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The week that began with a 5.8 earthquake just 100 NW of here ended with a force 3 hurricane. Exhilarating.
I didn’t even feel the quake, as I was walking from my mother’s new apartment in Hampton to my car. She felt it in her sleep [ I left her exhausted, it appears] and thought she had jerked awake as one sometimes does. You know, like when you dream you are falling and wake up with a body spasm just before you hit the ground? They say that if you dream that you DID hit, you actually die. How could they possibly know that?
We had most of a week’s warning for the hurricane, named after our “daughter” Irene. So we prepared for the worst scenario, which meant bringing in all my potted plants and yard art; turning the canoe spine up; unstepping the mast and lashing it firmly; and building a dam at the entrance to the garage, using 20 bags of potting soil, plastic sheeting and foam-in-a-can. Ron dearly loves this foam stuff. You press the nozzle of the can and it squirts out and foams up. But unlike shaving cream, it hardens into a mass. One time Ron put so much of this foam into the wall behind our bathtub [in CA] that it pushed out through a crack in the stucco outside.
The potting soil will eventually go into the raised garden bed I got for my birthday, but we’ll leave the dam until hurricane season is over mid-Oct.
By Friday, I had picked up a few groceries, watching people leave with toilet paper and cookies. It’s funny what you feel is necessary when preparing to hunker down. [On 9-11 I bought powdered milk and cake mix. It seemed so very important.]. As I filled up the car with gas, I noticed that traffic on the major streets was very heavy. I learned much later that a “mandatory” evacuation order, for low lying areas, had been issued for Newport News. [I wasn’t listening to the radio; but was deep into an audio book “The War that Killed Achilles.”]. That afternoon, Ron’s aunt called from TN to see if we were already dead, as she had heard about the evacuation. Apparently, “mandatory” means that you can leave if you want to, if you think that you might get wet. They turn the freeways running all the same direction—inland—and, from all accounts, it is a nightmare to get home.
We had firmly decided to ride it out. When we first moved here, Ron got plywood cut for all the windows, but my brother said that generally boarding up is overkill. We plan to work on these to make them easier to put up and take down, with hooks at the top and latches at the bottom. The only way to hang them now is to screw them in—not an easy task and destructive.
Assuming the AC would go down, Ron had rigged us a fan in the bedroom, so we could sleep cool. He had bought us a fan for the boat which runs off battery.
So we were ready by the time the storm moved in. It started raining mid-morning, so there was nothing more we could do to prepare. Tired from all this activity, when the power went off, we decided to nap. [It was too early to eat lunch]. Sometime around 10:30, we heard a whump outside that sounded like one of the large plastic garbage cans blowing over. Mind you, Ron had tied them down, but that’s what we took it for. It was hours before we discovered it was one of our beloved oaks toppling over, hitting the neighbors screen porch. We couldn’t see much and a quick look from our backyard convinced us it was really stupid to wander outside in a hurricane when one tree had already fallen. At some point in the storm, a hickory went over into the neighbor’s front yard. We felt really bad being thankful that nothing hit us…..but at least she wasn’t home.
We listened to the radio and our weather-alert system telling us that we were all going to die and that some folks had died. And we watched the wind and rain.
The creek didn’t rise as high as the Nor’easter we had 2 years ago, when our dock went under water by a foot. This storm raised the creek just barely over the dock and we could still see the tops of the cordgrass in the poquoson. It is amazing to see our boat float above the dock.
There was a lull mid-afternoon and I ran over to the neighbor’s to see if the roof had been damaged by the falling tree. Everything looked snug, with just the screen porch destroyed. The hickory between our house and the neighbor’s had slid between 2 other trees, with minimal damage and had missed the house entirely.
The media coverage of the storm left much to be desired. There is simply not that much you can say about an approaching storm, but the TV droned on and on nonetheless. We listened on the battery radio, as our power had gone off, but they kept “showing” things rather that being descriptive. I especially appreciated the interviews with other idiots on the beach. And when one woman told us not to light our candles yet, as there was still daylight, I began to laugh instead of being annoyed. First, assuming none of us is smart enough to realize when to light a candle and, second, that we were watching TV by candlelight, was the primo moment in broadcasting.
Though tempted to call the TV station to ask if we could light a candle, we realized that the phone was down, so we went to bed. The full strength of the storm hit about 10:30 or so and we occasionally looked out the window, beaming our powerful rechargeable spotlight, but couldn’t see much. Nor was there much to see. Our primo moment was Ron beaming our powerful rechargeable spotlight, reflecting it off the window pane directly into my defenseless eyes. Aaarghhh.
The next morning was bright and cool. Church had been cancelled since Fri, so we went out and about. Limbs large and small were everywhere, but we decided the mess could wait and we went to visit my mother to recharge all our things. People were cleaning up everywhere in an effort to reassert control; to bring order out of chaos; to impose will on things that cannot be willed. Nowhere seemed as thrashed as our street and we saw no other major trees down. We’re special.
The irony of the trees that went down is that they were the last I would have expected. My neighbor and I had discussed it the week before and had pointed out to each other which we thought we bite the dust [or, kiss the mud, in this case]. We were wrong.
It is wonderful how enjoyable life is. We bought iced diet colas from a drive-through. We opened all our windows and reveled in the beauty. I saw a hummingbird visit a blooming daylily; many of the plants were blooming and I wondered if the crisis matured the blooms quicker than normal or if they had been ready to bloom Sunday.
Monday, I spent all day picking up storm litter. When I was too tired to pick up one more stick, I could barely tell I’d done anything, although Ron said he could tell when he got home from work. [Just one more evidence of why he’s a keeper.] My brother popped in after going to work only to discover they had no internet and thus no way to work. As he was leaving [I told him if he stayed, he’s have to help me pick up], I noticed one of our pines was leaning quite a bit. Investigating, we found that it had cracked deeply at the base. Heavy, heavy hangs over the power lines…
My neighbor arrived with her son from D.C. and he began to dismantle the hickory, as it did not damage the house and therefore, involved no insurance. My brother and family came for dinner, as we cleaned out the refrigerator and defrosted the freezer.
Tuesday, I convinced Ron that he should take me out to supper. Thank goodness, they didn’t get our power back on before the meal!!
Wednesday, a crew came to cut up the oak. I carried dozens of branches to my yard in my never-ending quest to keep my hillside from eroding into the creek. Ron is going to get me some biodegradable rope to raft all my logs on the edge of the creek bank, so they don’t roll off and hole the boat. Since the oak was on my property, they couldn’t cut and haul that, but they pushed it and the hickory stump back into their holes, for us to work on overtime. Our neighbor had them push two table-sized “barrels” down to her favorite bench by the creek.
Ron is brimming with engineering ideas, notably a tidemill to generate power to recharge our batteries. Late this afternoon, we are expecting a crew with a large crane to come take down the leaning pine. I’m going to have to consider planting some trees.

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