Sunday, August 28, 2011
The impending storm barely blipped on my radar earlier this week. I received an email from Examiner asking for articles relating to “Extreme Weather” in connection to Hurricane Irene. In recent years we have had so many tropical storms come our way that I don’t give them much notice. “Every family should always be prepared for an emergency,” I wrote in my column, “If you have all the staples in your house you won’t have to run out and buy batteries, bread, and water.”
On Thursday night, I had a list building up, and finally decided to take a trip to Wal-Mart. The bunny and dog needed to eat, and I recently noticed the family’s underwear was getting a little threadbare. My twelve-year-old tagged along, wanting to buy some new material for a project she wanted to sew.
Rolling around the store with a cart filled with socks and underwear, I felt amused looking at the things other people were buying. Stacks of water bottles. I made a mental note to start filling empty jugs with tap water.
“Sorry, ma’am, we’re all out of batteries. Flashlights too,” an employee explained to a customer. I wondered, why did people need all these batteries and why did they not have an emergency supply at home? How many people did not already have a flashlight at home?
I felt proud of myself as I checked out. I had none of the mundane supplies other people were buying. We had materials for a weekend project, our pets would be fed, and if we had an emergency we would not be caught with holes in our socks or underwear.
Friday I saw the Red Cross signs outside of our local high school and I started to get nervous. I went back to Wal-mart to buy tape for my windows. I noticed they had restocked their batteries.
On line with my three rolls of Duck brand strapping tape, I stayed quiet as a large, rough-looking man in front of me waved his arms and declared, “All this … for Irene…. BAH!” and he threw a small piece of rolled up paper into a side display. “After I check out I have to take care of the a—hole in the auto department. He told me he was all out of batteries and I said, ‘Show me where they used to be,’ and he pointed, and there they still were, and I said, ‘What do those look like, a—hole?’… I know a shyster when I see one and I knew he was a liar...A real con artist…You’re pretty quiet aren’t you?” [I nodded.] “You don’t let much bother you do you?” [I shook my head.] “Yeah I can tell about people.”
I looked away, hoping he would stop talking to me, and fortunately he was swiftly taken care of. I noticed a big supply of batteries behind the counter. He had told someone else he only had AAA and AA so I asked him for the largest package of AA. Not that I didn’t have them at home; it is the size we most frequently need. I scanned the display for flashlights. I didn’t see any and didn’t ask. I knew of at least one working flashlight in the kitchen drawer.
As I walked out, I passed the man at the courtesy counter, complaining about the a—hole in automotive.
When I got home, there was a message from the Town of Brookhaven. “This storm will be a historic one of epic proportions,” it said, and listed all the important things to do. [Note the current advise is NOT to tape the windows, but my dad was a builder and he still says tape them, so I do.]
The kids asked me why I was taping up the windows. I remembered asking my parents the same thing before Hurricane Gloria in 1985. I remembered their answer. “It keeps the glass from shattering if it breaks,” I answered.
“It’s not even going to be a big storm,” my eldest said.
“You have never seen a real hurricane honey, you are in for an experience,“ I said.
“Didn’t you write in your column you were supposed to tell your kids not to be scared?” she challenged.
“That is true. But I also want you not to be blasé about it and help me to prepare,” I answered.
We walked around the yard, picking up toys, furniture, flower pots, garbage pails, and other loose items. We secured them all in the shed and garage. After swimming, we secured all the pool stuff in the pool storage unit.
I went food shopping, not because of the storm, but because we were out of food. I planned on having the electricity go out on Sunday. So I bought enough perishables to last through Saturday night and got lots of bread, nuts, fruit, vegetables, and cereal. I remembered my need for coffee and picked up some instant coffee. Three gallons of milk and six cans of evaporated milk.
A man behind me had a shopping cart filled with beer and iced tea. A Hurricane Party?, I wondered. The lady in front of me had a cart filled with junk food. People don’t even buy healthy food when they’re not in a hurry, I thought.
Saturday brought a little rain and kept my husband home. “I’m going for a swim,” he said. We pulled out a couple of pairs of goggles and all did our laps. I showered, my last shower for the week, I thought. I made dinner, my last fully home-cooked meal for the week, I thought. I filled the washer machine with water for flushing toilets and washing hands in case the water stopped pumping.
Then we waited. The kids wanted to stay up for the storm. We told them they would miss it if they slept too late. We stayed up and watched the coverage.
I didn’t sleep well. There is a very tall pine tree behind my bedroom, and I was worried it would crash through the roof and land on me while I was sleeping. I kept waking up, and turning on the television to make sure we still had electricity and satellite service. At 3:00 a.m. there were young men walking around in the streets of the evacuated town of Long Beach with a blown-up dolphin. At 4:00 a.m. there were people swimming at Long Beach. At 5:00 a.m. the eye was coming into the tri-state area. At 8:00 a.m. it passed over New York City. It was downgraded to a tropical storm.
At 10:00 a.m. the phone rang. My little brother had called to check up on me. “We’re fine,” I answered groggily, “We were sleeping.” I went back to bed, and when I woke up at 11 the storm was over.
The kids woke up and looked out the windows.
“We told you it would just be a little rain,” my daughter said.
“You did say that,” I responded.
“And you said it would be a big storm,” she prodded.
“None of us is the expert. You made a lucky guess,” I said.
I was thankful we were okay and that everyone we knew was okay, but I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. I had kind of wanted my kids to experience a real storm – but safely. One of these days there really will be a direct hurricane hit here, and nobody will believe it.
Upon further inspection, I discovered my gutters had come a little lose in three spots. That will require some tacking down. Maybe we did have enough of a storm after all.
My daughter and I made a pillow together – so the weekend wasn’t a total loss. I drove to the library to return a movie. The traffic lights were out. I passed three uprooted trees.
On the radio, a meteorologist stated that this year several hurricanes will follow the same path. The next one is due in 15 days. “Consider this last one a dress rehearsal for the direct hit of a real hurricane,” said another of my favorite meteorologists.
I have a full stock of batteries and water, a roll of strapping tape, and five loaves of bread. Maybe I should leave the flowers in the garage.