Friday, November 27, 2015

CAUGHT IN THE STORM - by Vijaya Schartz

I live in Arizona, near Phoenix, where storms have become more violent over the years. I never used to fear the storm, not in all my years... not even when a micro-burst half destroyed my house over a decade ago. Of course, I was at work at the time, not inside it. But last summer, I was driving on 59th Avenue on a sunny Saturday afternoon, when one of those sudden monsoon storms hit. Within minutes the sky darkened, like twilight in the middle of the day, strong winds, dust, zero visibility, then rain.

Thick walls of water like gray sails waved beyond the windshield, gusty side winds carried large objects across the road and knocked them against hard surfaces with loud bangs. Through the water curtain, I could see car lights in front and in back of me. The wind whooshed like a turbine. The electric poles along the street shook wildly. Lightning hit, close by. Light exploded all around, and thunder cracked and boomed, echoing inside the car, inside my body like a deep drum roll.

That’s when fear set in. My heart beat faster than after running a 10K. Still, I couldn’t panic. I had to think... and fast.

Although the cars had slowed, stopping on the main road with traffic would be suicide. Driving in this chaos would also be suicide as the electric poles swayed dangerously, waving their array of thick power lines overhead. The street was flooding fast. What to do?

Eyes riveted to the right curb that quickly disappeared under the rising tide, I spotted a faint driveway to the side, and remembered it must lead to the DMV parking lot. Following the curb, I managed to get my car off the road and into the wide open space... anywhere. I couldn’t see the white lines on the pavement anyway. Other cars followed my tail lights and parked in a line next to me, as if taking comfort in company. I felt their presence somewhat reassuring.

Were we safe? Not really. There was no safe place to hide from the storm. The flagpole overhead shook dangerously under the gusty winds flapping the flag, and the ropes snapped against it with loud metallic knocks. Garbage cans, branches, and large pieces of debris flew and swept across the open area with unprecedented force. I feared at any moment the wind might lift my little car and throw it against a concrete building.

Then, as fast as it had come, although it seemed to last for hours, the storm moved away, leaving me relieved and shaken at the sight of the destruction. In the last spattering of rain, I could see fallen poles across the flooded street, downed power lines sparking in flood water, traffic lights strewn in the middle of the intersection, and fallen trees.

A few hundred yards south of the DMV parking lot, on 59th Avenue, where I would have been had I not turned, several electric poles had fallen. One had crushed a car, trapping the driver inside, in the middle of a small lake. No way to get to the car to see if the person inside was dead or alive. It was a woman, I learned later on the news. Rescued by the fire department, she was not seriously hurt, but I felt guilty and glad at the same time. It could have been me.

In the aftermath of the storm, all the streets in the area were flooded or blocked by debris, trees, branches, pieces of roofs. People stood on their front porch, staring at their destroyed property, eyes wide, as if wondering how so much destruction could happen in so little time. Emergency vehicles blared their sirens. After many detours and turnarounds, in dangerously flooded streets and bumper to bumper traffic, it was dark, hours later, when I finally reached my small apartment ten blocks away. I was never so glad to hug my cat.

No matter how strong or fearless we are, there is always something or someone stronger than us, and Mother Nature is teaching us lessons at every turn. The memories of this storm will stay with me forever, and I bet they will end up in a book someday.

In the meantime, you can read my latest contemporary romance with a hint of suspense, set in Scottsdale, Arizona, and available in all eBook formats everywhere.

Buy it in all formats here

When Talia runs over billionaire Kyle Dormant with her bicycle in the dog park, she considers their meeting a happy accident. He believes it is destiny, but her physician's mind rebels at such notions. Their budding romance comes to a grinding halt when Kyle won’t wake up from deep sleep... with no medical explanation. Baffled and deeply concerned, Talia digs into his recent past for a plausible cause. Instead, she uncovers dark family secrets. Convinced Kyle's condition was induced, and someone wants him dead, she is anxious to save him, but the closer she gets to the sordid truth… and a possible cure, the greater the risk to both their lives.
Vijaya Schartz
Romance with a Kick

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