As you may have seen on the news Thursaday the North-East of England, and specifically Newcastle city centre, was subject to some unusual weather patterns. The sort that I've previously only seen as a set up to the more outlandish New Testament stories.
I'll set the scene. It's the middle of a June afternoon and I'm sat at my desk hamstrung between finishing off a few news pieces, making a few phone calls, and devouring the 3/8ths that remain of the Sainsbury's vacuum sealed BLT on my desk. Everything's a chore.
I'm also patiently waiting for one of our paymasters to call in and give me a bollocking for the rather liberal, and none-too frugal, use of expensive board markers. The only problem is, he's now about half an hour late, which for a man who once rationed his Bran Flakes into individual Tupperware boxes in order to ensure he didn't have to buy any more cereal before he went on holiday, is unusual.
“He might be having trouble parking” I rationalise to the rest of the office, realising I'm also fucking choking for a cigarette. “I'll go stick my head outside and see if he's about”.
What followed was one of the most uncomfortable and unsettling exchanges I've had since an ex-girlfriend's dad asked me to explain what a “dutch oven” was whilst sat at a Xmas dinner table. Google it.
You know that scene in Independence Day when Jeff What's-his-chops gets to the roof of the building just as the shadow's being cast on the whole city? Well, that. A cloud the size of the deficit was looming over Newcastle and, despite it barely being lunchtime, everything was almost pitch black.
In typically dramatic fashion I walked straight back inside and turned the lights off. A gesture that was initially met with annoyance, but swiftly followed by alarm once my point had got across.
It doesn't sound like much, but to suddenly realise you've been deprived of natural light in both the middle of the day, and the middle of the summer, is both startling and unnerving. It doesn't then help for the proverbial heavens to open and have over a month's worth of rain fall in the space of an hour.
It's at this point where social networks start to whirr into life. “OMG, did someone say barbeque in Newcastle!? LOLOLOL”, “I think they wrote a song about this, it's the end of the world as we know it! Hahaha” being two particular examples that made me want to be violently sick out of my eyes.
But then rumblings of another kind surfaced. Those in the know, or at least those following the news feeds, suggested that a rather sizeable thunderstorm could be on its way. That's fine though, thunderstorms are sexy, they're exciting, and they're usually completely non-threatening to city dwellers such as myself.
Not when they sound like this though... (turn your speakers up)
Things were pretty much like that, relentlessly, for the rest of the night. Slowly reports began to creep in of the damage it was doing – first the odd road closure, then shops having to sandbag their doors, buses reporting delays, the usual stuff.
But eventually things got to a level that I've never previously witnessed. Roads that never usually even allow for puddles suddenly had Vauxhall Corsas swimming in them, then videos sprang up on YouTube of water mains bursting and manhole covers being expelled into the air by erupting pipes. Central station, usually the safest refuge in situations like this was ankle deep in water and closed off.
Trains were queued for miles outside, sirens could be heard in all directions, my friend even posted on Twitter that her bus had jackknifed across a road and couldn't free itself. The Metro Centre, one of Europe's biggest and best shopping arcades was evacuated as the roof caved in. All public transport was off, trains and buses were trapped, huge groups of people were huddled inside, all twitpicing their distress to a watching and bemused rest of the country.
Then the power went.
Under normal circumstances, my drive home takes me anything from 15-25 minutes. But had I left the office there and then, I'd have been sat stationery for nearly 7 hours. The length and breadth of the North-East, cars were abandoned in the roads as people pressed on, on foot, to try and make it home.
By morning though, everything seemed to have settled down. Some areas were still without power, but the various electricity companies (y'kna those same bastards who'll take 6 weeks to come out and have a look at something normally) had everything more or less under control. Buses were getting back on, only certain parts of the Metro line were still off, and most trains were getting in and out of the city.
In fact, such was the humidity that by midday on Friday you'd have been forgiven for thinking it hadn't rained in weeks. Barring the areas worst affected, the streets were bone dry. Surreal enough to make you wonder if it ever actually happened.
I know it did though, because while most of the region went into panic mode or kipped in their cars, I did what any sensible person would have done when faced with rapture-force weather and no means of escaping it. I ran from bridge to bridge, sheltered under street signs, leaped over puddles and eventually made it to the relative safety of the nearest boozer.
In short, I just put my Zombie Apocalypse game plan into effect. I had a nice cold pint, and waited for it all to blow over. Cheers.
Newcastle Central Station - Thursday
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