My daughter was driving, headed back to her house. I was just a passenger looking out the window. In the distance there were areas of dark gray vertical streaks running from some rather ugly clouds to the ground; heavy rain showers embedded in isolated thunderstorms.
A few sprinkles fell on and off, then a few big raindrops hit the windshield. There was a loud boom of thunder. The big raindrops stopped for just a moment then began to fall again. Sydney hit the wipers to clear the glass. Getting bigger and coming down faster, it was as if the rain made a sneak attack upon us and before we knew it, the rain was coming down very heavy. She turned the wipers on low, then high.
The rubber blades slapped back and forth across the windshield, sloshing water in every direction. The wipers couldn’t keep up. It was getting hard to see as if the windshield was steaming over. I ran my finger over a small area of the glass. There was no moisture; it was just rain on the outside. Cars were shooting wakes of water from their tires like boats moving across a lake. A truck going the opposite direction hit a big puddle sending a solid sheet of water our way, crashing into the windshield with a bang.
Every bit as quickly as the heavy rains came up, they stopped again. There were more gray streaks in the area indicating the storms weren’t done yet. The remaining drive home was calm. As we turned into the driveway, the winds were kicking up again. Claps of thunder echoed through the Iowa skies. Sydney pushed the button for the automatic garage door opener. As we waited for the door to lift, more sporadic large raindrops hit the windshield. What happened next, happened very quickly, although it felt like everything was moving in slow motion.
The large blue recycling container on wheels, filled to the brim, sat just outside the garage door, waiting to go to the curb that evening. The wind was lifting and slamming the lid. It looked like one of those yellow Pac-Man guys eating dots in a video game. The barrel started to teeter. I had visions of an inflatable toy with sand in the bottom, trying to keep the calm by reminding me, Weebles Wobble, but they don’t fall down. I hoped the receptacle would stay upright. Sydney frantically prayed out loud. “Oh, dear Jesus, no! No!” I was already unfastening my seat belt, thinking I could save the day, but before Jesus or I could get there, the wind toppled the big container.
Pizza boxes, cardboard and newspaper, milk jugs and various plastic containers, tin and aluminum cans burst from the can and spewed across the lawn.
I got out of the van to chase the blowing debris. I jumped and twitched as every large rain drop that hit me sent a cold chill all the way to my bones. Sydney pulled her van into the garage and quickly secured the next-door neighbor’s recycling bin. She called out, “Just leave it, Dad. We’ll get it later.”
The rain started pouring down. In a matter of seconds, I was completely soaked as if I had been submerged in water. I was determined to gather the mess before it stretched out all across the neighborhood. The rain quickly saturated the carboard and newspaper making them stick to the lawn and sidewalk, but the plastic and aluminum cans continued to travel. Other debris blew into the yard from an upset can a few doors to the west. I was grabbing items as quickly as I could when a very sickening feeling hit me.
Last week, my cell phone died after going through the washing machine. I had a brand-new phone that I had picked up earlier that day in my pocket – my water-drenched pocket. The rain was blowing six or seven feet into the open garage. I set the wet phone on the rooftop of the red and yellow Little Tikes plastic car. I ran back outside to finish cleaning up.
My granddaughter came running outside. With her arms outstretched, her head tilted back, laughing, she turned several times in the rain, then started picking up trash with me. Her mother called her to come back inside, but it was no use; her words fell on deaf ears. The already soaking wet child called out, “I’m helping you Papa.” Indeed, she was.
The rain was cold and it started to hurt as it hit my numb cheeks and bare neck. I turned my back to the rain and kept working. Each raindrop felt like it was stabbing me. Oh my gosh, dime size hail was pelting us. “Addison, go in the garage!” I told her.
“But I need to help you, Papa.”
This was no time to debate, “You need to get in the garage now!” I said with a firm voice. The hail was starting to sting more. She didn’t argue as she retreated to shelter. I picked up the last couple of items, putting them in the can and pushed the load downward. I closed the top and turned the container with the hinge toward the wind so the lid wouldn’t blow open again.
Addison and I stood in the garage shivering for a couple moments, watching the weather outside, then closed the overhead door. We went inside where Addison’s mother wrapped her in a towel and took care of her. I took a quick shower, changed into dry clothes and walked out onto the front porch. The rain had stopped and the sun was shining again. It was hot. The rain-soaked sidewalks, driveways and streets were already half dry. The air was so thick with humidity it was almost hard to breath. Steam rolled up from the green grass and sections of pavement.
With such calm, one would never guess a strong isolated thunderstorm had rolled through just minutes before. It came in, quickly released its fury and moved on. It was very short lived, lasting only minutes, but it seemed like everything moved in slow motion just before all hail broke loose.
a broadcaster, pilot, writer, and our Guest Columnist!