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Observations: Have you ever seen the rain?

Published on: August 5, 2015

By MITCH TRAPHAGEN

No false advertising there — that is definitely waterfront. Flooding certainly isn’t new to South Hillsborough, as this 2007 file photo shows. But it seems, this time, Tampa took the brunt of it. At one point, the Westshore Blvd. exit from I-275 was completely submerged and closed on Monday, stranding dozens of commuters. Mitch Traphagen photo.

No false advertising there — that is definitely waterfront. Flooding certainly isn’t new to South Hillsborough, as this 2007 file photo shows. But it seems, this time, Tampa took the brunt of it. At one point, the Westshore Blvd. exit from I-275 was completely submerged and closed on Monday, stranding dozens of commuters. Mitch Traphagen photo.

So, yeah. It’s been a little rainy lately. And weirdly so — summer rains in Florida are typically over in 15 or 20 minutes after an apocalyptic downpour that would freak out Noah and 95 percent of the drivers on I-75 (with the remaining five percent being the lunatics who ignore the weather and blast through the freaked-out masses at 80 miles per hour in zero visibility).

I rarely worried about flooding for my first eight or so years of living in Florida. Living on boat meant just rolling with the tides. The only time it became a problem was the occasional storm surge from a passing tropical system. The boat, of course, rose with the water but the docks would be submerged — a kind of freakish but beautiful thing, seeing all of the boats and no docks.

But then we moved to land. Our first house was high and dry at a near mountainous 35 feet above sea level. The only problem there was that we had a septic system with several newer (and slightly higher) homes around us, which caused water to collect in our backyard. Directly over the septic system. Which was always great fun, particularly with two teenage foster girls in our home.

Years later, we lived in a house on what we affectionately referred to as “Demented Circus Street.” Our neighbors around us were great — lovely, generous and friendly people — but there was always a bit of weirdness going on further up the street. Zoning laws had largely been ignored, as were a bunch of other laws (like, really, it’s not okay to pull out a pistol and shoot at stuff on a residential street, nor is a marijuana grow house necessarily a great idea on a street with virtually no street lamps — kinda stands out a little. And really, if you want to get rid of your gigantic tube television set and a ratty couch, leaving them in the front yard for a few months won’t make the garbage people more inclined to take them).

But the worst part about Demented Circus was that it would flood if a few clouds showed up. I dreaded every single time it rained there. At the time my wife and I were driving little sports cars, and they weren’t well suited for the six or so inches of brown, dirty water that would collect on the street. And it was always fun when “flooding tourists” would show up in big trucks; as they drove the street, they created a wake that would literally wash through our front door.

Somehow, I’ve managed to be around flooding a lot — which hasn’t endeared it to me. When I was four years old, we moved to a small town in rural Minnesota where my Dad accepted a job at a local college. I didn’t want to move — I had a sandbox at our old house and had no intention of giving that up. So my parents struck a deal — give up the sandbox and I’d get a swimming pool. I envisioned the “see-ment pond” straight out of the Beverly Hillbillies but what I got was a cheap, plastic tub that didn’t exactly allowing for high diving.

But then, shortly after moving, the town flooded like never before and suddenly that cheap, plastic pool transformed itself into a ship that could sail the seas. Well, at least until two pudgy little misfits down the street attacked me like pirates and punched a hole into my bright blue plastic ship. My older brother, who generally didn’t acknowledge me in those days, decided to take matters into his own hands and chased the miscreants down the street and gave them both a good thwack on the behind with a tennis racket. I never heard from those kids again, and my brother became my hero. For many more reasons now, he still is today. Afterward, we moved into a house on a hill and never worried about flooding again.

So now, years later, we are in a newish subdivision that for some reason the developer decided was in Apollo Beach but still looks a lot like Ruskin. Here, we have no flooding problems, nor does the toilet stop working if the backyard gets too wet. With the knowledge that some of my former neighbors are miserable, as are those with Seasonal Affective Disorder and the many dozens of people trapped as shown in dramatic photos of flooded streets in Tampa (and even a Channel 28 video of a guy catching a fish on Hillsborough Avenue), I’ve enjoyed this rain. I can sit out in the lanai with a newspaper in hand and feel a cleansing peace. And yes, there are a few things in South Hillsborough that could always use a good cleansing. It’s August in Florida, normally akin to the Seventh Circle of Dante’s Inferno, yet the rain and clouds have kept things blissfully cool.

And speaking of the Seventh Circle, except for rescuing people driving into deep-water lakes on flooded roads, I have to think that the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office appreciates it, too. Who wants to go out to rob, rape, murder or commit mayhem when it’s pouring out?

Unless you are flooded or have to drive in Tampa, I hope you, too, enjoy the respite. Hopefully, it’s keeping the psychos inside, or at least restricted to the left lane on I-75. Soon enough the Florida Furnace will be back on full blast — and then we can all complain about the heat and mayhem in Dante’s Seventh Circle for another month or so.

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