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.