Monday, October 29th, 10:27 am
Weather forecasting is great, you get to worry for five full days before the the latest Frankenstorm hits. Well, after multiple trips to the store for more bacon and chips (the traditional storm preparedness supplies) we are now starting the final countdown.
Last week on Thursday the National Weather Service was timing this out as a “5 or 6 day event.” Of course they did start with the name “Frankenstorm” which struck me as pretty unusual for the geeks at the NWS. Usually it’s all anyone can do to get them to use anything other than “TD 134” or “WS #ALO.” So, when the head of the service named the coming storm, everyone started to pay attention. First other meteorologists called to complain that he’d used “unruly non-scientific taxonomy” and then that was drowned out by the excited media.
I have been pleased that most of the media has been restrained enough to keep using words like “Potential,” “Possible” and even “Probable.” But let’s face it a storm that can wipe away the east coast beaches like a 1000 mile squeegee only come once every 250 years or so. Hard to resist, after all, maybe George Clooney will play this or that reporter in the movie.
I guess we’ve all been in or affected by major weather events in our lives. My first wife was in the Wilkes Barre flood, which hardened her against ever living close to water again. That was too bad, it ended my dreams of always living on the shore.
Still we were living together in Boston during the famous “Blizzard of 78,” when show hammered down for three or four days and the streets were closed to civilians for two weeks. Our car was encased in a birm of ice along with about 40 other cars that ran the length of a city block. The military had come with railroad type ram plows which forced and compressed the snow on the street out of the center on to the sides. There was nowhere else to put it. That meant any parked cars were now frozen together, packed in ice, bottom to top, in a man made ice wall about 10 feet high and a full city block long. Unless your car stuck out a little too far, in which case the ram plow just removed the offending section.
My wife at that time was a little surprised at my cavalier attitude, storms don’t bother me. I find them exciting, from enduring their length to the eventual clean-up afterward. Since we’d first moved back to America my father and I would race out during the frequent hurricanes and cut branches from the roads in gleeful appreciation of community service. It was a chance to be a minor hero, although I’m sure no one noticed, it was a very quiet area with little traffic. During stormy nights you might have found me on the upper “Flying” deck of our house reciting the lines from the “Thief of Bagdad” (the one with Sabu) that the evil grand Visir used to to try and destroy the handsome prince as he sailed to Basra. “Winds whip yourselves….” Which is pretty much all I ever remember of the incantation. But in the deep squeeky voice of a 12 or 13 year old (and a lot of wind) it sounded very impressive and felt quite a bit naughty.
So, as much as I fear for the unprepared and unlucky in this event, I have to admit I’m just a little bit thrilled at the prospect. Snug in my generator-protected cinder block basement, dog at my side, wife deep in conference calls with the Philippines, it’s easy not to think about those who are not so well protected. Even though those may well include my 94 year old parents about 50 miles south in Princeton NJ.
For some reason last night around 3am I remembered that during those wonderful hurricanes on Long Island, the several times I’d found my mother crying on the stairs during some of the bigger storms. She didn’t like big storms, the uncertainty frightened her, and the noise. Once, finding her their crying in the dark, I put my arm around her shoulders and tried to lift her spirits with a little tune from the same movie “I want to be a sailor, sailing on the sea…..” The actual result of which was her instantly banning me from ever “being a filthy, wet sailor!” as well as six or seven other occupations listed in the song. It got quiet after that.
There is something deeply troubling and yet exhilarating about the deep rush of high winds and the low rumbling drone of driving rain. Punctuate it with the sudden, frightening explosive crack of lightning and the heart races along with the symphony. There is an almost palpable pressure that builds with a serious storm, a growing weight that slows our movements and yet presses us to attempt great things.
I don’t know if there will be any great things to attempt in the next two days. But I feel the storm pushing closer, and the wind is rising now. Rain is beginning to fall in fits and spurts and the trees have begun they’re swaying dance. We still have a lot of leaves around here, even though they began to fall with a vengeance yesterday. Almost as if the trees were preparing, striping off their summer clothes and sliming down for the coming winds. I’ll keep watch on the cracked and broken ones, though I don’t really see how that will do any good. When a tree falls there’s little time for warning. Best just to run backups, make sure the insurance policies are up to date and stand ready with the chips and bacon should disaster strike.
On a side note, my father called yesterday morning and invited use to stay with them if things get hairy. He also asked if I could bring a couple of saws. I’d better bring the chips and bacon as well.
Copyright Prentiss Gray 2012