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August 15, 2013

August 3, from start to finish, was surreal.  

The highlight of the day was the bison.  While scouting out granite for countertops, we discovered a big green area on the map nearby and decided to visit the place, which turned out to be the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.  A wild herd of bison (or buffalo, or whatever you want to call these huge creatures on the American Plains) freely roamed the fenced in area, which sometimes included waiting for a herd to cross the road.  

Naturally this was a day I did not bring my spiffy new camera! 

Totally worth the trip, but unnerving to see them so close to the car. What if they damaged it?  Hah.  If only that was all that happened!

We came back home, then Brian decided to make a grocery store run.  Usually he invites me along, but for some reason he didn't.  Soon after he left, I noticed the wind picking up quite a bit.  Well, they HAD called for scattered thunderstorms.  Then it got dark.  Dark enough to make me turn the light on, and that's rare during the day with all the windows in the house!  I grabbed my iPod and checked out my NOAA radar app.  Yup, there was a big red circle headed straight for Erie!   Soon the rain came down in sheets.  I tried calling Brian, but didn't get through.  Since my phone freaks out from lack of signal every time I go in the local King Sooper, I assumed he was still there.  

it's KIND of like snow in August . . .
Then it began to hail. I didn't remember that hail was so loud.  I decided it was time to head to the basement.  (My mother would have been proud.)  I grabbed my cell phone and my Ipod and headed downstairs.  I wandered around in circles in the basement, waving my arms to break up the cobwebs before I walked into them face first, and listened to the noise above me.  Then I saw that one of the huge window wells was filling up with hail stones that were roughly pea sized.  OK, not too bad, don't need to worry about them denting the Mustang or the siding, right?  Nothing else to do, so I snapped a picture.  I made another attempt to call Brian.  Still nothing.  I kept a close eye on the radar.  Nothing to do but wait it out, right?

Holy window wells welling with water, Batman!
That's when I realized there was more water noise than I expected coming from one window, so I investigated.  The rain was coming down too fast for the ground to absorb, and the window well was filling up!  Worse yet, water was leaking in from the bottom two corners.  I ran to check out the damage, and to my amazement, discovered that on the left hand side, it had formed a neat little funnel behind the insulation and then down to the floor.  Our basement has a wooden floor, with a 2-3 foot subfloor dugout underneath.  There was about a half inch gap between the plywood and the cement walls, and the water was travelling below that.  Fine by me, it would work its way to the sump pump that was somewhere down there.  However, the right side was traveling down the front of the insulation and spilling onto the floor.  Fortunately, I had recently lugged down all the empty plastic bins we had purchased for the move.  I grabbed one and shoved it under the window, and managed to catch the worst of the waterfall.  I also ran back upstairs and grabbed some rags in the hope that I might be able to plug up the holes in some way.  (it didn't really help.)

My next few minutes were spent running around the house, checking windows and ceilings and my phone as the rain continued to pour and the hail continued to drum. Weirdly, one basement window was full of water, one was full of hailstones, and one STILL had the fake flower leaves that have been there since before we moved in.

Finally, Brian called.  The connection was bad, even after I went back up to the living room, and all I got was that he was stuck on Erie Parkway and waiting for rescue.  Ominous, very ominous.  Soon after he hung up, I heard sirens.  I thought at first that it might be a fire truck, but it sounded more like it should be . . . a tornado siren?  I wasn't really sure what they sounded like.  THEN I heard fire truck sirens.  Crap, those WERE tornado sirens!  Back down in the basement I went, and continued my frantic window checking circles.  

Soon after, the noise let up.  No more sirens.  No more hail. I went back up, checked all the windows and ceilings again, and looked outside.  It was a very light rain now, but the street outside the house was now a very large pond, taking up the entire intersection.  I considered for a few minutes, then grabbed a pair of shoes that would survive getting wet, a rain coat, and a shovel, and ran outside to attempt to clear the debris from the tiny drains outside our house.  Eventually, standing in 5" deep water, I managed to get one of the drains open, and met the neighbor across the street who was doing the same thing.  His basement had actually flooded, and they were bringing wet stuff up to the garage.  

Then someone else came down the sidewalk, and I turned and saw Brian, sopping wet.  He'd been two blocks from the neighborhood entrance, at the TOP of the hill, when he'd encountered standing water, which quickly turned into a flash flood, roughly two and a half feet deep.  In the end he had to escape out the window and wade to safety, and then decided to splash his way home.  I bundled him into the house to dry off and clean up.  

While he was upstairs, I decided to check on the backyard.  It looked like a river had run through it!  All the grass lay flat in one direction.  (At this point I was a bit too stunned to take pictures.)  My poor mint plant looked like someone had sat on it, but the spearmint plant three feet away was fine.  Water or wind had shoved the big plastic storage bench about a foot across the patio.  All the petals had come off the rose bushes (they needed deadheading anyway!).  I checked the front yard again, and realized that  water had washed gravel and river rocks from the side yard into the sidewalk and street.

Soon after, Brian made arrangements to have the car towed back to the house, and I took him back up to the scene.  The police had closed the road, and were just taking the yellow tape down.  There were about four cars that had gotten caught in the flood and were waiting for help.  We chatted with an officer (who looked eerily like my brother-in-law) while Brian transferred the groceries he had bought to my car.  He told us the velodrome (a kind of angled bike racing arena being built down the street) had been destroyed, and that a semi-truck had overturned (luckily empty and driverless).  When the tow truck arrived, I left to get gas, and as I headed down the hill towards town, I saw the biggest rainbow I have ever seen.   It was rather distracting, so I didn't notice the velodrome OR the overturned truck.  

Look close and see the flood line of debris still clinging
to the door! It got higher than that.
Luckily we only lost two containers of cheese and a package of pork, everything Brian had picked up was fine with sitting in a car for several hours.  After I got home and put the groceries away, I grabbed a shovel and went back to try and move the rocks back into the yard.  The rain had stopped, the road pond had dried up, and the neighbors were crawling out of the woodwork.  Pretty much everyone's basement had flooded, including the house to our right that's currently empty (the neighbors thought to check!) and they were all spreading their wet items out to dry.  Everyone was hyper, and the excitement grew as the tow truck arrived, and the driver very cleverly managed to load the car up the driveway and INTO the garage.

Once in the garage, we began assessing the damage.  He had done everything he could in the situation, including NOT driving into the standing water (he had no way to turn around due to traffic and the road layout.  Stupid tall highway dividers).  He'd rolled down the windows for an escape route and turned off the engine before the water got to him, but it had still filled the car up.  The cup holders were full of water!  The trunk remained dry, fortunately, but water had seeped up into the glove compartment and into the console.  We emptied everything out, except the Igor and the Red Elvises CD and others stuck in the player.   (Sadly the case got wet.  I guess this means we'll have to go to the next show and get another.  Maybe signed!)  The trunk mechanism still worked, along with the emergency flashers and a few other functions, but we decided not to test the car, and concentrated instead on drying it out and getting in touch with the insurance company.  

The dvck, normally seen peering
out the rear window.  Qvack.
We're OK.  The basement's fine, although I have a window I need to caulk and figure out how to re-landscape so water goes elsewhere.  The car is currently at the local Ford dealership.  They were able to start the engine, and seem pretty positive that it will be OK and come home, squeaky clean, in a week or so.   I had pretty much assumed that a flooded car = totaled car, so I'm very grateful it survived.  He's already replaced the engine on this once, so I already know that there's no replacing it!  We've seen a lot of amazing things in this car, and I look forward to seeing a lot more.