Last week while I was in Baltimore for work the infamous polar vortex dropped far enough south that everyone in the greater DC was ready for it. Meanwhile, back in Cleveland it was seriously cold. On Tuesday, the day it struck I was flying from Baltimore to West Palm Beach, FL. It was only 65 degrees when I landed but that was about 75 degrees warmer than it was at my house. The poor natives thought the world was ending and I was running around in my sandals.
It slowly warmed up and was pleasant but dreary for the next two days. From what I was able to gather whatever was causing the polar vortex up north was causing these rain clouds to hang out over south Florida. I continued to enjoy the balmy temps and mock the natives who ran around in coats and long sleeves.
On Thursday, after we completed a very long deposition, my colleagues and I went out to dinner. The one guy who was with us always know where the good places to eat, no matter where we are so we followed him. It was a great place, Solita. Very cool decor and delicious food. Our waiter left a little to be desired but the wine and company were great and that was all that mattered. I got in my car to drive back to my hotel which was about 10 minutes away, just down the road. I had the windows down, soaking up the humid, warm air. It started to drizzle, then rain, then pour rain. I was almost back to the hotel but started driving through some very flooded roads. Mind you, I had a miniature rental car and all I kept thinking was “turn around, don’t drown” but by the time you think it, you’re already driving through a foot of water. I managed to make it back. I drove around the parking lot at the hotel (also flooded) and tried to find a space somewhere near the door. I had to leave all of my stuff in the car because it was raining so hard. I figured I could go out later and retrieve it once the rain slowed up.
In the short walk from the car to the hotel I was soaked to the bone, dripping wet as I walked into the hotel lobby. And, the fire alarm was going off. So now I’m soaking wet, the AC is blowing and everyone is waiting around to see if there is actually a fire somewhere. My only thought was that nothing could possibly be burning with the amount of rain that was falling. One guy who started talking to me told me he thought perhaps terrorists had attacked the hotel. I was pretty comfortable dismissing that thought. I finally took the steps to my room when it became clear nothing was burning down. I changed into dry clothes and headed back down. Fire department finally came and let everyone know the rain had flooded the alarm system and they had disabled it. This led the lady in front of me at the desk to inquire what would happen if there was actually a fire that night. Again, it was too wet for anything to burn…
I made it back to my room and was able to shower and start packing up. No sooner do I get settled in but there goes that pesky fire alarm and its still pouring. The last I looked outside (which was around 1:30, also the last time the fire alarm went off) it was still pouring. When I woke up in the morning and turned on the local news I found out all the schools were closed, the major highway was closed, the road outside my hotel was closed and there had been 18 inches of rain that fell. Essentially, it was a tropical storm that moved at a much slower pace than most tropical storms.
Next, it was time to find out how the car had fared. There were a ton of people wandering around outside. My car was in about 2 feet of water. I had good sandals on so I started to take them off so I could wade out to the car. This guy was smoking and said: “I would leave those on if I were you” He went on to explain that because it was Florida I would have no idea what was in the water. In which case, I don’t think my sandals are saving my feet but ok. He asked which car was mine and so I pointed it out. He told me it should be ok, the water was just below the door line but above the exhaust pipe. It would still drive so if I could find a road open to the airport I was set. I was not sure about the whole driving through the water thing so he offered to do it for me. OK! Here’s what the parking lot looked like:
Note the car being pushed out at the end – they were still bailing water out of that thing when I left an hour later. My helper turned out to be a retired DC cop so was calm and well prepared for such craziness. It took me a little over a 1/2 hour to get out of the parking lot, what with all the lakes but once I got out and moved further inland the rest of the ride to the airport took no time at all. Sadly, I never got to see the beach in Delray, which from all the pictures looked beautiful. I suppose the good news is we have to return in a couple of weeks to finish what we started. Fingers crossed for better weather and maybe some beach time. After it was all over I figured I’m one of what I would guess to be a small number of people who can say they survived a polar vortex and a tropical storm all in one week!