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Ask for some rain and the city gets soaked

Ilove big weather. The crash, bang, boom of thunder and lightning really charges my batteries.

So I was more than a bit disappointed the recent bevy of storms stalled out before getting to my place on the Rogue River.

Oh sure, I saw the light display and heard the rumbles off in the distance. And the wind got my chimes going pretty good last Sunday. Also blew my lawn furniture about a bit.

But as for rain? Nary a drop. Driving into work Monday, it seemed the precipitation had stopped at the Depot Street Bridge.

What a drag, I thought. My plants are parched. My irrigation pump is busted. And I've been schlepping buckets of water in a rusty red wagon for the past two weeks.

The veggie garden is top priority. The roses and lavender I planted 10 years ago have been getting scant thimbles to drink. I'm in danger of becoming what my grandfather scathingly referred to as a "dry farmer." But there is only so much toting this old bod is up to doing.

Then came Tuesday's deluge. Finally, a little action at my place. Not that I was there to see it. But when I got home that night, there were actually a couple of puddles.

Too bad I didn't drive home through the town of Rogue River. I could have had a great story. Better yet, maybe I could have helped.

Apparently the 25-minute monsoon dropped its deluge so hard that the culverts runneth over. Main Street had to be shut down. And several homes and businesses flooded.

Been there. Done that.

In December 2005, a wall of water rose from the banks of the Rogue River and engulfed my yard, art studio and basement. There was no time to prepare, just a race to get my animals safely out as the swirling tide rushed across my boat launch and made its way to the front gate in less than an hour.

When the waters receded, my studio was awash in mud. My basement was a stinking quagmire, filled to overflowing with more than 100 cardboard boxes of books, clothes and household goods rapidly disintegrating into moldy mess. I feared I might lose my home.

But then folks from the town of Rogue River rolled out to rescue me. Spearheaded by the late Hope Warren, a gang of nine good Samaritans put their hearts and muscles into the putrid task of emptying out my befouled basement.

The crew members ranged from city officials to folks I'd never met prior to that particular Saturday morning. The job took just over an hour to complete with so many willing hands. But the memories will doubtless last a lifetime.

Imagine my dismay when I popped into City Hall Thursday and heard the mop had flopped Tuesday afternoon at 4:08 p.m. Crews had been scrambling to sandbag storefronts while I was happily praising the Heavens for giving my gardens a gentle sprinkle. I felt like a schmuck.

"I had no idea you guys were hit so hard. Why didn't you call me?" I asked City Recorder Carol Weir.

They'd been more than a little busy dealing with the wind and water that Mother Nature had dumped on the unsuspecting town following the thunder and lightning display, she said.

"We had rain and hail hitting all of the windows all at the same time," Weir said.

Weir said one caller stated she'd been driving when the storm hit.

"She said it was like a five-gallon bucket of water was hitting the windshield of her car over and over again," she said.

Crews had been cleaning out culverts since Sunday's deluge. But Tuesday's downpour was too much too fast for the town's 200 or so catch basins, said City Administrator Mark Reagles.

Police blocked Main Street as cars created two-foot waves which were washing across streets and into businesses. In residential sections of town, the water ran down driveways, across yards and into about eight homes, he said.

Police Clerk Erin Carter arrived home to find her boyfriend desperately bailing water from underneath their backyard shed. The winds had toppled a large tree limb, scaring the fur off her humongous dog. Seeking cover under the shed, the dog was stuck headfirst under a beam and was in danger of drowning as the water poured into the hole he'd dug.

"There was an unbelievable amount of water coming down," she said.

It sure wasn't your typical storm. It was more like the tail end of a hurricane — or a tornado, agreed Mickie Murphy, the town's finance officer.

"We were all running for the cellar calling for Toto," she said.

Next time, I hope they remember to call me, too. I have a serious karma debt that needs repaying.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.