Storm Allison 2001
The Worst Urban
Flood in US History
by Rick Archer
Last Update: June 2011
Due to the extreme
destruction, the name Allison was permanently retired; the 2001
incarnation of Allison is the only Atlantic tropical system ever to have
its name retired without reaching hurricane strength.
2011 Note from Rick Archer:
It is now the ten year anniversary of Allison, the craziest
weather phenomenon I have ever personally witnessed...
and I hope it stays that way.
As I write,
it is June 2011. It is currently 100 degrees out,
a record-setting temperature. It hasn't rained in
two weeks and there is no rain in sight. That's
right, irony of ironies, Houston is currently mired in
the worst prolonged drought I can remember. Is the
drought bad enough to welcome another Allison? No,
of course not, but something much less severe would
actually be appreciated!
I am not the
only one to whisper such blasphemy.
Houston meteorologist Frank Billingsley pretty much said
the same thing. In his 2011 Hurricane guide,
Billingsley wrote: "Given our severe drought situation
this spring, we honestly could use a nice, tame tropical
system. So let's wish for the upside of the season
and hope the worst doesn't come calling our way."
has to be pretty bad to start wishing for a small
hurricane, but a lot of people are thinking that exact
thing. As with any Devil's bargain, that is how
serious this dry spell is.
But for now,
let's go back and remember Tropical Storm Allison.
I think you will enjoy the story about what went on at
SSQQ that night. Never underestimate the ability
of single people to get into trouble. In addition
you absolutely need to read the story of Steve Bahnsen's
near-escape from death. Another terrific... and
very funny... story is Dan Brown's experience in the
Katy Freeway Bathtub. You will be surprised to
discover the stories will be just as much fun to
read today as they were 10 years ago.
Recollections of Allison
night, June 8, 2001, the Heavens opened up and poured down heavy
rains upon Houston for nearly 10 straight hours.
Tropical Storm Allison, in less than two hours, most of
Houston was completely flooded. More than 20 people lost their lives and
the water caused over three billion dollars worth of damage [2011 Note: that
figure has since risen to $5.5 billion].
Many SSQQ students sent in stories
of their adventures during this amazing
evening. In particular,
want you to read about
Steve Bahnsen's narrow
escape from a flooding vehicle whose doors couldn't be opened! True
story, scary story, amazing story.
Another wonderful story is
Dan Green's fascinating
minute-by-minute account of being trapped in the I-10
Truck Graveyard. During the storm, the
Katy Freeway at TC Jester turned into the
His very funny story carries some
excellent advice as well:
ever curse people out in a storm ... because you just might end up spending the night with them at a
This is Heights
Boulevard heading north. That is the Katy Freeway up ahead.
Do you see those people wading? That is a bridge that crosses
White Oak Bayou. It is difficult to visualize, but White Oak
Bayou has risen to the same level as the bridge. That bridge
is about 20 feet above water level!
Another story you will
enjoy is what happened at my dance studio
on Bissonnet that night. My dance studio served as
an impromptu Noah's Ark for 20 people who were stranded at
SSQQ all night long. It was quite a night
However, before we begin
my own story, let's take a look at the water itself. The
problem with flood pictures is you don't know what the place
normally looks like. The pictures on the left and right were taken at the
Shepherd Drive bridge where it crosses Memorial Drive during the
Allison storm. Now we see that the water rose 12 feet high.
Just to put things in
perspective, the Maldives is an island nation in the Indian
Ocean 250 miles south of India. These islands rest a mere four
feet above sea level. That's how fragile that island is to
rising water. So imagine how much water it takes to create an
instant lake 12 feet deep.
you can see, the water made it at least to 12 feet. This
picture was taken next to St. Thomas HS
Freeway Bathtub Effect
Before we begin our stories, I would like to give some background
information about Houston's bayous, White Oak Bayou in particular.
Houston is known as the 'Bayou City' for a reason. This area
does not have a major river, so our bayou system handles the water
Every single Houston bayou created headaches during Allison, but
White Oak probably caused the most problems. The damage White
Oak Bayou did to the Katy Freeway absolutely crippled this vital
artery. Many people have never quite understood what caused an
important three-mile stretch of Katy Freeway I-10 to suddenly become
submerged, so I thought I would do my best to clear up some of the
The City of Houston was originally
built along the banks of a muddy bayou known as
Buffalo Bayou. Just north of downtown in the
upper left corner of this picture, another bayou known as White
Oak merges with Buffalo Bayou to create a
good sized stream that eventually turns into the Houston
addition, Greens Bayou which runs parallel to
I-45, connects with White Oak Bayou exactly in
the lower right hand corner of the picture above.
This junction takes place about 1.5 miles before
White Oak connects with Buffalo Bayou in the
upper left hand corner of the picture.
Bayou was a major culprit during Allison.
Greens Bayou was responsible for flooding I-45 just
north of downtown during Allison. It was the
confluence of these three major bayous that created this
sensational Allison flood picture of Downtown Houston.
Google Earth photo of the same area shows, ordinarily
White Oak Bayou is no big deal. In this
picture, White Oak Bayou is contained as usual in its
concrete culvert. It is about 12 feet wide and about
5 feet deep. White Oak Bayou is dormant at
However, when it rains, White Oak
will grow so much it practically becomes a raging river.
There is nothing built on that green area for a reason -
that is a flood plain. If it rains hard enough,
all that green will disappear... as is shown in the
Allison picture on the left.
created this flood,
the worst I have
seen in my 60 years of living in Houston. I have never
seen the freeways under water! However it
isn't unusual to see at least half this area fill up
with water after a hard rain. Mind you, the
freeways don't get covered with water, but the grassy
areas will disappear about once every two years if the
storm is strong.
sleepy White Oak Bayou on a pleasant day. White Oak Bayou
on a normal day is maybe 3-4 feet deep. Do you see
that bridge? Call it "Bridge X". I have seen the water rise right to the very bottom of that
bridge!! This entire valley becomes one giant
lake. That thin yellow line marks the water
line in a flood. The water covers that walking
path on the far left. I see floods that big maybe
once every three years. The most recent one was
after Hurricane Ike in 2008.
runs parallel to I-10 Katy Freeway through an area known
as the "Houston Heights". It is
called the 'Heights' for a reason... it is the
highest natural elevation in the city about 50 higher than the rest
of Houston. The entire green area in the
picture becomes one long enormous "water retention area"
in heavy rains.
White Oak Bayou in the same spot as the picture
above. I took the flood photograph from Bridge
X facing west (Y). Point Y is
500 yards away. I estimate the water has risen 30
feet! Notice the water is almost about to
flood a low section of the Katy Freeway I-10.
This picture was taken during Hurricane Ike in 2008, but
I'm sure it looked even worse in Allison. That
freeway was probably covered.
I call Houston the 'Concrete Capital'. We love our vast
concrete freeways. Most of the freeways in Houston are marred
by one ugly advertisement sign after another, but there is one very
attractive 3 mile stretch of freeway on I-10 Katy just inside the
West Loop 610. This stretch of freeway is submerged about 20
feet below ground level. The lush green banks are lined with
trees and bushes.
By chance, White Oak Bayou runs roughly parallel to the Katy
Freeway. I moved to the Heights in 1977. As a long-time
resident of the area, I drove this 3 mile stretch of the Katy
Freeway every day for 20 years without a problem. Then one very rainy
day around 1995, for the first time ever I noticed water suddenly
begin to shoot upwards through the drains along the submerged section of
the Katy Freeway. Water began collecting on the freeway just
like a swimming pool might begin to fill up with water.
Alarmed, I drove to the nearest exit and got out of there while I
I got out just in time. The water didn't rise much further,
but quite a few cars did end up getting stuck in this impromptu
I was absolutely baffled by what I had seen. What had made
that water shoot upwards through the drains?
Curious to understand what could cause that phenomenon,
I asked Bob, an engineer friend, if he knew what was
going on. He explained that the water came
from White Oak Bayou nearby. The
water in White Oak is typically about 20 feet
LOWER than the submerged section of the Katy Freeway.
Therefore, whenever it rains, the water in the submerged
section of the Katy Freeway drains into White Oak
much I understood. Yes, water typically drains
downwards. So what caused the water to reverse?
What would cause White Oak Bayou to drain into the Katy
Freeway? Bob explained that the heavy storm
had raised the water in White Oak Bayou so high
that for the first time ever the water level in White
Oak was higher than the Katy Freeway.
The water pressure became so intense that it forced
water to flow upwards through the same drain pipes in
point, the submerged part of the Katy Freeway was
submerged in more ways than one. The Freeway had
just become a giant bathtub.
This is a famous picture taken during Tropical Storm Allison that
dramatically shows the Katy Freeway Bathtub Effect.
You can see the giant beer trucks stuck in the water, but they are
not alone. There are about 30 others cars and trucks out there
too. You can't see them because they are all under water.
The water is about twelve feet high... which means the water in the
nearby swollen White Oak Bayou must be at least 30 feet high!
When I saw this problem in 1995 for the first time, the water was
only about two or three feet deep. In other words, here in
2001 the Katy Freeway Bathtub Effect had become far more serious.
The thing that bothered me was that I had driven this section for
twenty years without seeing this problem. Why now?
Why didn't I notice it before? This section of the Katy
Freeway was built back in the Seventies. Why did the Bathtub
Effect wait twenty years to become a serious problem?
Bob said he had a theory. He thought the answer was related to
development in Cy-Fair area northwest of downtown.
Bob said that
the Cypress-Fairbanks development northwest of downtown Houston was
the likely culprit. Bob said that back when the submerged part
of the Katy Freeway was reconstructed in the Seventies, Cy-Fair was
practically empty. At that point, Jersey Village was just
being developed. Now thirty years later, the Cy-Fair area ten
miles northwest of Jersey Village had become Houston's fastest
growing area. Bob said all of this development was in
the White Oak Bayou watershed. The urban
development 15 miles to the northwest had created huge problems for
the inner loop part of I-10 Katy Freeway.
In the old days, whenever it rained, the water just sat in fields
and ditches for a while. This area drained slowly.
However once this area was developed, the streets facilitated a
rapid run-off of all rainwater directly into White Oak Bayou.
As a result, White Bayou was now handling twice the amount of water
at its peak compared to thirty years earlier. All the
rainwater from the Cy-Fair area came rushing down the bayou.
Unfortunately, at the narrow points of White Oak Bayou, the water
could not drain fast enough. Consequently the water level at
the narrow points in the Bayou rose to levels people never imagined
possible when they redesigned the Katy Freeway years earlier.
The higher water level during powerful rain storms created the Katy
Freeway Bathtub Effect.
After all the damage caused by Allison, Houston's city planners
decided enough was enough. They had to slow the water down.
From that point, the city has forced any developer in the Cy-Fair
area to build huge water retention areas. The map above
on the right shows 7 "Water Detention" areas which are basically
"Empty Lakes for Rainwater to Wait in". Whatever they
did seems to be working. I have only seen the bathtub effect a
couple times since Allison. One was a minor incident that went
away in thirty minutes and the other was Hurricane Ike in 2008.
I found a remarkable picture in Google Earth from 1978 that shows
the fields where the rainwater used to sit. Today thanks to
all the development in the Cypress-Fairbanks area in the past 30
years, water is sent quickly to White Oak Bayou by the new concrete
streets acting as efficient tributaries.
Rick's Story: How
SSQQ Became Noah's Ark for a Night
As I drove to the studio for classes that fateful Friday night at
6:30 pm, little did I suspect what was
in store for us later that night. At this time, it was raining lightly.
However I could see the skies were ominously dark. I recalled with a frown the
huge rains of the previous Tuesday that had devastated our
classes and figured the same thing would happen again tonight if
the current downpour picked it up at all.
Little did I know that
the massive storm from Tuesday had simply gone back out into the
Gulf of Mexico to 'reload'. Now it was back. Oddly enough, on
Friday, Allison's big night, there was no media fanfare from the
weather people. Yes, of course they predicted rain, but no one
even remotely suspected what we were in for.
As people were driving
to dance class that evening, at
this point the rain
wasn't heavy enough to scare anyone away.
For example, I got to the studio without a problem.
Walking in the door at 6:30, the rain was just barely drizzling.
The rain intensity picked up about 6:55 pm and turned into a
downpour. This was exactly when people arrived at the
studio. Stuck in their cars, it was either drive back home
or run frantically into the studio. Most people chose to
stay. Lots of people started showing up with
their clothes completely soaked.
That told me the rains had begun to pick up.
'Oh great', I thought. 'Just what we need - more rain!!'
at the dance classes was pretty good.
It rained steadily through the 7-9 classes.
When classes ended, some people - the
smart ones - decided
not to stick around. They headed out the door promptly at 9 pm, but many others stayed for
the SSQQ Friday Practice
Night assuming the rains would eventually ease up.
Consequently Practice was crowded.
Typically four or five
instructors stay to run the Practice party every Friday evening.
Some are expected to stay an hour, others are supposed to stay till
the end and close up. It was my
night to leave early, but I hung around anyway.
My reason was mostly philanthropic.
The philanthropic side
of me suggested there might be flooding. If so, some people
would need to stay at the studio. This occurred to me as early
as 10 pm.
I might add that
didn't want to go out driving in this awful weather. Like everyone
else, I was reluctant to drive home in this pouring rain.
I assumed I could have made it home at any time. I knew the Heights
could be reached by the Katy Freeway. The
West Loop and Katy Freeway are usually immune from flooding problems
(according to Dan Green, the Katy Freeway was still open as late as
people later told me they were thinking the same thing - stay
and wait for the rain to abate. Silly me. Silly us.
It kept raining and raining. All night long
people would dance a while, then go outside and check the rain only
to come back inside shaking their heads in
shock and amazement. It was pouring out there!
The word 'deluge' was used several times.
About 11:30 we
had a new development. Martha Gerdes had left the studio 15 minutes
earlier, but now I frowned as I saw her reenter
the studio soaking wet. Martha reported to everyone she
couldn't get out of the Bellaire area. Uh oh. Martha owned a truck.
If Martha couldn't get
out it, we were all in trouble.
After a quick
phone call to her friend Rick Lybarger who
had apparently made it home, Martha decided to try a different route.
So she left again at Midnight. Her friend Michelle Crossley
who drives a monster truck decided to leave too, but headed in a
As she left, Michelle told me she wasn't
worried a bit. Hah! It turned out
both ladies spent the entire night stuck four blocks from the
studio. Martha was stuck at a gas station,
Michelle was stuck at a convenience store.
Fortunately they had each other - they
spent the night calling each other on their cell phones for company.
Michelle's Note: "Spent the night in the
parking lot of the Jiffy Mart/Stop & Rob or whatever the name of
that little store was. David Kreidler hit the median in
his suv -I was following him - it flattened his tire & we
stopped to change tires. That's when the water rose.
We had no choice but to wait it out in that parking lot. I was
on the phone all night with Martha Gerdes- stuck at another gas
station...The median was under water-we couldn't see it. I
remember hearing several couples were created at the studio that
night... Not me!!"
All night long I had nursed a funny feeling about all this
unusual amount of rain.
In the past when it had rained hard, I could always reach the West
Loop and scoot to safety. But not tonight - by 11 pm unless you
had a truck no one could reach the West Loop
from the studio. I had never seen
this happen before. Bellaire floods in places, but not SSQQ.
least not till tonight.
Every now and then I
would go outside to check on conditions. Our studio
parking lot was completely under water. I wondered if the
studio was safe. The water was coming right up to the lip of the
curb. Little waves occasionally lapped up onto the
sidewalk. If the water rose three more inches, we might have
water come into the studio. I held my breath and hoped for
going anywhere and I knew it. In fact, I had known since
that unless it stopped raining, I would be spending the night.
Since I live in the Heights - named for
its elevation (50 feet higher than the rest of the city) - I assumed I could still get home at this point
via the Loop. However I also knew that even if I could get home - and there was no guarantee that I
could - many others couldn't.
Like any good captain, I felt an
obligation to stay with the ship and be at
the studio to help the others who had no way to get home.
In retrospect I probably saved myself from all kinds of
problems. They say no good deed goes unpunished, but in
this case I probably benefited from my willingness to stick around and
After Martha's dramatic announcement that she was going to make a
last ditch effort (now I know where that phrase comes from -
last person out ends up in a ditch!), several people decided it
was now or never. They had begun to realize that something
really bizarre was going on and that the rains weren't going to
Gary Richardson made a dash with his wife Betty
and daughter Cyndi. 15 minutes later, Gary and his family
were back at the studio. Their escape
attempt had failed. In fact, Gary
said he had to drive on the wrong side of Bellaire Avenue just
to make it back to the studio.
Gary said he was fortunate that
many people were braver (is that really the word for it?) than
In several places, Gary watched as other
vehicles attempted to cross flooded areas only to fail
miserably. Once he saw their cars get permanently stuck, Gary
concluded the best place for him was back at the studio
before it was too late.
So Gary began a harrowing trip back
that ultimately forced him to drive on the wrong side of
Bellaire Boulevard. Normally Bellaire has three
lanes in two directions. But tonight only the south side
was still open. As a result, there was two-way traffic
in those three lanes. Fortunately there wasn't much danger
of collision - the cars did little better than barely crawl
past each other at one inch per hour.
Gary wasn't alone in his decision
to return. Many SSQQ students tried to
leave only to return 15 or 20 minutes later shaking their heads
in frustration. All the time I just sat on the couch in
Room 2, the TV
room, watching Channel 2. I wasn't going
anywhere; I wanted to stay in case anyone needed me.
Brian White and Ann Bush, SSQQ
instructors, made their move at midnight only to return soon
after. They said Chimney Rock was hopeless just as Gary
Richardson had reported earlier. Brian and Ann were the first to
size up the situation for what it was -
escape was hopeless. Accordingly, upon their return,
Brian and Ann
quickly seized control of the largest couch in
Room One and snuggled in for the
night. Smart move.
They guarded that couch carefully - when
one got up, the other stayed on the couch to make sure no
poachers stole it from them! Just kidding. Sort of.
I am sorry I didn't get everyone's name
stayed the night, but I wasn't in much
of a "reporting mood". There was a lady named
whose son Michael called her to report
he had totaled his car by driving into a "bottomless pit".
He had no idea how deep the water was when he drove into
it. That was very dangerous. My friend Steve
Bahnsen nearly drowned doing the same thing that night!
was a gentleman named Arthur. There was another gentleman
- name withheld deliberately - who
was seven sheets to the wind. More
about him later. Janis and her friend Erik were two of the people
who tried to leave, but they were gone less than 10 minutes. Their
gloomy report on the hopelessness of trying to escape marked the final effort to leave.
No one else bothered after
that. There were several other people who
stayed as well, but I do not remember their names.
I estimate close to 25 people were stranded for the night at the
I might add in twenty-two years of business at
our location, nothing remotely like this had ever happened before.
This was the first sleepover in
A year earlier I had
anticipated something like this might happen
to us on New Year's Eve
due to the much-ballyhooed Y2K bug, but that of course had turned out to be
This however was a modern day flood of tremendous
Now that I realize
the full extent of what
happened, I now consider Tropical Storm Allison
to be an 'Event of a Lifetime' that all of
us who live in Houston will remember forever.
Jim Colby was one of the stars of the evening. He drove a huge
pickup truck. He was unable to get Marlane Kayfes safely to her
nearby home, but on the way back to the studio they decided to
stop for hamburgers. Jim and Marlane returned with a dozen boxes
of hamburgers and French fries, which they generously shared
with a much-appreciative group.
Throughout the wee hours of the morning, I continued to just lay
on the couch watching in horror as the stories developed on TV.
I could not believe the TV coverage continued
throughout the night. I assumed that the power would be
knocked out, but amazingly we kept our electricity all night
long. I had given up hope of leaving long ago and now I just wanted
everyone (including myself) to be comfortable. I opened up the
drink room and told everyone to help themselves. Then I
scrounged around for some extra blankets and pillows
in the office to hand to
people. I also watched with amusement as the ladies raided the
Ladies Room 'Lost and Found' for abandoned
jackets and shirts. SSQQ Instructor Gloria Sanchez and
Sharon Belchick were soon sporting
SSQQ instructor Linda Cook sized things up quickly.
She claimed a couch early on and pulled out a book. How she read in
the darkness of Room 2 is beyond me, but she quickly made
herself as comfortable as she could and read
deep into the night. I don't remember seeing her
move from that spot one time.
Kimberly Smith was another person who decided not
to make a run for it. Instead she grabbed the final remaining
spot on the couch Gary Richardson and I shared.
The three of us sat side by side watching the events unfold on
TV. Later in the evening, Gary
got tired of watching TV, so he moved over to another
couch to be with his wife Betty. At
this point, Kimberly and I stretched out
with our faces at
opposite ends of the couch. Unfortunately my long legs did not
fit very well. I had to contract my legs in
order to lay down.
I was uncomfortable all night
long. Even when I finally fell asleep around 3 or 4 in the
morning, I am sure I tossed and turned. About 6 am I awoke from a doze
when I heard a yelp of pain. I looked
up to find
poor Kimberly struggling to
lift my foot out of her face
at the other end of the couch.
Apparently as I tossed and turned, my
leg had straightened and my foot inadvertently landed right on top of her
Oops, sorry, Kim.
Larry Leising was smart. He got the last
remaining couch in the Big
After I turned out the lights at 12:30 am,
Larry said he quickly
fell asleep and didn't wake up until 6:30 am the next day. Now
that's the right idea!
Around 1 am on one of my patrols outside, I discovered a thin young lady
standing on the sidewalk shivering violently in her rain-soaked
clothes. Her name was Yvette. I guess
she was about 18. She never explained her sudden
appearance to me, but my instincts told she
was driving down Bissonnet getting nowhere.
Knowing she had to stop driving at some point, she probably pulled into our parking
lot after seeing the other cars there.
I invited Yvette
to come into the
studio, but she refused to budge.
Bless her heart, I think Yvette was worried about
trusting me. I did my best to convince
her to come inside, but didn't get very far. I explained that
there were other people inside including lots of women.
She did not have to be afraid. That didn't work. She
seemed suspicious I was trying to trick her. Then I said I
would go in first and she could follow a safe distance behind
and look around.
That way if I did something bad, she could still run to the
door. That didn't work either.
Yvette would rather stay
outside and be miserable than risk making a serious mistake. I felt so sorry for her!
It was like coaxing a wounded dog to take a bite of food out of
Finally I said, "Yvette, if I was a bad person, I
could just drag you inside anyway. There's no one out here
in this rain to help you. But I am not going to hurt you.
So here's what I am going to do. I am going back inside.
There is the door. You know where it is. Please join us
when you are ready. You will be much more comfortable, I
promise." To be honest, that approach was not well
So I gave up and went back
inside. Five minutes passed. No Yvette.
Frustrated, I had another idea. I asked one of the
ladies to go outside and fetch the young girl. Maybe a woman
could talk some sense into her. Sure enough, that worked.
Almost immediately, Yvette appeared in the
doorway to Room Two. I was a little irritated that the
girl didn't trust me, but I was relieved to see her nonetheless.
She needed to be inside.
I could certainly
understand Yvette's reluctance - don't trust strangers in a storm
who are much bigger than you.
Believe me, Yvette's face broke into a huge smile when she
realized there really was an entire community
of decent people inside.
Yvette had to feel very vulnerable (as I
am sure Martha and Michelle did stuck alone in their trucks!).
I gave Yvette one of
my blankets and pointed out a large chair
in Room 4. Yvette was so small she was able to
curl up into a ball. She quickly fell asleep and rested
That was the last time I saw
her. I went back to my couch and more unfolding TV stories.
I dozed off. When I checked on her
in the morning she was gone.
I assume she left when the water receded.
I never knew what Yvette's story was. She reminded me of
Riders on the Storm - alone and defenseless in a
cold cruel world. What Yvette was doing
alone in the night at 1 am in the worst storm imaginable I will
never know, but I felt proud that I was able to help her.
She obviously needed it.
World is Flooding!
I worried all night long about losing my wood
floor to the flood. Fortunately the flooding never came close to threatening the
studio. The parking lot got high waters, but thankfully the
flood stopped at the very top of the sidewalk curb. The waters
never crossed the sidewalk. Believe me, I checked.
The rains continued well
into the night without letup. Midnight
passed... it was still raining. 2 am arrived... still raining.
All of us watched the amazing stories on the TV in muted
horror. I admired the brave news people who reported throughout the
night. Many of them were soaking wet and
cold, but they gamely kept sharing their reports.
In a way, what else did
they have to do? Once they got to a spot, they became
stranded in that place just like everyone
else. Might as well keep reporting.
weatherman tried to explain the bizarre weather
phenomenon that was causing our problem. He said
this storm had some sort of meteorological water hose
connecting it to the Gulf of Mexico that allowed it to
transfer unending amounts of water up from the Gulf,
circle it forward and drop it directly over Houston.
Don't expect me to explain this strange idea because I
have never heard anything so ridiculous in my life.
However, judging from the amounts of water falling on my
city, I was starting to believe it. Somebody turn
off the hose!
Thanks to the TV crews, throughout
the night we watched all sorts of rescue operations and
tales of woe. We saw pictures of cars stalled in
high waters and people standing on car rooftops begging
to be rescued.
One story was particularly gripping. Several
motorists had been stranded in the middle of an
intersection. Finally a fire engine was able to
make its way fairly close by. The firemen got
out a boat and motored over to get the motorists.
The Fire Department had just finished
motorists when a
bizarre situation developed nearby. About two
hundred yards away, the cameraman had noticed a man and his wife
were trying to put their
children into a child's
swimming pool. He swung
his camera around so we could watch. They were
about to attempt to wade across a huge
sea of very deep water. Everyone at the
studio gasped at the sheer folly of this idea.
of swimming pool was too weak to hold the children.
And the water was too deep for the man to stand up
for long. He would have to swim or dog paddle. What would
happen to the children when he couldn't stand up to support the
swimming pool? One of those kids was bound to fall
into the water. Every one of us stared in horror at
the unfolding drama. It turned out we weren't the
only ones who were worried.
This picture is a
perfect example of a man whose stupidity might just result
in a posthumous "Darwin Award"
The live camera
feed captured the stunned faces of the
also watched in horror as this unbelievably stupid
couple plopped their three kids
- one a baby -
into the flimsy swimming pool
to see if it would float. Of
course a swimming pool won't float!
Finally the fireman were convinced these idiots were
actually going to try it if someone didn't do something.
So one of
the firemen got in the boat and went over
to "persuade" the family to stop.
He offered them a ride in his
boat instead. Problem solved. We
clapped and cheered. These guys were
As I stared in morbid fascination, a truly dark side of me thought
about the Darwin Awards. The 'Darwin
Awards' are a sick but fascinating set of true
stories about people who died or were seriously hurt due
to their own actions. They had done something so
unbelievably stupid that some people would say they
actually 'DESERVED' to die!
This strange award was named
in honor of Sir Charles
Darwin. His theories on natural selection included the
theory that the fittest survive and the corollary that the stupidest don't! Darwin said
that eliminating the stupidest people or animals from
the gene pool was a good thing because it improved the
species' chances of survival. I knew Darwin wrote a
lot about gene pools, but I
wasn't sure what he said about swimming pools.
- The Morning After
Throughout the evening people thanked me for letting them stay.
I replied that
they were more than welcome.
Their appreciation embarrassed me in a way. It wasn't like
I did anything to deserve much credit.
I was pleased that I was in a position to help. It was the
right to do. Thanks to the
studio, we all spent the night in far more comfort than a lot of
other people. After
all, I knew from 11 pm on it was unlikely that
any of us who were still there weren't going
home that night. Indeed I
appreciated the sanctuary of the studio just as much as
everyone else. It was no big
deal to extend the hospitality.
Let me add I wasn't the only one
in the room to feel extraordinarily fortunate to be so snug and
safe while we watched many others clearly suffer a far worse
fate on TV. Everyone was
that night as any house guest could
possibly be. The morale stayed high throughout the ordeal. Not one
person complained about a thing. They were grateful
to be safe and dry.
The next morning, there was still water on the streets, but it
had subsided. Gary Richardson and I drove four blocks to a
nearby Randalls. Gary and I were both astonished to see
was open. We asked how they had gotten there in these
conditions only to be told that many employees had spent the
night trapped there.
Gary and I looked at
each other and grinned. We knew exactly what they were
talking about. They had been in the same spot as us.
bad luck was our good luck.
We thanked them for being kind enough to open up. We
bought fruit and sandwich food to bring back for breakfast, a
gesture that was much appreciated by the gang.
By 11 am that morning, the water around the studio had retreated
to the point that everyone felt safe enough to leave. I
waited awhile to see if anyone returned. After about 20
minutes, I decided the coast was clear and headed home myself.
What a strange night!
As we watched the misfortunes
of others on TV, we were
grateful to be high and dry while thousands of others
were trapped in dangerous and miserable conditions.
Even better, none of suffered any car damage whatsoever.
We were the lucky ones.
Yes, we were stuck at the studio, but as we saw the misery
reflected on the faces of the thousands of people whose cars had
stalled or who were trapped in one spot by rising water, we
counted our blessings.
all understood it could have been much worse. For
example, Steve Bahnsen, a friend of mine from the
studio, had taken a dance class at SSQQ the same evening
only to almost drown over in the Heights when he and his
friends were caught inside his car with water rushing
No one complained about his or her fate
the entire night. We had food, we had couches, we had TV, and we
had each other for company. As impromptu
slumber parties go, this one
am just glad that we were able to be safe and relatively
comfortable during a very dangerous night.
Dance and Romance in the Storm
as it may be to believe, there actually was some frisky
business at the studio that night. No, I am not
making this up. There was definitely some serious
was unable to report this when I first wrote my story
ten years ago, but I no longer feel I have my hands
For starters, on a
couch right across the room from me, one couple spent the entire
night laughing, cuddling and smooching. Throughout the
night I had a choice between watching TV or watching them
smooch. I had some mixed feelings about their pleasure. On the one hand, I was happy for them as
the night away. Their night spent together helped forge a
powerful connection. They were inseparable after that.
In fact, the last time I checked, they are still together as of 2011.
So obviously the romantic sparks during that crazy night here
at SSQQ lit a fuse that still burns.
However, on another
level their joy was especially irritating to me because I was
unusually grouchy. I had just gotten my divorce only two
weeks earlier. Not surprisingly, I wasn't in one of those
'joy to the world' kind of moods. In fact, I would
describe my mood as closer to "Paint it Black".
Just to set the
record straight, I stayed put in Room 2 all night long watching
TV. Although it is true I shared my couch with a pretty
girl named Kimberly, I can assure the world I was a good boy.
Her head was at one end and my head was at the other the entire
I was not even
remotely in the mood for love. You see, at 7 pm in the
evening I noticed a girl I had dated a couple times
come into the studio with some guy she was
clearly interested in. I could instantly see she had a lot more
enthusiasm for him than she ever had for me. I hated to
admit it, but I would say she had the hots for him... without
any regard for my feelings, she was all over the guy!
I was subjected to
their chemistry all night long until they left the studio together around 11
pm. I was thrilled to see them leave. Good riddance!
Maybe now I could begin to handle my feelings better. I had been
bent of shape over being rejected. Divorce is hard enough
without having to deal with stuff like this. To my dismay,
15 minutes later they both returned to the studio soaking wet.
I was not at all happy to see them come back, but it was about
to get worse. Shortly after,
I remember looking up to see the lady help her new flame carry
a couch from Room 1 over to Room 6. Once they went into
Room 6, they never came back out. My imagination of what
they were up to tortured me all night long.
I was furious.
It's one thing to have a girl decide she isn't that interested
in me, but to see her clearly prefer someone else and to
practically rub my face in it all night long was especially
humiliating. Tack that on to my post-divorce gloom and I
was forced to suffer through one of those awful 'dark nights of the
Divorce is tough
enough without this extra gut punch to my self-esteem. I
was fortunate that Gary Richardson and his wife Betty spent the
night with me. Although I doubt either of them knew just how
unhappy I really was, just having them both around kept me from going
off the deep end. In particular, having Gary for company while we
watched TV helped me make it through the night; I felt lucky to
have him there. Kimberly was cheerful too, which helped
remind me that only some women are rotten... a good message to
keep around considering my scorched earth mood.
Besides the lady who
spurned me, I have a hunch that some of the other groovy singles in the
group did not behave well either. Nothing like a good
storm to get the hormones all worked up. They kept the
Room 6 door
closed and I was far too irritated to poke my nose in there and
see for myself.
As I learned the
next day, sometime during the night yet another couch was
hauled by a different couple from Room 4 to Room 6 using the two front doors to make
the transfer. Room 4 was far more comfortable, but people
walked through that room all night long to look out at the rain.
Room 6 on the other hand afforded complete privacy. Once
the door connecting Room 6 to Room 2 was closed, Room 6 became a den of
iniquity. Although I have no first-hand knowledge of what
went on in there, I am fairly certain something happened.
My only question is just how far things went.
The next morning,
from Room 6 named Sharon walking out
the door to leave, but stopped to tell me said
she was especially grateful for her
good fortune. That raised an eyebrow. So I asked her what she
meant by that.
Sharon grinned and thanked me for the opportunity to spend the
long evening with so many
phrased it in a much bawdier way, but I no
longer remember exactly what she said. What I do remember
was how proud she looked of herself. I had to assume that Sharon
had gotten lucky in some way. Whatever happened, she liked
it. On the other hand, she left alone.
years have passed, I am still not sure
exactly what went on in there. Nor
do I want to know. However,
you are consumed with curiosity. Well, cheer up. I do have
one juicy story that I can share.
in Margaritaville... The SSQQ Version
by Shelley West
Well, it's Sunday Mornin'
And the sun is shinin
in my eye that is open
and my head's a-spinnin'
I was the life of the party
I can't stop grinnin'
I had too much tequila last night
Jose Cuervo, you are a friend of mine
I like to drink you with a little salt and lime
Did I kiss all the cowboys? Did I shoot out the lights?
Did I dance on the bar? Did I start any fights?
Now wait a minute
things don't look too familiar
who is this cowboy who's sleeping beside me?
He's awful cute, but how'd I get his shirt on?
I had too much tequila last night
In the days that followed, no one said a word to me about the details
of Room 6. However, two weeks after Allison, a
lady named Lorena shared a wild tale about a strange thing that happened that
night in Room 6. It seems we had a guy who got
drunk out of his mind.
Early in the evening I opened up both ends of the
drink cooler and told people to help themselves. Most
people took soft drinks, but if someone wanted to have a
beer, they were more than welcome. It wasn't
like I was sending any drunk drivers out onto the
Unbeknownst to me, that night during Allison's rains,
one guy abused the privilege. Once I
opened the cooler, he started drinking beer. Then he
kept drinking. I did
notice the guy traipse through Room 2 on several
occasions to make a beer run, but because he never
bothered the rest of us, I didn't give it any thought.
As long as they were quiet, let them have their fun.
Since he stayed out of sight and did his drinking in
Room 6, I had no idea how serious his situation got
until Lorena confided some of the details.
As Lorena explained the story, it seems this guy had run into some bad luck
was feeling pretty low which sort of explained the
drinking. Lorena made it
clear to me that she and this guy were nothing more than
friends. Normally this guy was pretty good company and she
enjoyed dancing with him. But tonight she was worried about
him. He was tying one on, so she decided to keep an eye out. Lorena was his
guardian angel throughout the night.
this guy had a drinking problem and decided to take
advantage of the free beer. Now I don't know which
works quicker, tequila or beer, but I suppose if you
drink enough of either you get to the same place
Lorena had every reason to worry. During the Wrath of
Allison, this guy got so drunk that he went blotto. At one
point, Mr. Blotto almost
urinated on the dance floor.
He had already unzipped his fly and whipped it out when
recommend he consider using the
bathroom ten feet away instead. He protested
it was too far. So Lorena got up and shoved
him in the right direction. I think that should
give you an idea how bad it was. This guy was
In the middle of the
night, Mr. Blotto got a craving for a cigarette.
Apparently he had to have a smoke even if it meant wading out to
his car in the driving rain to get his cigarettes.
Lorena explained to Mr. Blotto how ridiculous this was, but he
wouldn't listen. He waded out to his car, retrieved his
smokes and waded back.
At least he had the
consideration to smoke outside on the covered sidewalk.
Afterwards Mr. Blotto came back in the studio and laid down. He
was ready to sleep now. Unfortunately it was chilly in the
As the rains continued,
shivering a little bit. Mr. Blotto had gotten soaking
wet in the process of getting to
his car. Soon he started to shiver. Then he started to
shake violently. His teeth chattered. Nothing seemed to warm him up.
Mr. Blotto was freezing.
Lorena took pity
on Mr. Blotto. She remembered that she had a load of
her son's dirty wash in her car trunk. What this guy didn't know
wouldn't hurt him. Besides, in his condition he wasn't likely to
notice or care. Realizing tough times call for tough
solutions, Lorena went to her car and found a heavy shirt.
She took a deep sniff and decided it wasn't in
too bad a shape. Then she found a pair of dirty blue
jeans. She went back in the studio and told her
friend to take off his soaked shirt and put this dry shirt on, which he gladly did.
Then she handed him the jeans and left the room while he
changed. She left some dirty socks for him to put on too.
Lorena was the
best thing that ever happened to this guy. Now that he was
dry, the shaking stopped.
Soon after, the man mercifully passed out and never
The next morning,
Lorena was already awake. After eating one of the breakfast
rolls I had brought back from Randalls, Lorena was coming
back into Room Six when she noticed Mr. Blotto was finally beginning
to stir. Worried, she went over and sat down beside him.
He opened his eyes and stared at her in a daze. It was
obvious he was barely one notch better than brain dead in this
condition. Slowly he began to sit up. He winced with
It took him a while
to figure out where he was. Eventually
down at Lorena's shirt. A deeply confused look
crossed his face. The guy looked at Lorena and then stared
back at the strange shirt in
bewilderment. Lorena was amused, but she said nothing. Blotto looked at
Lorena again. Finally Mr.
couldn't contain his curiosity any longer. He pointed
to the shirt he was wearing and smiled hopefully.
I can't remember, but did you and I, uh, did something special happen
I need to know about?"
"I had too much tequila last night..."