They tell us that T.S. Fay (or perhaps, by the time she arrives, T.D. Fay) is on her way here. She is taking her time. Although her forward speed has increased from 2 mph to 8 mph, it will still be something like 24 hours before she arrives. So it was probably just coincidence that it was overcast and quite breezy this morning, perfect weather for yard work.
Yesterday I ended up getting out to edge the front walk after my usual walk, breakfast, and online chores—about 11 a.m. Not quite High Noon, but still a ridiculous time to be outside on a sunny day. This morning I skipped the walk, had breakfast, and then read newsgroups until A Decent Hour (8 a.m.) before getting out with the ridiculously noisy electric edger to do the driveway. Most of our neighbors are distant or absentee, but I do feel bad about “breaking the peace” so early on Saturday morning when our next-door neighbors (the ones who are actually in residence) are just yards away. Still, despite the sun’s occasional alarming attempts to break through, it was uncertain how long I would have to work before the rain began.
As it turned out, it was just beginning to sprinkle a little when I came inside a little before noon, and we haven’t really had any rain to speak of, though the treetops are still waving boisterously. I’m told this is Not Fay—well, maybe just the farthest outer bands—but it’s certainly pleasant nonetheless. We’re probably in for a drenching, and if Fay stalls in this area as she has over Florida, there will certainly be flooding in coastal and other low-lying areas. Our personal situation, however, is quite secure—on a bluff high above Mobile Bay and nearly at the top of a slope down which rainwater runs directly into the bay.
Without wanting to minimize the severe conditions experienced by others in Fay’s path, I have to say I can’t find much reason to get exercised about the coming storm. In our 32 years in this area, we’ve experienced a lot of storms, beginning with Frederic in 1979, the hurricane to which we have compared all subsequent ones, and so far none has come close to being as generally devastating, though severe flooding did result from Danny, who liked our bay so much that he just parked out there for three days, dumping heavy rain continuously, and of course Katrina did affect a good bit of the Gulf Coast, not just New Orleans. Not that we want another Frederic—far from it! We know we’ve been lucky, and if we’ve become a bit blasé about storms, it’s because no subsequent one has come close to topping Frederic.
In every case, though, the waiting is the worst part—not knowing exactly where the storm will strike and what the result will be. Will it be worthwhile to stock up on canned goods and batteries, or will we wish we hadn’t bothered? Should we tape the windows? (The answer to the latter, I can now categorically state, is no. Boarding up may do some good; taping just gives you a false sense of security. It also results in a lot of work getting the tape off months later, when all threat of storms has passed and your husband finally decides it’s safe to do so, by which time the tape has become very gooey. Now that we have finally had storm windows installed, perhaps this tape nonsense can stop.) Once we’ve stocked up on “hurricane supplies,” brought in the trash cans and anything else that might blow away, backed up the hard drives, and made whatever other preparations seem reasonable, there’s nothing left to do but wait. Worse still, we can’t even just go on with “business as usual” because our city has figured out that it’s prudent to turn off the electric power well before the hurricane hits to avoid the possibility of downed live wires.
Once the storm arrives, all we can do is hunker down and endure. Storms at night are worrying because we can’t see what’s going on. During Frederic we kept hearing loud cracks that, by the light of day, turned out to have been breaking pine trees, felled in our neighbors’ yards (there were no trees in our yard). In the end, though, we frequently end up sleeping through them. Storms during the day are frequently just boring. They never look as bad as they sound. Sometimes all we can do is sleep through those, too, though my husband likes to walk down to the end of the street and watch the bay thrashing (he stood out on the front porch during much of Katrina).
After the storm has passed, then we get out and assess the damages. Maybe we will be without power for a few days, using the Coleman lanterns and camp stove, opening all the windows in hopes of a breeze, and living at subsistence level till power is restored. At least we will have phone service (we virtually never lose that) and hot water (gas water heater—we never lose gas or water service, either). Or maybe power will be restored quickly and we’ll just have to get out and spend a day picking up debris—blown-down limbs and foliage enough to make a gigantic pile for the trash pickup. A halfway respectable storm will have downed some large trees that will be blocking streets or will have crushed someone’s roof, and these will provide interest for a day or two. Waterfront residents may have lost their piers or had a boat wash up in an odd place. By and large, though, most of us will be “back to normal” and ready to move on long before the local TV stations are willing to stop covering the storm in stupefying detail (to make sure that those whose power has just been restored get the full benefit of their reportage).
For the most part, though, even hurricanes here lately have been nine days’ wonders, so I won’t get excited about a tropical storm.