The storm before the calm

I'm back and I'm just not up to speed yet, so this will be a self-indulgent travel-related post.

Yesterday I drove from Des Moines, Iowa to Rockford, Illinois, and I think it was the most harrowing drive I can remember. It had been raining heavily in Des Moines all morning, but stopped around noon so I thought I'd be OK. What I did not know when I left was that I was following a gigantic storm which did considerable damage in the eastern part of Iowa, and which raged into Illinois along with me.

Not far from Iowa City, all eastbound traffic on I-80 came to a grinding halt. It wasn't raining there, so I just assumed someone had had an accident. But I kept driving, and there were many accidents. I counted at least a dozen vehicles (including four large trucks and a passenger bus) which were off the road in various positions. It was insane trying to get through, and the police were still arriving, driving on the side of the road to get around the stopped cars. After passing many stuck and smashed I reached the problem which created the chain reaction -- a jacknifed semi which blocked the entire eastbound road, forcing everyone to slowly go around on the shoulder.

I managed to get this picture while driving:


I found a local news report describing the mess, which speculates about how it happened.

Here's another semi, overturned along the side of the road:


I think that might have been carrying toxic material, as the Newton (Iowa) Daily News website has a picture of it from the other side, and reports that it "struck the rear of another truck, then rolled into the median, spilling several 250-gallon containers of chemicals used to manufacture herbicides."

Glad to get out of there before it got worse!

Except things did get worse. No sooner did I cross the Mississippi than I found myself in a ferocious rainstorm, which turned to a hailstorm, and according to a TV report I saw last night, actually dropped 1.5 inches of rain in 30 minutes in Sterling, Illinois while I was passing through the area. My windshield wipers going full force did absolutely nothing, and the hail which was coming down on the car sounded like marbles being dropped. (More here and here about the tornados.)

Many cars were pulling off to the side of the road, but with the hail I didn't want to risk the possibility that it might get worse, and I just figured if I kept going I could outdrive the storm.

Finally, I saw a patch of light on the horizon ahead, and kept driving like hell.

Obviously this was no time for photography (and photos taken in the middle of it would have been useless) but once I got out of the worst of the storm, I managed to get this photo of a funnel cloud.


Finally, I arrived at Rockford, bringing the storm with me. The worst of the torrential downpour occurred after I had checked in to the motel.

But no storm would deter me from another evening partying with M. Simon! This time we met up at Rockford's trendy Octane Inter Lounge, which looks like this at night:


The place doubles as an art gallery.


As you can see the critics from seem to both be pointing at a particular feature of the painting.

Here's an exploded view:


(Now that I'm back in stodgy old Philadelphia I guess I'll have to behave myself....)

posted by Eric on 06.02.07 at 08:35 PM


As a native of the 'flyover states' .... there is no place like home!

mdmhvonpa   ·  June 4, 2007 10:56 AM

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