Monday, April 11, 2016

I is for Inundated

Mary Pierce had never seen the streets of Norfolk like this before. The eclectic eateries and bars of Ocean View were shuttered up, and garbage was being picked up and hurled across the empty roadways by the wind. To venture towards the beach was to risk being picked up by a gust and tossed into the churning, white water. The TV crew battled on, using their heavy equipment as ballast.

The water was up to Mary’s knees on what used to be the coastal road. Flooding was commonplace in Norfolk, but this road seldom flooded. The crew had to navigate a palm tree that had been picked up from a nearby Mexican restaurant and dragged across the street. She chose a half built wooden hotel with its innards being blown around in the wind as a backdrop for the shoot. “Hold it, hold it there,” said Gus, the veteran cameraman. “This is great footage. Let’s make it fast and get out of here.”



The news editor had given her a two-hour window, but it would soon lapse. Mary was terrified, not just by the howling wind but about how she would come across on the small screen. She had never done live storm footage before and was a rookie at Channel 17. Hank, the veteran storm reporter, had come down with a stomach complaint that necessitated an evacuation west, a few days earlier. Most of the general medical facilities in Hampton Roads had closed down, and ambulance crews had gone west to deal with the unfolding humanitarian crisis on the Interstates.

The cameras started rolling. Mary shrieked into the furry mic to make herself heard over the wind.
“The streets of Ocean View are  like a ghost town here. In three hours the first bands of Greta will be here and these winds are already gusting up to 80 mph. They will be double that soon. We are the last TV crew to have a presence here.”

The camera panned across the bleak scene. Trees were almost horizontal. The rain drops were hitting her like painful missiles. Suddenly she saw a figure struggling against the gusts.
“And I can’t believe it but … I can see someone in a wheelchair on these flooded streets.”

The water had reached his knees, but the man was plowing through it, although each pull on the wheels seemed to be a massive effort. His face looked as old and weathered as the beach but he was probably in his forties. Mary was heading over to him. They filmed it all live.

“I’m from Channel 17. Is there a reason why you haven’t evacuated?”

The man looked blankly at her, and she saw something akin to hatred in his eyes. She also noticed he had no legs below his knees, and his stumps were sticking out of the water.

“I was in the French war. The Islamics blew my legs off. You think I’m bothered by a little wind. All global warming crap.” He spat in disgust. Mary hoped the cameras had missed it with all the other water that was going down.

She could make out some crackling in her right ear from her boss Tyler.

“Great footage Mary but you need to get out of there now. We are picking up reports of a massive storm surge approaching. Get out.”

“We should find out more about this veteran, Ty.”

Now Tyler just sounded cross. “No Mary. You need to get the hell out of there. This is…”

“What Tyler?”

“Unprecedented – that may be the word.”

Still Mary hesitated. The adrenalin was making her high. An odd look on Gus’s normally impassive face, brought her down again.

“What is it?”

“Fuck. Look,” said Gus.

About half a mile down the coastal road a large brown wall had risen the size of a four-story building.
The problem was it was moving towards them.

“That can’t be the surge,” jabbered Mary.

“Run,” yelled the cameraman.

They dropped their expensive equipment and sprinted in the opposite direction. But all the time the roar was getting louder in their ears. Mary could still make out Tyler’s words in her ear, but they made no sense. The words were no longer a human voice but like the static when a stylus had reached the end of a vinyl record on her mother’s antique gramophone. As the force overwhelmed her, Mary thought she made out her mother’s face in a lit up patch of blue, left hanging in the murderous skies. It was Greta’s dirty little deception as she turned the corner and pounded the hapless crew with the weight of the Atlantic Ocean.

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