It begins like a Seventies slasher film. Muted, washed-out colors. Stillness. Grey sky. Tentative forward movement. Windshield wipers counting out a metronomic military march. Then, the picture distorts—grotesquely. Rounding a bend, opaque, mud-choked water flows languorously over the blacktop. There’s no rush to the movement; the water can take its time. And it’s not flowing across the road toward a drainage to become somebody else’s problem below. No, it’s heading toward you, as surely and dispassionately as gravity.
Reverse gear. Not flooring it here; this isn’t an empty parking lot, but a flooded mountain roadway above San Diego, Calif., where six inches of rain have fallen this week on drought-parched hillsides. The ochre miasma advances downhill, taunting your front bumper. But you’re outpacing the flood, and will be gone from this place soon. You may even allow yourself to register a twinge of relief right now. That’s when the picture fills with water. With branches. With rocks.