The Rockport Miracles-Part 4: Episode 30: “The Ballad Of Derecho Dan” Continues:

It looked like curtains for Little Dan. His floating bomb had effectively diverted Storm 5.6 away from Rockport after cleaving the tempest in two. The eastern half of the storm catapulted toward downtown Cleveland forcing the Coast Guard cutter, Darryl A. Levy, to find safe harbor. It was a correct decision that sadly ended Little Dan’s best chance of rescue and survival.

Fortunately, that eastbound storm weakened as it approached Cleveland and no one was seriously injured. Unfortunately, the explosion sent a tsunami wave of water toward the city so great that it entered the mouth of the Cuyahoga River and drove tons of man-made chemicals, human waste, industrial waste, old tires, and dead gangsters a half mile upriver where it clumped into what a Cleveland Press reporter described as, “The King Kong of all toilet backups.”

The volume of water was so great that it overflowed the river’s banks in the Cleveland Flats and found a homeless person’s campfire under the High Level Bridge. The campfire ignited the highly flammable chemical slicks on the water, resulting in flames that raced upriver and set the massive sewage backup ablaze. Prevailing winds carried the fire's acrid smell along the eastern Erie shoreline where it disgusted and inflamed olfactory nerves from Ashtabula to Buffalo. 

As reported earlier, the westbound storm had been cast directly onto the shores of River City with historic consequences. Though, it'd been nothing short of a miracle that no one was killed, Bart Ridgewood, the odious mayor of River City, had lost most of his rather large nose after the explosion had conjured up a 1lb large mouth bass that'd spanked the mayor across his face and lopped off his proboscis with its dorsal fin. That was just the beginning of the mayor's problems.

He and hundreds of his constituents had taken refuge inside his brand new housing development known as, “The Erie Water Wave Estates.” The  lousy building standards and poor workmanship of the development quickly became self-evident when 100mph derecho winds and 12 inches of rain blitzkrieged the new homes and wrested dozens of them from their foundations.

Though the houses were all shaped like Great Lakes boats, they were, in fact, not boats. The terror-stricken citizens trapped inside the model homes waved and shrieked at each other through grand picture windows as the violent floodwaters carried them down Bilge Boulevard. Many feared they would float right off the nearby cliffs. Instead the houses piled harmlessly against each other and clustered into one big housejam at the intersection of Ahoy Avenue and Crappie Lane. 

Back in Rockport, a group of plucky residents who'd chosen years earlier to stick it out in their beloved town, had formed a unique citizens group that called themselves, “The Rocks of Rockport.” Not a loose or ragtag organization, they had among their ranks skilled tradesmen, medical professionals of all types, and retired police and firemen.

After each disaster, they were able to do what the city struggled to do 5 years into the Storm Era. They'd helped rescue people, gave them shelter and medical aid, repaired their homes, and organized hot food kitchens. They did it, not for money or fame. Their mission was to preserve the continuity of Rockport’s legendary sense of community and in the process they became legends themselves.

After the thunderclaps of Storm 5.6 triggered the city’s storm sirens, The Rocks of Rockport rushed toward the west end of town and rendezvoused inside a magnificent, albeit abandoned lakefront mansion being used for their headquarters. The mansion's own “Widow’s Walk” provided a vantage point at which they saw everything that happened through their binoculars. When the storms passed, they'd immediately launched their rescue boat, “The Edanola," and headed toward Little Dan’s last known location. 

Also steaming back to the scene was the Coast Guard Cutter, Darryl A. Levy. The Skipper had tried in vain to stop Little Dan from completing his mission. When he failed to do so, he had no other choice but to direct his ship out of harm’s way. By then, his gut had told him that Little Dan was a goner.

There'd been another great mystery that, to this day still haunts the minds of all who’d witnessed it. Who or what had pulled Little Dan’s rescue raft away from his boat just before it exploded? Everyone had seen the pathetic sight of Little Dan flailing helplessly in the storm-tossed lake when “something” under the water grabbed hold of the bow rope of his raft and began pulling the vessel away from the danger zone. The raft and its 260 lb. occupant, shot through the water like a hot knife through butter with Little Dan holding on for dear life and screaming at the top of his lungs. Whatever it was, it had successfully transported him 100 yards away from where he’d started before the cabin cruiser known as, "The Friggin' A," finally blew up.

As two rescue boats rushed to his aid and hundreds of smarmy River Citians wondered what the hell had hit them, the ultimate fate of Little Dan Newman hung in the balance. When the tattered and torn pieces of his rescue raft were discovered floating on the lake, everyone's worst fears came clearly into view and the biggest question of all remained unanswered: What on earth had become of Little Dan?

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Volume 16, Issue 15, Posted 4:08 PM, 08.05.2020