It's a euphamism for "it happened very quickly." If something happens before you can even catch your breath, it didn't take much time, does it? So it's not literal - I'm sure the girl breathed more than a few times - but as a figure of speech, it just means "things happened fast."
I do use "catch wind of" in real life, and don't find the word "acquaintance" to be too high-brow for real conversation either.
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