said...

You've heard people say divorce is so expensive because it's worth it. The same thing applies to paying a toll to leave NJ.