The air was thick and motionless, heavy with Rhode Island summertime humidity. The skies were foreboding, a gray that warned of something more sinister to come. On Friday afternoon, the clouds seemed to hold more than they could contain and were waiting for the appropriate moment to unleash a maelstrom on those going about their business below.
Smartphones buzzed with text message warnings of flash floods, tornado watches and severe rainstorms. The National Weather Service, under the umbrella of the Federal Emergency Management Association, implemented these free-of-charge text messages earlier this summer. Those who received them seemed grateful.
With the electronic and atmospheric warnings, the air (laced with the sticky humidity that New Englanders curse) began to hum with a mix of panic and anticipation.
Soon gusts of wind started to blow and then there was a shift – a drop in barometric pressure, a palpable change. The birds and squirrels were nowhere to be found, and those walking on two legs quickly realized they should follow suit.
And then it happened. The skies opened and corpulent raindrops fell with fury from above. Water pounded the earth, collecting quickly in potholes, birdbaths and cars whose windows were carelessly left cracked.
It all happened quickly. Roads soon began to flood and those making their Friday commute found themselves battling Mother Nature to get home safely. Twitter and Facebook alit with messages of those attempting to brave the storm and those who decided to hunker down instead.
Frank Picozzi was on his way home on Friday evening, but found himself unable to enter his neighborhood off of West Shore Road. The street was flooded and cars struggled to push forward.
“It was a river,” he said. “You couldn’t even see where the curbs were.”
As the rain continued, the streets flooded. Thunder rumbled and lightening flashed as water crept from the roads to people’s homes, flooding the basements of the unlucky.
Friday night looked like a washout; but as quickly as it started, it was over.
The driving rain tired of its relentless assault. The floods turned back to their humble beginnings as puddles and the lightening and thunder hushed as night fell.
According to the National Weather Service, though rainfall varied across the state, some areas of Rhode Island received up to 4 inches of rain. Small areas of Massachusetts got up to 6 inches, and there were reports of lightening strikes and downed trees.
“I’ve lived in Warwick for 48 years,” said Picozzi. “I’ve never [seen West Shore Road] flooded like that.”