One of the several things I miss about working at the radio station are the drives out into the country. Sure, there were a few times, due to snow or floods, when I wasn’t sure I was going to make it either there are home, but that was part of the adventure. This is from one of those nights five years ago.
Wild ride last night. As I was preparing to head out to the radio station, the first rumbles of thunder spearheaded the approach of a well-defined storm cell moving in from the west. The temperature dropped as the wind picked up and maple seeds, samaras, pelted the roof. Stopping for gas, paper, bags and other light debris sailed across the street.
Highway 10 formed the hem of the storm and I skirted it all the way to the station. Heading east, to my right the sky was pellucid with the afterglow of the recent sunset. To my left…Armageddon. Inky pillars of cloud towered upwards, tossing lightning bolts back and forth illuminating overhead in brilliant strobes. Darkness prevailed except when the sky was split with a ground to cloud strike. Occasionally fat drops of rain were blown sideways to spatter my windshield. Crosswinds exerted a constant pressure to push the car to the west. By the time I reached the Blenker overpass, the rain was constant and at the highest point of the road, a gust shoved the car three feet sideways.
Then I was at my corner and it was time to turn into the teeth of the storm. Headlights turned the horizontal rain into a moving starfield. The icy drops, not quite hail, hammered the flooded road with such force they bounced several feet into the air. The frequency of lightning ground strikes increased, blindingly brilliant. Watching the road, watching the tower, praying, “Please Lord, don’t let it hit the tower, don’t let it hit the tower,” I crept toward the station. Just at the driveway, the sky flared with a fresh strike, the roar of thunder occurred simultaneously and I could feel the ground shake. Blinking to restore my vision, I looked upwards…the tower’s red lights still flashed their steady signal into the night. Another sense-shattering bolt and I prepared to dash from the car. It was only a few feet but the raindrops stung and were icy cold. Through the door, I breathed a sigh of relief as the switch flooded the office with light.
But all was not well. I could hear our programming over the air, but the monitors in the studio remained stubbornly dark. In the transmitter room, I checked the computers whose lights blinked reassuringly back at me. I spent the next half-hour dealing with the equipment malfunctions from the close proximity of the lightning surges and notifying Mark. Fortunately the system was working in the second production studio, so the show must go on.
Driving home in the wee hours of the morning, the overhead sky was dimmed by the filmiest of veils. The waxing moon, headed westward was the color of old ivory and tendrils of mist rose from the running ditches and saturated fields to dance wraithlike across the road, filling the night with a fairyland beauty. To paraphrase the old song, “I Could Have Driven All Night.”