One of the delights of summer in Sao Paulo, for me at least, are the afternoon rain storms, with the awe-inspiring lightning and thunder. I love to sit on our veranda amid the clouds and watch the bolts and sheets of lightning crash across the sky, and feel the chest-rattling thunder that follows soon after. It’s a great relief after the 90-degree-plus heat and humidity of the day.
But that’s me, up on the 24th floor, unperturbed by the consequences of these torrential downpours.
Then I notice the havoc being imposed on those below, trying to get home through the curtains of rain and flooded streets, standing with water rushing on either side of the bus medians, their spot on the concrete island the only refuge from the coursing waters.
In December, two weeks of rains devastated 52 cities in the states of Espirito Santo and Minas Gerais, causing widespread mudslides and taking the lives of 41 people. Some 61,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes, and many thousands spent Christmas without drinking water. These are not the rains that bring me joy.
Yesterday’s downpour in Sao Paulo brought more flooding and traffic problems, and shut down public transportation. It was a repeat of the day before, when one of Tom’s coworkers was unable to get home for several hours due to flooded streets.
Yesterday’s rainfall closed Congonhas Airport for four hours and shut down buses and the metro lines.
I drove to the Consulate to get Tom after work. Usually, this is about a five-minute drive to go 2 km. Yesterday, it was 45 minutes to get to him and another 45 to get home. The rain hadn’t seemed that intense, but this is what I saw when I got on the road beside our building, submerged roads and pedestrians on the medians, trying to reach the other side of the road safely.
Of course, I didn’t see that BEFORE I made the turn onto the road:
I drove through the first two puddles, but decided discretion was the better part of valor on the third, where the bus and a small sedan were stalled. Fortunately, I’m learning my way around our neighborhood and around the Consulate, so was able to wend my way through back and side streets (with thousands of other drivers) to pick up Tom.
Summer rains keep this country gloriously verdant and waters the crops. But there is a cost in city of 22 million: a cost to the population that must try to travel in flood circumstances. I am amazed at the spirit of these people. Such egregious daily trials, and they remain calm and friendly in the face of extra hours on top of the regular hours it takes to get home. Amazing.