Monday, July 10, 2006

Was That a Cow Just Swimming Next to Me?

When I drove up to Syracuse two weeks ago, I had the rather unenviable experience of driving through some of the worst flooding to ever hit the Northeast. Now, I had checked the weather before I left the Bronx at 11 AM, and even though there were forecasts for rain here and there, there was nothing that suggested anything close to the kind of rainfall that would eventually fall over the region. Hell, even when the rain was coming down, I never thought that flooding would actually occur as a result of it.

I guess what wound up happening was that there was an incredible amount of rain that fell in a rather short amount of time, which caused many of the small creeks and rivers that run along upstate New York to rise rather quickly. As I kept trucking North, I noticed that some "creeks" had turn into full blown rivers, sweeping over bridges and rising onto farmland. Before long, state troopers had closed off the highway (NYS Rte. 17) I was traveling on, forcing me and several hundred other cars to try to drive through small towns.

It certainly wasn't a good driving experience. For one, half the time, I wasn't even driving. The flooding had happened so quickly, that state troopers were caught off guard, and had no idea how to get drivers off the highways, and onto their destinations. They thought it would be a good idea to stop every single car on the highway, and walk up to each car, one by one, and assist in giving directions to get to another nearby highway, which would wind up being closed, as well. For all their efforts, all this did was create even bigger traffic jams, headaches, and confusion for everyone involved. I didn't understand why, in this day and age, troopers did not have access to up-to-the-minute information about road closings and give updates over local radio stations.

After moving 20 miles over a period of 3 hours, I was finally redirected onto Rte. 17, some 20 miles south of Binghamton, NY. As I approached somewhat normal cruising speeds on my way up to Cuse, I began to think, "man, thank goodness I'm past all that." The thought hadn't even finished crossing through my mind, when I saw flashing lights in front of me, redirecting traffic off the highway again.

"NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!" I threw a temper-tantrum in my car, much to the delight of fellow motorists driving nearby. Suddenly, a simple 3 and a half hour trip to Cuse turned into a freaking safari through swampland. After about 25 minutes, I finally made it off the highway (once again, the troopers were stopping every car one by one), and back into some local town. By this time, the flooding had become so bad, that the town itself was overwhelmed by water. I couldn't believe that I was still in New York State; I felt like I was driving through a third-world country with all the flooding that occurred. After about 5 miles of driving through water, I forced to get pulled over to the side of the road by troopers till the water dried up.

Courtesy of New York Times

Unfortunately, it kept raining. And raining. And raining. After two hours had passed, with no news forthcoming from the troopers who were diligently keeping people off the roads, I ran up to them and asked them for an update.

"Well, everyone's just going to have to wait here till the roads dry up. And it looks like that's not going to happen by tonight."

What? They wanted us to stay in the middle of literally nowhere, with no food or shelter nearby, OVERNIGHT? Hell no, that was not acceptable. I asked what roads were still open, and they told me that no road in that area had escaped the flooding. My mind began racing as I tried to find some way of getting up to Cuse, or at the very least, out of the ditch I was currently sitting in.

"What about the Thruway? (I-90) Is that flooded?"

"No, it's not flooded, but, that means you'd have to go practically to New York City to take it. And if that's what you plan on doing, you better get moving now while my back is turned..."

I got the trooper's hint, ran into my car, and raced back south onto Rte. 17. There were barricades all over the place, but I kept moving. With every trooper in New York State paying attention to northbound roads, I was able to drive back some 100 miles in about 70 minutes. Finally, I made it to the I-90 junction, about 65 miles north of NYC, hopped on, and headed back up north to Syracuse.

After 11 hours from my original departure time at 11 AM, I finally made it to the Cuse, at 10 PM on the dot. Because Syracuse is a city that sits at a much higher elevation than places like Binghamton and the other towns that were affected along Rte. 17, they did not feel the effects of the heavy flooding at all. Some of my friends at the Cuse couldn't believe that there was that much flooding in towns and cities that were only about an hour south of Syracuse, but once they turned on their televisions and saw the local news, they saw that I certainly wasn't exaggerating. There were even some parts of highways that were swept away by the rising flood waters.

Definitely some crazy shit. The only good thing about the experience? I met some pretty cool local townspeople, who were all too willing to offer their homes to everyone who was stranded alongside the road. It's good to know that at the very least, if I was stuck, there were plenty of good samaritans around to lend a hand.


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