I have the world’s best friends.
You may dispute me, countering that yours take the prize. And I won’t argue that fact 🙂
But not only are my friends in my corner, continuously having my back, whenever necessary, in a crises, they rally to see me through.
Last Friday, many of our dog friends traveled to Austin for the Heart of Texas Labrador Specialty.
Specialties are great fun, as we all know each other. We get to visit with friends we don’t see very often (many times only at Specialties!). And since these are much bigger and more prestigious than regular all-breed shows, we’re there all day (sometimes all weekend), with much time for relaxation and fellowship.
My girl Ellie J had a big win 🙂 Reserve Winner’s Bitch under a well-respected breeder judge in hard competition. I’m just thrilled with her debut, and all the compliments she received.
What a fun day! Even though we were outside in the rain. By afternoon, the pouring rain. Drowned rats all, we laughed and made the best of it, joking of the stories we would tell.
I always get the picture with the judge for such a nice win. Which of course happens once all judging is over. But my gut literally clenched. Go home, it said. Now. The weather was worsening. I ran to the van.
See, the gulf moisture had risen in waves. A cold front headed directly into it. And Hurricane Patricia, with the highest winds ever recorded, had just slammed into Mexico from the Pacific, bringing torrential rains, and tracked right toward us. Seems all this converged. Right over our heads.
As soon as I got in my van (soaking wet), I checked my phone.
Fifty billion texts, and a weather alert: I35 was closed north of Waco, due to water over the road. Okay, not a problem—I cut off at Waco to Corsicana and hit I45 anyhow.
By the time I started the van, the weather alert chimed in again to say I45 was closed in Corsicana, due to water over the road. (This pic is from inside Shannon Layman Melvin’s van!)
These aren’t exactly roads, but major highways. And the two that bisect the state. I had to take one of them to get home. There was no other way.
So, driving, I first call Renee, who had left many texts, worried about where I was and how I was to get home. She tracked both highways.
Um . . .
I kept heading toward Waco, where the decision would have to be made. Commit to either I35 or head to Corsicana and pick up I45. I’m only 12 miles north of Corsicana, so if I could get through there . . .
Then I called my friend Wendy, who’d been showing as well and lives close to the show grounds, and who’s an executive from Txdot. She’d know!
Didn’t get her and in the meantime, talked with Jody, who began tracking the maps and road closures as well.
We made an executive decision the best route was through Corsicana to I45, and to take my chances there, Jody navigating me through exact roads. Go that way, my gut said.
By now it’s dark. And pouring again.
When Wendy calls me back, I’m about 10 miles out of Corsicana. Her dad Al gets on the phone, as he’s looking at routes, and her husband Dan, also with Txdot and having access to their road closures, direct me through the storm.
“Take I35,” Dan says. “You can’t get through Corsicana.”
“I’m nearly to Corsicana,” I say.
“Are you already through Hubbard and Dawson?” he asks.
When I say yes, he adds, “There’s water over Hwy 31 in both those towns now, and 31’s closed.”
So, I couldn’t go back. I’d apparently barely made it through, with about 3 minutes to spare.
They tell me how to get through Corsicana, following the same path Jody had mapped out.
On Hwy 31, the major road bisecting the town, water was just starting to cover the pavement. But it was easily passable (just after that, 3 feet of water submerged the thoroughfare and they were embroiled in water rescues). Photo courtesy of WFFA8
I’m thinking, hey, we’re gonna get home fine!
So I turn on Business 45, to head north and hit I45, north of Corsicana. The water covering the highway was just to the south of town. All should be good!
Only . . . half a mile down, they’d put barriers to block the road and were diverting traffic right or left.
So right I went, with a long line of vehicles before me, and a long line behind. In near total darkness, and rain pouring in sheets. Down into a residential area, winding around exasperatingly slow.
Until we stopped. With a foot of water surging under us on the road, swiftly enough that a white-capped current rushed by. We were on a little bridge thing, and to the right, was some sort of lake. It was nearly impossible to see what exactly it was, in the now total darkness. And we were not moving. At all.
Right next to my van stood two official-looking workers in full waders, their official-looking vehicle further up.
So I lowered the passenger window and asked, “Are we gonna be able to get out of here?”
They turned, panic tying up their young faces like rag dolls, and started frantically waving me on. “Go! Go!” they kept yelling.
“I can’t,” I replied, and motioned to the long line of cars in front of me.
Both spun around running up the line, still waving like mad men, yelling until they got to the intersection of nowhere and never has been, urging people on like the Apocalypse was coming.
This was a bit more serious than I had counted on.
And sitting there, I did the only two things I could do: Pray. And make a plan.
If the water kept rising and my van (which is high off the ground) even hinted at floating, I was jumping in the back, opening the crates then the side door, and we were swimming for it. If we were going to die there, we would do so fighting.
Finally, we inched forward. Just behind us, the road had indeed been closed.
Photo Corsicana Daily Sun
An eternity later, I got to the turn, and unlike the rest of the folks, went right. On account of that’s what my phone said to do. Don’t you love smart devices? I can’t figure out how I’da have gotten anywhere in all my recent travels without Siri telling me where to go!
But she said right, and by golly, that’s where we went.
Alone. Through the dark. No lights. No cars. Just driving rain.
Imagine my relief when she said, “In half a mile, turn left onto I45 northbound.”
Yahoo! We were saved! My gut eased, finally.
Okay. Not quite so fast.
Ahead at the bridge were lots of lights-flashing police cars. Just in front of me were two big wreckers, wanting to go southbound, and a car between me and them.
I don’t know what the wreckers thought they could do going south, as for the first time the darkness was alight. For as far as the eye could see, both directions, on this 6-lane highway, southbound I45 was a parking lot. A 15-mile backup, I later learned.
It was breathtaking. And not in a good way.
And now the police headed with barricades toward my bridge.
So, as any safe motorist would do, I carefully slid around the car and the wreckers and gassed it over the bridge about 3 minutes before the roadblock was up.
Ah! Almost home!
Merrily, almost giddy with relief although shaking and white-knuckled, I flew north, still gaping at the snaking sea from lights of big rigs and cars just parked for miles and miles and miles.
Which is why, I reasoned later, I didn’t actually notice that I was the only one going northbound . . .
Okay, so on the sides of the road the water was just at asphalt level. But it wasn’t covering the road. Photo Corsicana Daily Sun
And then, like mana from the gods, I can see my exit. Well, it’s not exactly my exit, as from the south you have to go by that, a mile further, exit and go under the underpass, and turn back south onto the access road. But nearly home!
I take it, go left, then turn to go left back south.
To be true, I did see all the activity as soon as I turned, all those vehicles on the access road backed up north! Bless them.
As soon as I tried to turn, a policeman stopped me. Told me I had to keep going straight. Yada, yada, yada.
So I yadad right back at him, explaining very nicely (and clearly) that I had to go that way as I lived right down there and it was the only way to my home.
He wouldn’t budge.
Then again, neither did I.
So finally, exasperated, he told me to weave through the Alma liquor-store parking lot (Alma is only a gas station and 2 liquor stores) and go talk to the State Trooper.
Have you ever noticed that those State Troopers are almost always choir-boy young, and are always oh-so-clean cut and polite?
Dealing with 15 crises at once, in the pouring rain, what a respectful young man he was.
“Turn around, ma’am. You can’t go this way. I45 is shut down now both directions.”
“But I live here. And I’m not getting back on 45—I live right down the road and this is the only way to my home.”
As you can imagine, this continued. Pretty much in the same fashion. His mantra didn’t change, and neither did mine.
“We’ve been through a harrowing ordeal! My girls and I just want to go home!”
Okay, so my pleading did get a bit more shrill. And, I confess, tears did well up in my eyes. But not forced tears, by now they came unbidden.
Who knows how long we went back and forth but finally he called his supervisor, came back, shrugged, asked for my license, and said, “Okay, you get home now. And you be safe, ma’am.”
I tell ya, these Troopers are the most polite boys on the planet. I wish I could somehow thank him.
Finally, home! Shaking, still wet (four and a half hours after we left the show). But thank God and greyhound, home.
I tended the four-legged kids and finally looked at my phone.
Which had blown up with texts, from all my friends, frantic.
So I texted all.
And every one of them texted back that they’d been praying and praying, sending me safe travels.
Their prayers caused the angels to have my back.
We were able to slip through 5 tiny portals, with only minutes to spare. At every turn.
I know that’s what got us through.
The next day, rain still pouring, our area opened all the national news stories. Corsicana ended with over 21 inches of rain. The flooding is mind boggling, a train running into a lake of water and derailing just five miles due south of here. Photo credit KTLA5
Thank you, thank you, thank you, to all the most wonderful friends on the planet. Those who navigated me through. All the people praying.
Your love and caring humbles me to my knees . . .
Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.