Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Teacher's Worst Nightmare

Yesterday afternoon, a teacher's worst nightmare almost became a reality. We were told that we might be stuck overnight in our classrooms with our students!!! In my case, this was especially bad, because the students I had at that time were 8th graders in my "advisory" period, something like a study hall, not even a real class. Anyone who has taught or had children of their own of this age group can sympathize with my predicament. Luckily, at 3:30 P.M., after already being in the same room with them for 2 1/2 hours, we got word that they were to take their stuff and make a dash for the buses, which had finally arrived and were to take them home. THANK GOD!

At the same time, we teachers grabbed our stuff and hastily formed caravans of cars to head home ourselves. Most of us live quite far from school, in my case, 18 miles up Mt. Etna. I gathered with four others and we took two cars, including mine. Luckily, the rain slowed and almost stopped, so we drove home without any problems. There were practically NO Italians out on the roads or streets, a very strange sight at 4:30 in the afternoon. As we neared home, a heavy fog moved in and it began to rain again. I got drenched just going from my car to my house.

We have no school today because of the RAIN. It has been raining for more than twenty-four hours, usually quite heavily. Apparently, a depression called "Lucia" has caused this torrential downpour or nubifragio ("cloudburst," as the Italians call it), resulting in serious flooding and a state of emergency. This is why we didn't see anyone out yesterday afternoon except silly Americans! Sicily is generally a pretty dry place, and too much rain too fast causes overflowing rivers and flooding of roads and streets. They also have practically NO drainage in the way of storm sewers. The rain that falls on Etna pretty much just flows right down the roads, making driving an especially interesting activity.

According to the weather website Meteo Sicilia, the worst hit parts of the island include, of course, the Province of Catania, where I live. 132-228 millimeters of rain has already been measured, and it continues to rain as I write. That's 5-9 INCHES OF RAIN!!! Yep, that's a lot of rain, all right. They determine that if a square meter of ground gets more than one hundred liters of water in it, it's dangerous. We are way beyond that point . . . which is caused great concern for landslides and road damage. Parts of highways are just gone according to my friend who lives 25 miles in the other direction, in the flatlands! Here's a photo from La Sicilia today:

I guess the silver lining in this giant dark cloud is 1) no school today, and 2) little smiling suns are starting to appear on the weather map in the western part of Sicily, meaning the rain will stop, eventually. Stay tuned.


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