Expressway: Suddenly trapped in the deluge

ISLIP, NY - AUGUST 13: A police officer ISLIP, NY - AUGUST 13: A police officer drives past flooded cars abandoned on the Southern State Parkway following heavy rains and flash flooding August 13, 2014 in Islip, New York. The south shore of Long Island along with the tri-state region saw record setting rain that caused roads to flood entrapping some motorists. (Photo by Andrew Theodorakis/Getty Images) Photo Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Theodorakis

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Aug. 13, 2014: The 5:15 a.m. alarm (WQXR) goes off at my home in Oceanside.

I brush my teeth, drink tea, and grab my gym bag, with plans to hit the gym by 5:45. I open the front door and find moderate rain. I recall pelting rain before I went to bed. I have no idea that Long Island is being swamped by a record deluge.

The usual jogger who slows me down each morning as I glide out of the driveway is missing. Clearly not devoted enough, got scared by the rain.

At the intersection of Lawrence Avenue, a thought: Will there be the usual flooding near Henrietta Avenue? There is. Turn the car around. Take another route.

On Henrietta, my Infiniti SUV jolts as if it has hit a boulder, and warning icons light up my dashboard.

Oh, my God! I have driven into a flood. My sexy crossover is not built to double as a rugged dinghy in a deluge. In the morning darkness, I hadn't seen the water. Brain: Turn off the ignition, Ro.

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Never been surrounded by so much water, other than when superstorm Sandy arrived in 2012. Ghosts of my two cars dying during Sandy flash before my eyes. I don't want to lose yet another car so soon. More important, I don't want to lose my life. Haven't written my best-seller yet. Brain: Call 911.

A not-particularly-friendly 911 operator: "Somebody will get to you as soon as possible. A lot of people are stuck like you."

It's now about 5:50. A man rides by on a wobbly bike on the sidewalk. The water is about 6 inches deep. Happy for him.

As I wait inside my dark maroon car, a vehicle is heading toward me with its headlights on.

Brain: Panic, Ro.

I blink my headlights several times. The other car stops and retreats. Next comes a car from behind. Thoughtlessly, I open the car door to wave away the driver. Water gushes in like a famished beast. Brain (back from vacation): Close the door!

I dial 911 again. Another operator answers. I repeat my location. Soon I see police vehicles several blocks away. I'm still marooned.

From one intersection, a burly guy wearing a pair of shorts and a heavy hooded raincoat, most likely from one of the police vehicles, wades up to my car in knee-deep water and asks, "If I help you out, will you be able to come out?"

"No way will I open the door," the feisty me protests. "I already have ankle-deep water inside."

"Through the sunroof then?" he asks.

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"No, it's still raining," the petite me says. "Why don't you get a vehicle to pull my car from behind?"

"No, we can't do that," he says. "Can you start the car?"

"Yes, probably," I say. "Yes, then maybe I can drive it in reverse and get back to the closer intersection."

This was actually my first thought when I got stuck, but at that time I had neither enough courage nor desperation.

Now, I push the start button, put the gear in reverse, and carefully steer my car-boat out of the river. Police leave. I feel like a freed bird. I must call the precinct to thank them.

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Too late for the gym. Moreover, all that water sloshing about in the car needs to be drained first.

At 8 a.m., I take the car to dealer for a previously scheduled checkup. He tells me there's water in the engine compartment. Thank God I got out of the flood. I love adventure, but I'm not sure it'll be worth the bill to repair the engine.

Reader Rohini B. Ramanathan, a consultant, writer and musician, lives in Oceanside.

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