Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Memo to Self: Windows are Nice

By now, you have probably heard we had a wee bit of weather here yesterday. Tom Skilling, chief meterologist for WGN News, identified the kind of storm that rolled through the area yesterday morning.
The fast-moving squall of severe thunderstorms that ripped through the Chicago area Monday is called a derecho.

The high speed, bow-shaped line of storms left an astounding 1,400-mile trail of damage across sections of 17 states in 30 hours.

Long-lived, especially fast-moving, squall lines have been dubbed "derechoes" since the term was first proposed in 1880 in the American Meteorological Journal by Gustavas Hinrich, a Danish born University of Iowa scientist.

Derechoes have been known to travel a thousand or more miles, producing straight-line winds.

Monday's squall line formed in western Nebraska around 3:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon, reached Chicago just after 8 a.m. Monday, then proceeded to
Washington, D.C. around sunset Monday evening.
Whatever the name, it's been awhile since I've been out in one like that.  I don't turn on the TV in the morning. I have my jazz station and that's where I get my morning news and weather. Yesterday, their weather report called for a 50% chance of heavy rain and thunderstorms. What that means is that 50% of the area will experience 100% of the storms.

I've had the windows off the Jeep for over a week. With the top tearing as it is, I'm not putting the top down the rest of the year. Running around with the windows off is just as fun and a bit cooler too. So, yesterday, I got dressed and headed off to work with the front windows off.

Now, I have a "back roads" drive to the office. It avoids Roosevelt Road which can be clogged in the mornings. But this summer, my back route has been partially under construction so I have taken Roosevelt. I turned onto Roosevelt and headed east. That's when I noticed the clouds were particularly black from the west northwest. No matter. I'll be at the office in about 10 minutes and can pop the windows on quickly. I "could" be at the office if traffic wasn't at a complete stand still. I'm looking eastbound and it's not moving as far as I can see. The clouds, however, are moving, moving fast. I have no place to pull over and put on the front windows.

At first, the storm came from the west. The winds were horizontal and the only thing really getting wet was in inside of the front windshield. But then the winds switched to come from the northwest. It's now raining in the open window and onto my left leg. Traffic is crawling. I thought about pulling into one of the parking lots along Roosevelt but, knowing that traffic was stopped a good distance behind me, I'd lose my spot. It's just rain anyway.

Eventually, the rain swung from the north briefly, getting my left side drenched. I'm sure it was quite amusing to see a lady sitting in her Jeep with the front windows off at the height of the storm. The rain was warm. I do love summer rains. But this was rather scary. Impossibly bright flashes of lightning lit up the sky and seemed to strike much closer than I was comfortable with. I imagined that Pilchard was huddled behind the love seat. I thanked myself for deciding to close the west window in the back room. I'd have had water all over the floor in there.

As I crept forward, the reason for the traffic delay was clear. On Friday, I had noticed water bubbling up from underground at the corner of Park and Roosevelt. There had been a water main break in that area. Park was closed at Roosevelt and Roosevelt itself was reduced to one lane in each direction. Traffic heading west was faring no better as they had to reduce to one lane west bound. Once past this, it was smooth sailing, through several inches of standing water by the office.

I pulled into the parking lot, put on the windows and slogged into the building. I was soaked on the left side. But, I have a portable heater in my office. I set down my purse and my lunch and we all compared stories of getting to the office. At 8:30, the power flickered. "Uh oh," Doug said and quickly went to save what he was working on. A minute later, the power went out. Well, this might not be a problem. I tried to wring some of the water out of my pants but not much came out. Guess I'll have to be in damp clothes for a bit. That's when I noticed the floor and burst out laughing.

Those are my footprints from my soggy socks. You could trace where I had walked throughout the office.

We hung around the office until 10:30 and then everyone was dismissed. Power was back on here in the office when we came in today, but I did not have it at home when I left. According to Com Ed, the electric company, a record 868,000 people were without power yesterday. Pam, bless her heart, called in the evening and volunteered to keep my important frozen and refrigerated foods. So, I took a cooler and a bag of the most important things over to her last night. It was not bad sleeping last night but I can't figure out how to make the alarm clock on my cell phone work. Mike called me this morning to wake me up. As of right now, roughly 350,000 people remain without power. I'm hoping I won't be one of the unfortunately ones who doesn't get it back for 3 days. I really can't afford to be eating one meal out every day.

I'm feeling better, although I still have this annoying cough. The antibiotic might be upsetting my stomach so I have suspended taking it until I can have a full meal instead of just a peanut butter sandwich. I'll be fine for food that doesn't require much preparation and can be eaten in one sitting.

The girls have been very good about all this, too. I'm sure it was weird to have me home yesterday. I cleaned the house and did dishes. Pilchard did not like that I left them and went to Pam's for an hour. She peed on the floor next to the litter box. I couldn't see to wash the floor so I just mopped it up. I'll need to wash that section of the floor tonight.

I should have gone outside last night. Tonight is supposed to be cloudy and last night was clear. Without all the lights in the neighborhood, I probably could have seen a lot I normally can't see. I also wondered what it looked like from the perspective of someone landing at O'Hare. What does it look like when whole sections of the area are black? And, truth be told, I'd much rather deal with this than with that. The blizzard of 2011 was 6 months ago. I don't have to shovel wind.

Beverage:  Sprite


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