My alarm didn’t wake me. The booming thunder, pounding hail and lightning flashes did. It was about 8:40 a.m. and a thunderstorm usually means I can take my time getting to work. A few minutes later I left a message with LEO Weekly’s news editor, Sarah Kelley, about turning in my column via e-mail — but this nasty sucker of a storm wasn’t having that. By 8:55 the power went out. It was then that I noticed the rain was pouring so heavily there was no visibility. Then I heard dripping. Fuck! The basement was quickly flooding from an overflowing sewage drain. I started to panic — do I have flood insurance, what if the whole house floods, who do I call? The Metropolitan Sewer District said the deluge had caused a flash flood, which didn’t appear to be letting up. I felt like I had failed as a homeowner.
Looking outside my door I noticed at the other end of my block my neighbor’s cars were already under water. I ran back inside and packed a bag. I drove around hoping to find an exit out of west Louisville. No such luck. Every thoroughfare I attempted to drive down (Broadway, River Park, Hale, Muhammad Ali, etc.) led to a pool of floodwater. I escaped through Shawnee Park, which had a lake in the basketball courts and playgrounds but saw much of the same. Motorists were driving the wrong way on one-way streets. Those desperate enough to attempt to cross a street that was clearly submerged were stuck and abandoned their vehicles. Reaction to this flash flood was mixed. Pets and stray animals played in the water with innocent children. A few people were crying because their homes were taking water. Many just stood outside.
The exit ramps to Interstate-264 were mostly flooded too, but I found a dry one going eastbound away from west Louisville. It wasn’t an original idea. Traffic was bumper to bumper so I made a U-turn and saw from the freeway’s overpass the pools, lakes and swamps of water that overtook my area of town.
For a community with a myriad of problems it hit me that west Louisville looked eerily similar to the pictures of with Hurricane Katrina. Cell phone calls and text messages from fellow west Louisville residents delivered a similar message. Though this bucket of water that doused Louisville’s West End pales in comparison to the 2005 tragedy that struck New Orleans, the black faces I stared at from my car all spoke the same fear. People wanted to know where to go, worried about spoiled food, had no transportation and felt trapped in inescapable neighborhoods. I had the same worries when the ice storm and windstorm knocked out power, leaving many west Louisville residents waiting outside convenience stores like they were in Depression-era bread lines. Does this community have a emergency plan? Does west Louisville know about it? How prepared are we for a severe natural disaster? How many more times does this shit have to happen before residents get serious?
It is no secret other parts of town have been inconvenienced, shut down and endangered by today’s flash flood. Louisville Metro suffered today not just a single area, but something about this unexpected and unavoidable situation makes me feel like I’m living in a forgotten Ward. Maybe I’m just as frustrated as you are, but more questions need to be asked. They will be.