The August storm is sudden and unexpected. Rain pours across my windshield; it feels as though I’m in a car wash. My wipers – at the highest speed – work futilely to clear the view. I flick on my turn signal, make an abrupt right off Bardstown Road onto a side street, and pull in behind the Twig and Leaf. I park the car.
Rain blows horizontally across a nearby parking lot. The neighborhood’s enormous old oak and maple trees rattle and bend; limbs as thick as a quarterback’s thigh thud to the ground. Smaller branches snap off and fly across the road. Pedestrians in soaking shorts and T-shirts seek shelter in doorways.
Several hours earlier, my small weather radio had sounded an alert for possible thunderstorms in the area. Shortly before the storm hit, I had noticed odd, nearly rectangular clouds to the west. They were layered in the sky like charcoal-colored shingles. Now, as lightning cracks and thunder roars above the sound of the deluge, I realize this is no ordinary thunderstorm.
I stay in the lee of the building for fifteen minutes or so, listening to the car radio. At the height of the storm, the National Weather Service issues a belated warning.
Finally, the worst of the storm passes and the rain lets up a little. I put the car in gear, make a U-turn in the parking lot, and ease back onto Bardstown Road. I drive slowly, dodging broken branches and stray garbage cans that roll across the street. The gutters overflow; the right lane is filled with several inches of water and is impassable. I watch for downed power lines as I make my way back home.
I pass a gas station a few blocks from our house. A giant billboard has folded over at a right angle, smashing the roof over the gas pumps.
A tree lies incongruously through the middle of the roof of a house. It looks like someone’s finger lying embedded in the chocolate frosting of a cake. Broken shingles and rafters cradle the giant tree trunk; gutters dangle in the air.
The rain has almost stopped. Neighbors are emerging from their houses to survey the damage. One car’s rear windshield is shattered; the tree branch lies in the backseat. A real estate sign in someone’s yard is bent nearly in half.
Several times, my way is blocked by downed trees. I turn around and wind through less familiar streets until I arrive at our driveway. I pull in and park the car. There are limbs in the yard and enormous puddles fill the driveway, but the house looks intact.
I dodge the last of the raindrops and scurry in. My daughter, son-in-law and four grandkids are safe. All is right with the world.
The storm of Saturday, August 13, 2011, hit Louisville, Ky., a little before 6 p.m. Winds ranged from 50 to 70 m.p.h., and more than an inch of rain fell in less than 20 minutes. More than 100,000 homes were left without power. Two hours north of Louisville, in Indianapolis, Ind., winds from the same storm system caused the main concert stage at the state fair to collapse, killing several people and injuring many others.