I was having dinner last night up in Evanston with a couple of friends when I got a text from Sharon that said there was a tornado warning and the sirens were on. It wasn’t raining yet where I was, but I could see scary, tall clouds to the southwest and distant lightning, and the temperature had dropped a good 10-15 degrees while we were sitting there eating.
I called her back, told her to keep an eye on wunderground.com, and got on the road. Evanston to River Forest, for the uninitiated, is about an hour drive, one of those “can’t get there from here” situations. A frustrating 8 miles west on Dempster with a stoplight every 300 feet to I-294, south to Irving Park Road, then snaking down River Road to get to the neighborhood. It’s a giant L with no way to take the hypotenuse. I was watching the wunderground maps at red lights and doing 85 between them while listening to the local news radio station.
Weather guys were freaking the fuck out about this line of storms that at that point was out in the far SW hinterlands but moving NNE at 70mph. They were naming suburbs around us and projecting what time it’d hit each one. The first couple of times through the list, nothing too close, but then later they started mentioning River Grove, Franklin Park, and Melrose Park. These are adjacent to us, and I called Sharon back and told her to go down in the basement with the kids and the dog.
By now I was on 294, doing over 90 at points until the rain started to fall. It got creepy dark and it was just after 8pm. Some indignity rose within me as I realized this goddamned universe wouldn’t even let me enjoy the solstice sunset. Still listening to the weather guy, now going on and on about “rain-wrapped tornadoes” like I or anyone else listening has any idea what in the actual fuck that means. Are those cute little tornadoes, like weenies wrapped in bacon? Or are the the worst sort of death-bringers like what hit Joplin or Tuscaloosa? Memo to weather nerds: most of us aren’t, even those of us who are bona fide nerds in other areas. Speak plain English when people could get hurt, OK?
Anyway, I flipped to WGN, who had Skilling on by that point. I thought he’d be calmer than the guy who was flop-sweating on WBBM, being America’s Favorite Weatherman or whatever. But he got all carried away, too. And, since it was WGN, there was this focus on what it meant for the Cubs. I’d have facepalmed if my fingers weren’t wrapped around the wheel with enough force to crush walnuts.
So, I was on my own, informationless, as I got off at Irving Park Road, now in a downpour. That’s when the streetlights and the lights on all the buildings and billboards went out, and I started noticing big things moving in what was left of the gray light. Hail was ticking on my car, more on the door than the roof. It was moving sideways in giant sheets. It looked like someone had taken a gigantic box of polystyrene packing dots and let them loose. I watched them dance in waves across the off ramp…lovely, really, in that “wow, I’m gonna die out here” way.
Hey, that’s a garbage can! And I could feel the wind pushing the car sideways now. I got to the bottom of the off ramp in near total blackness. It was about 8:30 next to the world’s busiest airport, and it was like I was the only person alive on some forgotten country road in the middle of the night.
Hey, that’s a chaise lounge! Decision time: keep moving, or pull over and wait it out? With no useful data from the media, and feeling like there was no time to fuck around on my phone, I decided to keep moving. I’d go south first, then east, figuring that’d give me the best chance not to intersect the path of this rain-wrapped monster (or hors d’oeuvre).
Trees are down everywhere, big ones. The darkness is now broken by the lights of cop cars and firetrucks, blocking some roads off near the river. Flooding? Precautions? I was going to have to cross that river eventually to get home; fuck. I’m going south on 25th Avenue now and the rain was beginning to let up. The worst was over, we’d be OK. Breathless radio douchenozzle was now naming places north and east of us as the next targets. I called home; they were fine, having fun in the basement, getting to stay up past bedtimes.
I then got stuck by a fucking train, but did some crafty improv to get past it and finally home around 9pm to discover that tree was down, blocking the driveway. (Theresa’s tree. I’m gonna have fun with this.) Hugs all around and the usual bedtime routine, if delayed, followed by various facebookery/twitterishness/tumblring.
Cool note: Sharon was giving a kid a bath about a half hour before the warning, and the dog was acting very strange. He came up there, obviously agitated, trying to get her attention…licking her face, whining, all sorts of unusual stuff for him. It’s like he knew something bad was coming. Maybe he could hear something or feel the change in barometric pressure.
Anyway, today, I’m home this morning to figure out when/if the village will get rid of this tree or if I’m on my own. Our other car is blocked on the driveway upstream from that tree, so we’ll have some logistical challenges to sort through. I may not go to work today. But as I hear that 250,000 people are still without power this morning, and there is some fairly severe property damage around the area, there will be no complaining here, except about that fucking parking ticket.