I was going to see a friend of mine tonight, but I rather unwisely set out on an evening when the National Weather Service had issued a flash flood warning for central Minnesota. Sure, I figured, it had been raining hard, but it didn’t look too bad outside my door – and besides, it was dying down. No problem.
I didn’t get much more than a mile from the house when I was driving fifteen miles per hour into a blinding blizzard of rain, carefully negotiating the low spots in the road which were rapidly filling with rainwater. Luckily I had a cautious driver in front of me who, I hoped, would bog down before I would, giving me a little warning before I became stuck myself.
At the intersection just before the highway entrance, I looked to my left and the opposing lane looked like a furious river; much to my chagrin, the intersection looked much the same, as it sloped down and away to my right. Gingerly I eased the Eltreum across the perpendicular flow, only to stop on the entrance ramp, where I could see several vehicles stopped ahead with their hazard lights flashing through the rain. I wondered why they were stopped, but it was obvious after a moment’s observation: one of the cars was submerged wheel-deep in water at a dip in the ramp. No way I could traverse that area; I had to turn around, but reversing into the intersection was not an option.
Engaging my own four-way flashers, I jumped out of the car and inspected the median. It was smooth grass, and luckily the curb was gently sloped instead of a solid concrete block. I jumped back in and spun the wheel left, giving the accelerator a good push. Human Transport Ark Eltreum did its best Humvee impression (a quick prayer flitted through my mind: “Spirit of the HMMWV, lend me some of your ground clearance now!”) and cleared the median, but the street was all but impassable beyond the intersection. I turned into the Target parking lot – it being high ground and thus free from flooding – and assessed the situation. I decided to go into the store and look around and see if I could wait out the storm.
The rain howled on the roof of the building while I shopped, auguring poorly for any respite from the downpour. After spending as long as I could stomach in the empty store, I returned to the Eltreum and chewed on a candy bar. If anything, the storm was worse – windshield wipers or not, I could barely see. I waited for a minor slackening and moved out again along an alternate route, deciding to take a longer but presumably safer way back to the house.
Along the way, a streak of lightning blasted to earth maybe a hundred yards from my car – the radio just went silent for ten seconds or so, so ferocious was the ionization in the air, and for a moment I was afraid it was close enough to knock out the electronics in the vehicle. But everything was still lit and running inside my rolling Faraday cage, so I proceeded through the deep water back onto the interstate, leaving a car-height rooster tail on either side as I passed.
Ultimately, I ended up back at the house without incident, though I did have to take a lengthy detour due to a flooded road that the fire department had blocked. It was an oddly frightening and exhilirating experience – not because of any actual danger but because I had to face it alone. I didn’t have a battle buddy, or a TC, or a gunner, or anyone else – it was me (and the Eltreum) against the elements.