Rain lingers over parts of California from big, slow-moving storm systems like Irene. On May 12, 2017, I found myself standing by a water-soaked tree lined with houses and trying to figure out how to safely exit to my car. In the distance, water was just starting to seep out of the driveway where I took my family to an area park for dinner. Water swirled through the streetways surrounding the park, and the sound of the water hitting the surface of the road was so loud that I didn’t even hear the driver approaching me until he hit the brakes so hard that they made a screeching sound.
I was in a high school parking lot in San Bernadino, California, a coastal city where most of the residents have been priced out of the community by home foreclosures and population loss. The water turned my car’s engine into steam as soon as I stopped it about 10 feet away. “I have to get out!” I shouted to the man as he approached the car.
“Stay in the car! It isn’t broken, but it’s been flooded!” he shouted at me as he got out of the car, and took the keys from me. “Don’t move! I just don’t want to get wet!” he shouted at me, as I was forced to watch him walk away as if I were invisible. I stayed in the parking lot for a few minutes, hoping I could take a few steps back up the street, but the water was now rising above my ankles as the creek overflowed its banks. I was completely soaked — my shorts and shirt, my boots and hat, and every piece of my car was completely covered in water. I had no idea what to do.
The water had been rising since Sunday night, I realized later, on my way home from my mother’s house in the morning, when the creek started flooding her home. My mother doesn’t have an indoor source of water. She has a hose outside in her backyard, so she was out in the street, trying to get that water out. She yelled to me from the sidewalk as I walked by her house, and I went over to her and asked if she was all right.