Thursday, August 07, 2008

City of Lightning

Paris is flooding.

Oh, don't worry. It happens every day.

Alannah and I go for a lot of walks, being that you do that in Paris: Walk. And every once in a while, we'd quizzically look at each other wondering why the hell the streets are aflow with tons of water. "It's like a miniature flood on the street... EVERY DAY!" she'd keep saying. Some days, we'd have to alter our course to get around the gushing water on a street corner.

Surely there couldn't be this many people washing their cars. And there aren't any lawns to over-water. Where was all this coming from?

It turns out that it's part of the whole street cleaning plan in Paris. The city spends billions each year just on cleaning. The sidewalks are swept every day. Dog crap is vacuumed up. And the gutters are flooded with (luckily plentiful) water to wash all the detritus away. I'm not sure where it all ends up, but considering how progressive they are about these things here, I'm sure it's being handled pretty responsibly.

In fact, you'll often see Parisians littering, as it's encouraged by the city. So proud are they of their oddball gutter-flooding technique, that they actually tell you to throw things in the gutter if you can't find a trash bin nearby.

This morning, those trash bins were full of water.

I had a hard time sleeping last night, thanks to the unbelievable heat and humidity. Not long after I finally did manage to fall asleep, I was awakened by a loud rumbling sound and the entire apartment building shaking.

The bright flashes of light outside really got my attention. It looked like the start of one of my favorite phenomena, a summer thunderstorm. I sat up in bed and looked out the big windows in anticipation of a light show. It may have been 4:00 in the morning, but there was no way I could've gone back to sleep.

Within moments, the torrential downpour started, and rain was pouring sideways into the apartment. I moved things away from the windows so they wouldn't get soaked, keeping them open long enough to capture some of it on camera. The amount of thunder, lightning, and - above all - rain was biblical. The water running down the street appeared to be a foot deep, gushing down like a miniature river along the Boulevard Péreire. The giant, heavy drops were beautifully illuminated by the sodium glow of the street lamps. And every time the lightning flashed through the sky, you could see the beautiful silhouette of the old Parisian rooftops, craggy with chimneys and antennae and angled slate chien-assis gables.

I got it on video and strung it together without any real editing or voiceover or sound. Alannah got some more of it as the storm continued much later, at 4 in the afternoon today. It's not much, but it'll be on the record to remind me of one of the most awesome, non-destructive storms I've experienced*.

* Sadly, the storm did take the life of a young girl out camping in the country. In fact, much of the region is on "Orange Alert," due to the intense nature of this storm, as well as some hurricane-force winds. Ahh, summertime in Paris...


  1. My God, Omid. Thank you for sharing. We miss you.


  2. Funny...this just totally unearthed a memory of when I was in Paris when I was 6 years old...

    We went on a family vacation there, and on the first day we were there during a parade on Bastille Day, it was crazy hot and humid like you mentioned...then the sky opened up and we got stuck in the worst rain storm I ever remembered as a kid. People were cramming into phone booths and running each other down trying to find a place to stay dry and safe. It was insane...

    Great video and thanks for unearthing a very traumatizing event in my childhood.