Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Holy Arroyo!

Having lived in the Midwest for 20+ years has taught me to respect Mother Nature. From tornadoes to blizzards to devastating ice storms, her fury can be felt in a multitude of different ways. Here in Colombia, I still have not managed to escape the wrath that can be unleashed at any moment.

One thing that Barranquilla lacks is a good drainage system for their streets. When it rains here, the water literally has nowhere to go but into the streets. This onslaught of water is too much for the drains to handle, so the streets quickly become raging streams of fast moving water looking to escape somewhere. These flash floods, or arroyos, can be very dangerous and have been known to sweep cars down the road and uproot trees.

Lucky for me, the street in front of my house is a prime spot for arroyo spottings! I have so far experienced two - one fairly small and one a bit bigger. The first one occurred as I was just getting home from PST. It had been raining for most of the day on and off. As I disembarked from the crowded bus, I quickly hopped onto the sidewalk to avoid the steady stream of water that was flowing down Calle 54. The dilemma that I was faced with was how to successfully cross the street without getting sopping wet.

I paced up and down the sidewalk for a good 15 minutes trying to see if there was any place in which the water narrowed and became jumpable. No such luck. I eventually made my way back to the original corner in which the bus had dropped me off at and watched. I watched the other Colombians around me to see how they crossed the street. Some took off their shoes and made a mad dash to the other side (I elected to skip this option all together on accounts of my health and not wanted to contract unknown diseases that flowed in that water). Others were helped out by other bystanders with planks of wood (this was really only offered to the females, so I figured that that option was also out).

I finally decided to just brave it. After witnessing numerous other natives make a quick dash through the arroyo, I took my turn. I sprinted out into the street (making sure to not get hit by any vehicles of course) and splashed my way onto the other side. With my shoes squirting out water with every step I took, I made my way home. When I arrived, Pina just looked at me and started laughing. She asked if I enjoyed my first arroyo experience. I told her that it was interesting and she then informed me that this was a small one and that bigger ones would come sooner than later...

Well Pina was right! This past Sunday, as I was relaxing in my room watching Netflix, the pitter patter of raindrops started to sound outside of my window. Due to the heat and humidity, my windows are open all the time when I'm in my room. If they weren't, I'd probably suffocate. I took note of this development, didn't think much of it, and continued watching The Walking Dead (yes, I'm FINALLY getting into it). About 10 minutes later, I decided to check the streets outside to see what they looked like. This is what I was treated to...

The entire street had turned into a small, swift-moving stream. I was blown away how quickly this arroyo had formed. In almost no time at all, my street was turned into a high adventure, extreme kayaker's dream course. I watched as cars, buses, and even people attempted to cross this massive flood. I now fully understand why the sidewalks are as high as they are here. The four-foot drops are necessary to keep the water in the street and protect the houses and businesses that line them. Within a couple hours, as the rain stopped falling and the lightning stopped flashing, the water receded and the street was once again filled with the hustle and bustle of traffic and blaring horns.

Anytime that it rains or threatens to rain, I make sure that I'm close to home. I now know that being trapped outside of my house is not the way to go during this rainy season.

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