Monday, August 06, 2007

The Weather

We Texans can talk about the weather longer and in more detail than folks from any other state, it seems. Well, non-meteorologists from any other state, I guess I should say.

It has rained more this year than I remember it raining in San Antonio in my life, outside of the 1998 flood (it also flooded in I think 2002, but I didn't live here from Feb 1999 to Aug 2006, submarines not being able to submerge in the San Antonio river).

When I lived in Hawaii, which I did from Jan 2005 to Aug 2006, we had 42 straight days of rain. Now, rain in Hawaii is nothing unusual, but it is generally gentle little sun showers that are remarkable only because they come from a seemingly-cloudless sky. But in early 2006, it rained hard and long every single day for longer than it did during Noah's Flood. So far as I could tell, it was ignored by the Mainland media until the dam burst on one of the neighbor islands (Molokai, I think) and the resulting flash flood killed two people. I have always been a night owl, so sometimes I'd watch Fox & Friends before heading off to bed, and from this I know that their weather discussions stopped short on the West Coast.

Anyway, this year we had more than that 42 straight days of rain. In all of June & July, in fact, we had only 3 days of no rain, if that, and they weren't all in a row. I noted when we passed the mark set in Hawaii, but after that I quickly lost count.

The other odd thing about this year is that we haven't had a single day here in San Antonio where it's broken 100. Last summer was one of the hottest on record; we were in something like Stage III water restrictions when we moved back. This year it's relatively cool--of course, 95° is cool only in retrospect, not when you're out in it--and the Aquifer is full to overflowing. Between the rain and the beer restrictions, no one's tubing the Guadalupe up in New Braunfels. (As an aside, if folks fought as hard to protect children as they do to get drunk while tubing, we'd never have any deaths from child abuse, but that's a whole other topic.)

It's surreal.

I remember well the flood in 1998. My mother & I were both working the overnight shift at West Telemarketing the day the rain started, as were my best friends Mark & John. If memory serves, it was also payday, & the three of us had made plans to go see Ronin later that day, once we'd caught some sleep.

It started raining about 5 or 6 in the morning, and by the time we got off at 7 the flooding had already started. I made my mother drive home, because I was 19 and a relatively new (and therefore scaredy-cat) driver. We had the sense to stay off the freeways at least, and drove about 20 miles an hour all the way home. We drove partially through Olmos, as we were going down McCullough. I remember that there was water seeping in through the door seals by the time we hit Porter Loring Mortuary on the outskirts of downtown, & their lawn was almost totally flooded.

We lived off of Southwest Military at the time, & the street we usually went down was blocked off by a police cruiser, so my mother took a detour down another street. It was raining so hard that we could not tell that the street we turned down was flooded, and it is only by the grace of God that we made it down that street safely--at one point there was water flowing up over the hood of the car, which of course is a recipe for disaster. It wasn't until we were safely past it that the realization hit my mother that we'd just driven through the San Antonio river! Usually this river is 3 feet deep, & not too far from where this happened, in my junior year of high school, I'd regularly cross the river by walking across some broken concrete blocks in water no more than 18 inches deep.

It was a stupid thing to have gone down that street. Hindsight, and all that. Honestly, though, I don't think that there was a safe way for us to have gotten home that day; the river neatly bisects the city north to south, and we worked on one side while living on the other.

We went right down that street to Roosevelt, which we'd been trying to avoid, and drove down it very, very slowly. There was just a mind-boggling number of vehicles on the side of the road that had stalled out. Pickups, SUVs, you name it, but my little Taurus just kept chugging. We made it home safely, & wouldn't you know it that trailer park was high ground and barely flooded at all. All of the richest areas of the city flooded badly, but in our little south side trailer park the living was good. Well, relatively.

Later we'd learn that an area of south Texas the size of West Virginia had flooded. I forget how many people lost their lives; I want to put the number at 50. Most were people who, like my mother and I, just didn't realize how bad it was at the outset. We've double decker freeways downtown, and people drowned driving on the lower level. There was just no way the police and others could possibly block things off fast enough to keep everyone safe.

That flood put the fear into me but good. SA is normally a sere place, but part of that means it can flood very quickly. Flash floods are a fact of life around here; virtually every time there's a very heavy storm the drainage ditch which runs alongside this trailer park flashes up over the road out front. (I've never seen this, only the debris left behind.)

This past week, though, it hasn't really rained at all here. I think we might have had a couple of sprinkles, but that's it. Little Hawaiian-style sun showers. My driveway has ceased to be a swamp. It doesn't stink anymore, thankfully. (The continual rains managed to rust a hole in my muffler before I had the sense to start parking on the street.)

The weather careens crazily from one thing to another here; it always has. I remember one year when it was 103° a few days after Christmas, and then this January we had Ice Heaven '07, as the local talk radio guys christened it. Whatever the weather, in Texas it will always be extreme.

I have nothing but the deepest respect for the folks who have to work out in it. My husband does, to an extent. I hate the rain for cutting into his work. They can't do roof vents when it's raining, & a lot of the older houses don't have cleanouts. He had to walk away from a few jobs because of that, but there were even more where he was outside running cable and getting soaked (even one memorable excavation where he got so wet that the next day the money he handed me out of the depths of his wallet was still damp). This is the guy who often stood topside watch in the sail and took waves, so he's no stranger to getting wet, but still!

I have a strange sense of humor about the weather, and I think I may have inadvertently insulted Matt G a couple of times about the rain and now the heat. I'm not trying to be rude (and I do try to apologize/clarify if something I say goes over like a lead balloon), I swear. I'm told I am quite funny in person, but I guess it doesn't come across in print.

I do think it's a good idea in general not to antagonize the guy with the ticket book. (Wouldn't know, I've honestly never once been pulled over in 12 years of driving.) We did discuss dealing with the police in Driver's Ed; if memory serves the bulk of the conversation was "keep your hands visible on the steering wheel & tell the officer what you're going for before reaching towards the glove compartment". Sage advice, I have no doubt.

Oh, and in case anyone happens to be drowning in curiosity (which I doubt), I have changed my Blogger display name from BellaLinda because Sabra is actually my name. (BellaLinda was my pet name for my middle daughter for a while, & was my moniker on LiveJournal back in my days of desiring anonymity in blogging.)

1 comment:

Mark said...

You just highlighted one of the main reasons I drive a 4 wheel drive suburban. I have 7 kids, therefore I need the room a Van would be great, but out in the sticks where I live a good rainstorm washes out my driveway so NO ONE without 4X4 can get in or out. The drainage ditches ie: mosquito breeding grounds, are a joke, after our last rain down here on the coast 3 weeks ago I still have ditches with about 8 inches of water in them on my street. Last big rain I had to take the kids into town for a DR appt. Well Lock it in 4 wheel and go, got to the appointment, and no DR. He was flooded in and his car was under 2 feet of water at the end of his street. He drove a Honda Accord, drove as in he now drives a Tahoe with 4 wheel drive. You might waant to look into it if yu continue to live a flood prone area.