“Walking Through A Gust Front White-Out”

(December 2, 2018)

gust-front white rainstorm

yards from home – soaked in seconds

but lightning main fear

*(I heard the lightning building – but could not see it through the solid white line of heavy rain I could see as far as my eyes could gather just as I topped the rise at 16th Street to go across the avenue (Myrtle? when you grow up in Sanford sometimes you forget the street names and go by landmarks) to reach the big open park the city expropriated from its natural state as a park to first use to store hurricane debris and now is winding up its use as a storage-headquarters facility for a massive drainage project) to reach what used to be the athletic field for Seminole High School at 18th Street and French Avenue (US 17-92) in Sanford Florida.  Now devoid of the bane of sandspurs and most other stickums, the park faces Sanford Middle School now. 

The storm front had been building all morning, but only early into afternoon did the thunder begin rumbling as I walked back uptown from the library.  Gray clouds a-building and but a few spits and sputters of small= and sometimes medium-sized rain drops.  About 6th Street on Park Avenue I declined the services of the new horrible example of Gazebo with no seating and flush to the ground opposite the town’s old old-library now the Bettye Smith Cultural Center.  I could make it to 18th and Maple easily before I had to open my golf umbrella. I stay prepared when Weather Radio advises.

Screw their advice.  I had to open up the new ‘brella a block from the park. A steady pelting of small drops became bothersome.  I could hear more thunder building.  I was but a 600-yard sprint from the house. Nebber hatchee, Marine.  You got too much weight in that camera bag on your left shoulder and the ground still rough and rutted from regular heavy-truck use negates any attempt to trot, much less sprint. My head crests the rise as I come off Laurel (yep: Laurel Avenue, one past Oak: I knew I’d remember.) into the slight rise before the park proper.

Oh, my effing…what’s that white line looking like its coming down the street stretching from eye to eye as I scan what’s about to hit. Then I knew moments later. A White Squall. What happens at sea.  A Gust Front captured my umbrella just as the bigger drops – some hitting like soft softballs ripped the umbrella into a tulip-shaped mushroom and I was stuck in a growing rain. Struggling against a growing wind, my bush hat shielding somewhat my head, I clutched the ragged remains of the umbrella and struggled against the surge desperately trying to see through the growing howl of rain and rampaging thunder. The rain was so thick trying to see the lightning strikes was a laugh. Was all the lightning going overhead instead of into the ground? Can’t see. Couldn’t tell.  I bumped into a tree: I was shooting an azimuth for the small woodlot fronting 17-92.

Is this a righteous idea, J. Standing – trying to shield yourself and your camera bag full of library books instead of camera gear – behind a biggish oak? In a lightning attack?  Struggle to get the remains of umbrella open enough to shield the backpack at least.  I am fully past soaked. I have the chin and back straps of the bush hat under my ponytail as hold-on device, but thought better of it and whipped it off and clutched it in my free hand.

Oh, great! now I can see even less. Thank God the glasses deflect much of the rain from my eyes. Boom…I hit something. The community garden fencing.  Must be just a few more yards from the sheltering big oaks by 17-92 just across from the school.  Walk along the fence, J. We’ll get there easy now.  I come out below the hamburger drive-thru joint: Checkers.  I am a hundred yards and all downhill from where I thought I was. The rain still tumbles down as if from a poured bucket held on high.  I hear nothing but rain. I make the sidewalk…

Sidewalk? Hell: it’s a river sluicing downhill past ankle-deep and treacherous enough with broken limbs now littering the way.  I look across French Avenue (17-92’s four lanes) at the traffic light. It’s red again’ me. Screw that!. Trudge uphill so I can gauge both directions and try to cross and hope and pray that the bastids driving in this deluge have the lights on so I can see enough to play dodge-car.

I do.

I make it to Maple. The rain almost completely stops as I set first foot going southward.  Figures. Had I stayed at the library and read the papers…oops: did that, which maybe is why I arrived just in time for the soaker. Okay. So I stupided it up. Again. Nothing so unusual there. 

The books were fine.  A slight case of The Damps. I wiped them off.  Then I dropped trou and peeled shirt like a soaked second skin.  I already had toed off the shoes which sloshed on the wooden hallway en route to the bathroom where I kept towels.  Hunted up skivvies and went back to assess the damage.  

Just my pride.

But, damn, what a fine set of memories.

One thought on ““Walking Through A Gust Front White-Out”

  1. Have to return sometime soon to more fully reason with the time-delay: I had spent two, almost three – days trying to catch a helo or truck or jeep ride in the Diety-forsaken constant deluge of a December Monsoon in central Vietnam. The month – or was it October? – before I went through the height of Typhoon Kate in a Marine platoon patrol base’s sandbag-walled dugout (bunker of sorts) listening to two U. S. Navy Corpsmen (medics) assigned to the platoon – “If I get ‘waxed’ you make damn sure they bury me in Marine Dress Blues not those damn blue bellbottoms” often went the squad’s squid when talking pure chewed-fat – so I can justify the missing days when last I purused the above. Then, justify that piece with several others loitering nearby in WordPress-land as well as a couple of unrescued Notes in The Book With Faces. But, today we pump in the last of the missing pieces (hope, hope) and then I get to perhaps go fishing into graphic archives and see what I have missed in my camera days on flash cards and thumb drives.


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