Like most of you, my family and I were awakened by sirens at 4 a.m. last Friday. First reaction: "What's that noise?" Groggy response from wife: "Sirens." Two seconds later, the 13-year-old wanders into the bedroom and says, "Do you guys hear the sirens?"
We stumble to the dark living room and turn on a local television station. The flat-screen glows with a gaudy orange-red-green Rorschach that indicates severe weather all around us, including possible tornadoes. The weather guys are in full weathergasmic mode, and for as much griping as I've done over the years about overreactions to weather by Memphis television stations, I am grateful on this occasion that they are up at this ungodly hour and letting us know what's happening. And I am grateful for the sirens that got us to the television.
I'm even more grateful for the radar. After watching a few minutes and checking the Arkansas National Weather Service radar on my computer, I can see pretty clearly where the bad stuff is and whether it's likely to hit our neighborhood. In this instance, though the sirens were going off all over the county, the bad stuff appeared to be well south and north of us, and there wasn't anything imminent on the western front. After 20 minutes, I went back to bed and covered my head with a pillow. My wife and stepson stayed up and watched.
Saturday night was a replay. The sirens started wailing around 9 p.m. Tornado warnings were all over the Arkansas map and coming our way. We had our local version of Saturday Night Live, complete with the drama of an evacuation of the Beale Street Music Fest. On Twitter, the locals were supplying updates from all over the county. It looked for a while like a tornado was going to slam downtown Memphis, but we dodged that whirling bullet.
By 11:30 p.m., the worst was over for Memphis. The sirens died. And though the weathermen kept breathlessly recapping the action, without the background noise, the drama was gone. Twitterers started taking cheap shots: "I like it when Dave says, 'Put it in motion for me, John.'"
Little did we know that Memphis' luck was going to be the rest of Tennessee's misfortune. Much of Nashville is under water, though the national media didn't notice for a couple of days. It was a disaster of epic proportions for thousands around the state. In Memphis, we lost a few acts at Music Fest, had some flooded cars and houses, and a couple of exciting nights. For that — and for all we missed — we should be grateful.
(such a sky and such a sun
i never knew and neither did you
and everybody never breathed
quite so many kinds of yes) — e. e. cummings
I'm writing this from the restroom facility at Big Hill Pond State Park in southern McNairy County. On Monday, I commandeered the building, which contains the men's and women's restrooms, some racks of pamphlets, and two vending machines. There's no one here right now, but I plan to stay as long as necessary to protest the fact that the state of Tennessee is run by oppressive know-nothings who wouldn't know small government — or freedom, for that matter — if it bit them on their considerable backsides ...
Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."