Ajax Bell

Author of the Queen City Boys books

raining in my head like a tragedy

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Reading Ann Patchett’s OpEd piece got me thinking about the rain we had here in Tennessee.  It’s storm season for sure, usually an enjoyable time of year, even with the tornado possibilities.  I like thunderstorms. And Tennessee gets so amazingly, unbelievably, gorgeously green in storm season.

Usually I like a morning storm.  There’s something very pleasant about being curled up in bed and hearing the thunder and the rain outside.
This past Saturday I woke up to thunder and a deluge of rain so hard it drowned out all other ambient sounds. I don’t know why I felt different, maybe because the thunder was so loud.  I woke up already feeling panicked.  I felt uneasy all day.  I watched the local news, listened for the tornado sirens over the sound of the rain.  I watched the water rise up a couple inches on the tires of my car, parked outside the kitchen window. The creek by the house (which always seemed safely on high ground) appeared to have risen 12 or so feet. Impossible!  The roof started leaking. The news started showing washed out roads, water in people houses, people being carried away, a BUILDING floating down the interstate and crashing into a semi truck.

I went to work Saturday night and was amazed to find many people who obviously had noticed the heavy rain, but had no idea the damage it was already causing around the city.  Everyone seemed confident that they were safe, or that they lived on high enough ground.  I went home, checked the weather and went to bed with a growing sense of dread.

Sunday morning around 5am I woke up to use the bathroom and was struck by how calm and quiet it seemed outside.  I looked out all the windows, saw no rising water, no rain.  I took a deep breath and went back to bed. 20 minutes later the tornado sirens started again and the thunder rolled back in and I was up for the day.

The rain never stopped coming. The news showed more and more storms backing up behind the ones already dumping on us.  I don’t feel like I ever relaxed on Sunday.  My back is still knotted with tension today.

By mid-day Sunday almost everyone I knew was reporting water in their basements, or worse in their homes.  People were checking in, and others were worrying about those friends we hadn’t heard from. Interstates were closing, local roads, whole neighborhoods. And the rain just kept coming.  The news just kept showing more storms coming up, not the same storm but a run of new storms over and over.

To put in perspective just how much rain fell, over May 1 & 2, we got around 30% of our annual rainfall.  In the city of Nashville around 14″ of water fell in 48 hours.  Nashville averages about 13″ from May through July.  That is to say that three months worth of rain fell inside of 48 hours.

Last night (Tuesday), I was brushing my teeth and car went by, rumbling loud bass that sounded like thunder.  My heart started racing and I automatically walked to the window to look.  The flooding and devastation is terrible.  It’s hard to even wrap my head around the extent of it and I’m here in Nashville to see it.  But it’s the idea of rain that’s making me jumpy now.  I have for a long time fallen asleep to white noise generator of sorts that plays rain sounds.  Last night I couldn’t even bring myself to turn it on, I had to switch to bird and forest noises.  Nothing about rain seems relaxing to me right now. I wonder how long it will be before I can really enjoy a storm again?

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