The Rockport Miracles-Part 4: Episode 29: “The Ballad Of Derecho Dan” Continues:
An entire generation of River Citians will forever remember where they were in 1975 when a boat known as “The Friggin’ A” exploded off the town's Lake Erie shore. Though not the loudest sound ever recorded, (Krakatoa still owns that distinction) perch fishermen hundreds of miles away on Lake Superior thought the booming sounds they heard were from the signal canon at a nearby regatta.
Once the 2000 lbs. of plastique explosives finally detonated, the massive explosion cleaved the storm in two, just like in Maynard Gridley’s story about “Monsoon Charlie” in the jungles of Vietnam. Instead of colliding into Rockport, Storm 5.6 was parted, Moses-style, to the east and west. The eastbound half of the storm was sent in the direction of downtown Cleveland which forced the Coast Guard Cutter Darryl A. Levy to retreat over the angry objections of Little Dan’s Aunt Rowena. “They have to get to somewhere safe,” said Chief Tom Graber, “there’s precious little we can do for Little Dan, now.”
Nor could much be done for the hundreds of onlookers along the River City cliffs. The explosion heaved the westbound half of the storm right into them, and for the first time since the Storm Era had begun, the orthodontured, boat obsessed, duffer-hatted elitists of that insipid town finally got their come-uppance!
It should be said before this tale continues that no one in River City had been seriously injured. Yes, there were some ‘minor’ injuries, broken bones, houses destroyed, etc. Several members of River City Yacht Club had to hold on for dear life when a 16 foot tsunami wave picked up their yachts and flung them onto land like tub toys.
The explosion was so great that people watching through telescopes on the observation deck of the Terminal Tower swore that the lake bottom was briefly exposed. In those first moments, onlookers along the cliffs were consumed by a hot, breezy blackness. All of the fish life unlucky enough to be swimming in the area were blown sky high into a giant blenderizing cloud that plunged the area into total darkness. Then...it began to rain fish. Lots of fish. In the darkness.
River City Mayor, Bart Ridgewood, had been watching the events unfold from his perch atop the Widow’s Walk of Model Home A at the nearby Erie Water Wave Estates. As the blackness began to envelope him, he was unceremoniously smacked across the face by a large mouth bass. A full half inch of his nose was lopped off by the fish's dorsal fin. Knocked silly and bleeding profusely, the mayor was dragged by his sans a belt slacks to safety thanks to a couple of his loyal sycophants.
Panic and chaos was on the menu along the cliffs of River City. Nearly every person, child, and popsicle vendor had been drenched utterly in the disgusting entrails of everything that swam or slithered in that part of the lake. Seaweed was thrown in as a garnish. Hundreds of homes, including those in the toniest sections of River City, were coated in thick layers of what the marine experts later coined as “Ichthy-Gumbo.”
Soon after the downpour of yuck had stopped, the westbound cleave of Storm 5.6 slammed into the River City shores. Many had already found shelter under trees, picnic tables and upturned lawn chairs. Everybody else ran for their lives into the nearby housing development that Mayor Ridgewood had built with his rich buddies. The Erie Water Wave Estates (aka “The EWWE”) were built for the express purpose of luring life-long, albeit storm battered Rockporters to River City. All of the homes were built to look like Great Lakes boats. The higher priced units were the ones that resembled Super Yachts. The “Cruiser Class” units came in various models and shapes and were a little cheaper. The “Freighter” and “Sea Snark” class homes were obviously the cheapest.
A few cronies of the recently noseless Mayor Ridgewood helped him down the stairs from the roof. Along the way he had to sacrifice his favorite Golden Bear golf shirt which he wisely used to stanch the flow of blood pouring from his nose. When hundreds of his own terrorized citizens began flooding into Model Home “A,” the Mayor, his nose tightly squeezed, shrieked out in a Porky Pig-like voice, “GET THE HELL OUTA HERE!!!”
Some citizens froze in their tracks, most others, including a couple of the Mayor's own cronies actually started laughing. "Hey Boss," one fellow said, "Mel Blanc himself couldn't have done a better Porky Pig!" No one, however, was laughing after what happened next. The model home, now jammed to its faux scuppers with apoplectic River City people, sustained a violent shudder followed by a mighty shake. Then, someone shouted, “THE HOUSE!! IT”S FLOATING!!”
People looked outside in horror to see that theirs and several other houses in the complex had been freed from their foundations by the powerful derecho winds and 12 inches of rain. It was determined later that cheap and corrupt building practices had also played a role in the catastrophe.
Meanwhile, the fate of Little Dan was unknown. "Don't worry, Rowena," said the Skipper of the Darryl A. Levy, "We're going right back in there as soon as it's safe!"