Natural disasters must be ranked in several ways in order to determine their narrative usefulness. How much destruction they cause, and how long it takes them to cause it, for example. Hurricanes are excellent for sudden, violent, sweeping change. Snowstorms are about the slow grinding of hope into dust, and the re-emergence of love, and spring, when least expected.
And then, too, natural disasters and their associated adjectives must be measured by the phonetics, by the unquantifiable lyrical qualities that make mere vocabulary sing to the heart. Storms are cold. Tropical storms are humidity and power, a love affair trapped in a hotel room for days, building to a crescendo, only to open the door when the worst has passed and to find that outside, everything has been utterly destroyed in your absence. You will have to rebuild, after a tropical storm.
For the convergence of sheer grindingly aggravating reality and breathtakingly beautiful language, though, nothing will quite beat a flood. Just say the word. Flood. A quiet, paced destruction of everything you’ve known and loved. You are flooded with joy, flooded with grief, flooded with the knowledge of things past and of things yet to be. And the water – it flows, it over flows, it flows over. Over what? Its banks. The river has overflowed its banks. It has made its way into the city and past it, into basements and onto first floors, across low-lying farmland. It has stolen in, in the night, made off with fences and road signs and yes, the occasional car. In the morning when you awaken and the flood has receded, you are flooded with hope. Things can be suddenly untenable and then all at once better. You are flooded with peace. You can’t leave the house anyway. You sit on your once-porch, now lakefront property, and sip your coffee.
Of course, since the Ohio River has, in fact, overflowed its banks, one concern has gripped the city of Louisville, held tight to it, inspired fear and anxiety: how will this effect the NCAA championship games? What about parking? How early must one get downtown if one should have, say, tickets to a 4pm game? What if you’re hoping to buy one outside the Yum Center? Are the scalpers still out where they were last year, or have circumstances forced them to relocate? These are the chief concerns when the river floods a city south of the Mason-Dixon line in the month of March.
To the Ohio River’s terrorist flood. Long may it reign.