It finally hit me, after more than a year of living here. In Florida, weather alerts were things to be ignored. If it was pouring down rain, I wouldn’t think twice of driving through it to get where I wanted to go. Here, the street drainage system is almost nonexistent. I think, based on the sound it’s making, that I might have damaged my car.
I wanted this post to be about a Jewish transgender issues discussion group I was driving to attend earlier. I left at 6:30 p.m. It was raining. I turned on the radio, and the radio said there was a thunderstorm with dangerous hail miles away. About ten minutes later, the announcement had changed to say the dangerous thunderstorm conditions were also in New Orleans. By this time, I was halfway to my destination. I felt it would be safer to keep on trucking than to make a U-Turn and turn back to my parking lot, which always floods. Around 6:45 or 6:50, the rain was coming down so hard that I pulled over to the side of the road to be safe. That’s about when the flash flood warning started.
I had three choices. I could stay put on St. Charles Avenue (one of the historical streets and big tourist draws) and wait out the storm. I could continue on to the discussion group. Or, I could drive home. I should have driven home. Instead, I chose to wait out the storm.
I watched the water build up on the side of the road and almost got in an accident because, in New Orleans, drivers often use street parking lanes as turn lanes. In conditions with limited visibility due to rain, someone almost backended me. At that point, I decided that the discussion group, which was now a mile away, was my safest bet. I pulled onto a side street to start making my way towards the house, trusting my GPS to help me make my turns. After three or four blocks, my car was in at least six inches of water. My battery light came on, and it became hard to steer. I cursed under my breath and kept trucking.
At the point where my wheels actually lifted off the ground in the water, I decided to start moving back towards St. Charles and more solid ground. I probably should have parked on a median with other cars trying to get to higher ground, but in these types of situations, one does what one has to. I did a lot of sweet talking to my car as we navigated through the flooded streets. I was now, somehow, blocks away from St. Charles. I drove as slowly as I could through the water, waiting for my car to stall. It never did.
Somewhere around 7:15, I was back on St. Charles. Except now, whether it was because of all of the water that the tires had been immersed in or because some water got in my engine, I surged forward into the street and almost rearended the car in front of me. (It might also have been adrenaline inspired lead foot.) I drove all the way back down St. Charles and only had to drive through a couple puddles. Then, I turned onto Carrollton.
Carrollton was even less flooded. More high ground. Except, I could see the water surging onto Carrollton from flooded streets. I kept the middle lane; there were places where the water from the flooded streets was moving back and forth in waves.
I drove to the Chinese takeout place next to my house and ordered some greasy, delicious food. A sort of triumphal dinner of carbs and fried, sweet, spicy chicken.
I arrived home around 8:24 p.m. Almost two hours after I left. The discussion group was only a few miles away.
Now, underneath the sound my car normally makes, there is a whining sound. I’m hoping it will go away in time. When I drove the six hundred miles from Florida to New Orleans, I think my car was making the same noise for a few months. If not, then it’s similar. I would hate for my car to suffer because I didn’t do the smart thing and stay home when I saw how heavily it was raining outside.
When I drove up to my apartment complex, I realized something was dragging on the ground. The waters dislodged part of my bumper. I stuck the piece back to where I think it was supposed to be. I hope that was the worst of the damage.