We don’t have hurricanes in the Midwest. We get virtually every other form of natural disaster: floods, tornadoes, forest fires, snowstorms, hailstorms, ice storms, earthquakes (though the last Big One was in the early 1800s), droughts, and heat waves, but no hurricanes. Those are for people living near an ocean. The trouble is, we get the remnants of hurricanes, and they can be almost as bad as the real thing.
Last weekend northern Indiana got over a foot of rain. I should have realized that the Borman Expressway would be flooded when I started driving east from Galesburg last Sunday afternoon. The Borman (named after astronaut Frank Borman, not Nazi Martin Bormann, though sometimes I think it ought to be) is a six-to-eight-lane highway extending from the Illinois border to the Indiana Toll Road exit at Lake Station, a distance of about 15 miles. It funnels virtually all the auto and truck traffic coming from Chicago and points west to Indiana, Michigan, and points east. When it shuts down, it’s a traffic nightmare. The alternatives are to go south to U.S. 30 or to head north into Chicago and get on the Skyway.
I was blithely driving Interstate 80 (the Kingery Expressway on the Illinois side), listening to a fascinating public radio program, “To the Best of Our Knowledge” about Generation X and its resentments against Boomers like me and Millennials like my kids, when I encountered a jam blocking all but the left lane of traffic. I stayed on the right, as the left lane would take me to Wisconsin. When I got to the Lincoln Oasis (a rest stop built over the highway), I could see flashing blue lights down the road. An accident, I thought.
But when I got back on the road it was clear that it was more than an accident. I was diverted off the Kingery and headed south. There were no signs or warnings, and public radio wasn’t giving traffic updates. (I couldn’t switch to AM because the space-age radio in my car didn’t come with instructions, and there was nothing that indicated AM.) By that time, I knew I’d need to make a 50-mile detour, as truck traffic would make a shorter detour even longer.. I got back to Elkhart about 2 a.m. Monday. A little before ten that morning I got a call from my son, who said he was coming home from college. Hanover College had no electricity and no water. The school would be closed for a week.
Southern Indiana got high winds and even worse flooding. When Jim got home, he called it the Hanover Apocalypse. Students were walking around muttering, “What do I do?” First the school planned to have classes on Monday, but then realized that with the water tower empty and no power to pump water into it, Hanover would have to close. Luckily, Jim got a ride with a friend who was from Elkhart. Otherwise we would have had to drive down and pick him up.
I got back to Davenport Tuesday night with a minimum of delay, though the Borman was still blocked. Still, I’m not used to hurricanes, or the remnants thereof, causing so much damage in the Upper Midwest.