Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Looking upriver this morning, with swathes of blue sky overhead and golden sunlight sparkling in the riffles, you wouldn't imagine the weather-related holiday weekend we've experienced…well, not unless you've recently been through your own ordeal following Hurricane Irene. 

Now, I'm definitely not saying our few days of unpleasantness has been anything to compare to the misery and trauma the folks in New Jersey or Vermont dealt with—and for that matter, are dealing with still. Nope, by their standards, we got off light. More messy inconvenience than tribulation. 

Still, in the case of Irene's path up the New England coast, those residents had ample warning, realized it was on the way. Like Sherman's march across Georgia, the arrival was not unexpected. 

We, on the other hand, were abruptly mugged. Blindsided by a storm whose winds and their sudden destruction were totally unforeseen. 

There was no sense of dire anticipation Saturday evening. Weather predictions were routine—just a standard late-summer thunderstorm. A bit of wind, perhaps heavy rains in a few areas, lots of flash-and-boom theatrics. But nothing really to worry about. 

Myladylove and I got home just before 11:00 p.m. from an enjoyable evening of celebrating recent birthdays—my daughter's and also that of my fellow-father-in-law's. It was raining during our half-hour homeward drive, with accompanying thunder and lightening. Nothing more. A mile from the house we had to detour around and come in using another road because of two trees which had fallen across the road and power lines. We wondered if our electric service might also have been knocked out…but, no, reaching the cottage we found the lights still working, though the Internet was down. Outside, the storm continued. 

For a while we stood by the big window overlooking the river, and with the deck spotlights on, watched sheets of rain falling on the nearby the pool and riffle. 

Just after midnight, as we were readying for bed, the power went off. A minute later the winds cranked up to a wild roar, lashing through the trees in the yard and on the island across from the cottage. I heard a series of warning cracks a few seconds before a loud snap and subsequent thudding crash. "That was close," I said. 

I got up, found a flashlight, dug a rain parka from the closet, and went outside for a look. The wind had taken down the upper half of the big box elder adjacent to the side deck, near the front door. Luckily the portion that fell toppled away from the house. I checked all around the cottage, but except for that one major section and the usual trimming assortment of small limbs and leaflet branches, saw no other damage. 

Nor was there anything to add to the list when I made a better review by daylight the following morning, except that my zinnias had been flattened, along with most of the flowers—though I'm hoping most will rise again given time and sunlight. Such plants are surprisingly resilient. 

It drizzled much of the day, so we spent Sunday mostly indoors. I made coffee and tea and cooked our meals on the camp stove. We had plenty of bottled water for drinking and cooking, and a rain-barrel full of water for flushing…plus the river, if needed. We read, listened to weather reports on the battery radio, Myladylove strung chunks of turquoise into a necklace and earring set, and when evening came and still no power, we lit candles and oil lamps and had our supper by cozy light. 

Other than lack of a hot shower, not a bad day at all. 

Monday, still no power, cloudy-but-dry, we spent several hours cleaning up the yard. Thanks to help from Mike, one of my good neighbors across the road, the box elder got sawn into firewood lengths. The yard was raked of leaves, limbs wheelbarrowed to the brush pile. 

Except for the pile of new firewood yet to be stacked, and the odd slant of sunlight now shining through the new opening in the treeline, things are pretty much back to normal. The power came back on in late afternoon, the Internet sometime during the night. 

From what I've since been able to gather…in the storm's aftermath, 35,000 area residents were also left without power. Trees and power poles fell like matchsticks all over the place, closing roads, damaging houses and cars. 

We were actually lucky. Another neighbor, Bob, who lives in the house up the road from Mike, lost several trees, one of which fell on his neighbor's house and car, and flattened a shed. And residents up and down the nearby roads suffered similar damage. 

The storm also brought with it a change in weather. Though today began sunny, it is now clouding up and may even rain before it is done. Rain is also predicted for the rest of the week. 

Too, on Saturday, before the storm came through, we set a record high for that date of 97˚F; this morning, it was 51˚F, with a predicted high of 61˚F; I don't think Sunday or Monday made it above of the 60s, either. 

On balance, while I wouldn't want to repeat such an impromptu indoor campout (I'll take a tent in the woods and the usual minimal accoutrements) every weekend, a reminder every so often of who's really in charge of things is probably a good for the ego. 

And if the damage isn't great, the lesson can even be fun.  


George said...

Beautiful photo, Grizz! Sorry to hear about your travails, but it appears that you and your ladylove fared reasonably well, all things considered.

When day broke after the night that Irene passed over my house, I was pleased that we had only suffered some minor tree damage. In the midst of storms, one always envisions the worst. You are right, of course, about the way that we are humbled by these gigantic weather events. They certainly put our lives in perspective.

Grizz………… said...


That view up the river from the cottage has now lost its sparkle thanks to thick clouds. Rain is predicted through Saturday, perhaps longer. It is also cooler and I wonder whether, when the sun finally does reappear, there will still be any hummingbirds hanging about. (I have scads here at the moment, jostling furiously around the feeders.)

When the aftermath of Hurricane Ike came through three years back, it caused more damage hereabouts than almost anywhere along its path—trees by the tens of thousands downed, often on cars and homes. Hundreds of thousands of homes were without power, some for many weeks afterwards. Neighbors all around us lost trees—big trees!—but being lower, snuggled on the banks of the river, the brunt of the storm passed overhead. We couldn't have filled a 5-gal. bucket with the twigs downed in our yard.

This time the winds dipped, at least low enough to catch the top of my big box elder, a fragil wood at best; that main trunk fairly exploded. But…it could easily have been worse. A lot worse. And for that I'm grateful.

We did just fine, Myladylove and I, and Moon-the-Dog. I'm glad, too, that Irene spared your trees.

Kelly said...

...thank goodness you were okay and the tree didn't fall on your house! A local man was struck by lighting and killed near our neighborhood.

Grizz………… said...


We were lucky in that the portion of the tree that came down fell away from the house and on an angle that even missed all the flower beds and my pet willow. And that's the one angle wherein that was possible. Too, there are lots of other bigger trees around the house, including one huge sycamore that is maybe 5 feet in diameter and 80 feet tall. Any of those could have fallen.

You know, I've tried to read about about the storm that came through here but the online accounts from our local paper don't really give much information. I really don't know how widespread the storm was, nor wind velocity, etc. Didn't realize you had a problems in your area as well. I hope nothing at your home was damaged.

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ- I don't know how I missed this post. I have been wondering about you and looking for you. Anyway, seems you had a bout of Irene too. We were hit quite hard. I hope you get a chance to see my last post. And I am so glad you and yours are all ok - I was worried when you didn't respond to my email.
Love you

The Weaver of Grass said...

You wouldn't think of any of this when you see that lovely peaceful photo of your river at the top of your post Grizz.

These storms are OK as long as you do not live on your own, then they can be a bit scary. Sounds as though the two of you boosted each others confidence.

Any chance of seeing that jewelery in a photo - it sounds so pretty.

Grizz………… said...


I'm behind on visiting my favorite sites and reading posts—but I'll certainly be your way. Didn't realize you'd posted recently.

Whatever hit us was not part of Irene. And so far as I know—info on the storm has been hard to come by—not even the leftover tailings of that later tropical storm (forget the name) that came into the Gulf. Just a rowdy late-season thunderstorm with sudden gusts and sustained straight-line winds topping 50 mph. Nothing like what you received. But enough to topple lots of trees and put us in the dark and off the power grid for a couple of days.

Now, it's rain every day through Saturday. Ugggggh.

I'm glad you missed me. :-)

Grizz………… said...


No, you're right—the view upstream under yesterday's brief sun was pretty unremarkable. Even if you'd have walked around the island woods, you'd have found little no real evidence of the storm's passage other than a few broken limbs, the odd cluster of still-green leaves, maybe a downed tree here and there. As to the river, just a slight rise and discoloring which, unless I told you was the case, you wouldn't discern. No real damage otherwise.

Myladylove and I do get along when we work, though truth be told, she often does more than me if I'm have a bout of back pain, which was the case Monday. I work, sit, work, sit; she's one you have to make take a break and sit. The remarkable thing is that she puts up with me.

You know, I will run a photos of some of her beads and earrings. She does really fine craftsmanship, has a good design eye, and works a lot with turquoise and silver, but also with other semi-precious stones, bits of shell, etc. Almost exclusively natural materials. The other day she did a necklace using chunks of freshwater mussel shell and freshwater pearls—quite elegant and lovely. To do the stuff justice, I'll have to photograph her pieces carefully…but I will.

KGMom said...

Sorry to hear that you, too, suffered storm damage. And unexpected makes it worse.
We lost three trees, far enough from the house they did not fall on it. But it took until Wednesday for the tree service people to get here. We now have gaps in our line of trees--the unaccustomed space bothers me.

Grizz………… said...


Yup, the storm's unexpected intensity caught me off guard, which for no logical reason made things seem worse. Like you, I'm bothered about the new gap in my shade and treeline. It will change what I can plant in the yard with the additional sun…but I liked the intense shade, especially around the dooryard. Still, things could have been much worse.

I'll get over this little bit of change…if I have to…I guess.

Kelly said...

Grizz....it came through really quickly, a local golf course clubhouse was struck by lightning and burned to the ground....the fisherman was struck and died....and a lot of wind damage at a park, but we were lucky with no damage at all.

Grizz………… said...


Wow. I had no idea. That's awful about the guy camping (just read the story online). Sometimes your life hinges on the smallest acts or decisions—and in his case, he was just trying to do the right thing for him and his buddy, figuring a tent was no place to be during such a storm.

I'm glad you and your family and property came through okay…