Thursday, June 14, 2012

'Those clouds don't look too threatening, right? Aww hail no!'

Ladies and gentleman, I am a reasonably intelligent human being. But, I have been known to do some foolish things. What follows is one of those foolish moments. First, let it be known I am fine — save for a couple of bumps on my noggin and what will be bruises on my arms and back when I wake up  (tennis ball-size hail plummeting to the ground will cause those). So, without further ado ...

Wednesday was a long, busy day at the office. I love what I do, but it can be mildly stressful. Wednesday was just one of those days. The perfect remedy: A good book and a good run.

What is the Internet doing to my brain? It's telling me it's kosher to not check the THREE weather apps on my phone before heading out for a 9-mile run.

Straight outta the office, I booked it (heh) to the Audelia Library Branch. As I mentioned Sunday,  I have waited a long time to get "The Shallows: What The Internet is Doing To Our Brains."

Fresh literature in hand, I headed home to change and get my stuff together for a run at White Rock. If I were training, I would have run out to the lake, done a loop and headed back. Depending on the route, that's 13-15 miles. I just wanted to get out there and do a nice 9, so I drove and parked at my usual spot — same parking lot where the White Rock Paddle Company's operates, right by the Mockingbird Point Footbridge. When I arrived, the paddle company people were quickly corralling kayakers as minor storm clouds rolled overhead. With all the heat we experiences last weekend and earlier this week, I was fine with running in a cool, late-spring storm. I didn't even think about checking my phone to see what kind of weather I could expect. If I had, I would have known to expect something like this:

Say, what is KXAS-TV meteorologist Grant Johnson pointing to? Oh yeah, a heavy concentration of orange-yellow-red badness (capable of producing hail) and a crap-ton of lightning. Guess where I was at 6:50 p.m. You'll want to check out no. 5 in my recap for the full details.

And, since I was running sans fuel belt, I didn't take my phone with me. That means I didn't take any photos from this adventure. BUT, I do have some rusty graphics skillz that will help you appreciate what went down and where.

1. About 10 minutes after parking The Clown Car at 6 p.m. at my usual spot, I already had crossed the footbridge, passed the dog park and felt pretty good about my running. The temperature had dropped and the storm clouds looked a bit worse; I thought, "Yeah, but how bad could it be?" Haha.

2. Right about here, the wind really started picking up and the rain arrived. Nothing too bad at first. It was still more of a pleasant respite from the heat at this point.

3. The rain became heavier. My shirt was completely drenched in about a minute. But I thought it could have been worse. I could have been one of the cyclists riding in the many groups I saw — there had to have been a few dozen — negotiating the slick pavement of Lawther Road.

4. Approaching T&P (Tee Pee) Hill, I heard the loudest lightning crack. I jumped, and the rain increased ...

5. ... and then the rain turned into hail as I ran down the straight corridor leading to the junction with Santa Fe Trail. At first, it was maybe dime/marble size but not much of it. Nothing to worry about, I thought. Within 30 seconds of that observation, it grew to golf ball; but there still was not much of it.

Like an idiot, I continued to run. I covered my head with one arm, hoping the hail and rain wouldn't get worse. I began to worry about my car. It was parked in a spot with no tree cover to buffer hail, a spot that floods quickly and often.

The chunks of ice continued to grow — some were in between the sizes of golf and tennis balls — and there was much more of it. One of these larger pieces of hail plunked me on top of my skull (the welt appeared instantly, but no blood or lingering pain). That's when I decided to stop and take cover under the trees lining the trail. I realized at the time that this location wasn't ideal for protecting myself from a thunderstorm; but it was my only option for avoiding the ever-growing hail. So I knelt underneath a couple of trees' protective canopies and assumed the classic duck-and-cover position. The hail continued to drop; some passed through the leaves and branches above me and struck my arms and back (much better than my head, but still not pleasant).

At this point, I felt like a complete idiot for being out there. The only thing that made me feel somewhat better was that there were others lined along the trail, assuming the same positions, waiting for the storm to break. The major hail lasted for at least five minutes. During those five minutes, I had to decide which way I would run to get back to my car (if it was still there and not floating in the lake) — back the way I came or finish my counter-clockwise loop. Finishing the loop would mean an extra mile, but the storm seemed to be heading the shorter, opposite direction. Once the hail returned to dime size, I left my protective cover and headed down the trail toward Garland Road to finish the loop and hopefully avoid more hail.

6. The hail had disappeared at this point. But the rain was still very much dropping. I encountered families with umbrellas and a few cyclists. Fat puddles had already formed on the usual trouble spots on the bridge spanning the spillway. My shoes were waterlogged, but I was running fine.

7. A-ha, the storm had subsided right around here! I thought everything would be cool and I could enjoy the rest of the run.

8. I was wrong. A second batch of hail started to fall. I once again left the trail to take shelter under trees lining the one-way road leading to Winfrey Point directly behind the Dallas Arboretum. Didya know that the Arboretum has a lovely outdoor display made of GLASS?!? At last check on DMN's The Scoop blog, six portions of Chihuly's White Persian were damaged.

As I waited for the hail to die down again, several cars passed me. For a second, I debated flagging one down and asking for a ride. But I didn't; instead, frustrated and motivated to get the eff home, I took off my shirt, wrung it out and created what probably looked like a turban. I figured it would function somewhat like a helmet and minimize the impact of the hail. Fortunately, the hail stopped a couple of minutes into my turban experiment and the rain returned to "pleasant."

9. From this point on, all I could think about was The Clown Car and its state. I hoped it was OK but already was resigned to the idea of taking it to the dealership tomorrow and dealing with the insurance company. The piles of melting hail in the grass weren't encouraging signs either. But the sun reappeared to elevate my mood.

10. I slowed my pace the closer I got to where my car was parked. As I followed the final twist of the trail, I finally saw the roof of my car. Good, it wasn't in the lake! I walked the final 40 yards slowly, evaluating how much hail had fallen near my car. None. No hail. I reached The Clown Car and it was pristine — free, Mother Nature car wash and no hail damage whatsoever. I was relieved.

So there you have it, folks. Pretty damn ridiculous, huh? I am fortunate nothing bad happened, and I hope the storm didn't affect y'all either (so far, I know of only one friend whose rear car window was shattered). I've learned my lesson.


That Pink Girl said...

I'm sorry for your grave misfortune but I am laughing pretty hard right now! Oh, the one armed shelter approach, classic futile attempt at self preservation. But a turban helmet? Well, that's using your noggin, Mr. T! Mercy.
Glad that you and your vehicle escaped (relatively) unscathed, save for perhaps some lingering emotional scarring. It could have been much worse if your technical turban had failed you!
I actually had no idea it stormed so badly. I slept through it and woke up to dozens of texts inquiring about my welfare.

Michelle K said...

I laugh now....because you are okay (save a little bit of emotional trauma). What a wild ride!