Photo by The Jersey Journal
I've lived through a lot of hurricanes. There are two things I know about them without a doubt. (1, No one can predict where one will hit and (2, no one can predict how strong it will be. All those weather guys in their windbreakers grimacing into the wind and rain are just guessing, and often they are no better at guessing than the man in the street.
The word went out last Thursday and Friday that Hurricane Irene was going to hit near New York City Sunday, and it was going to be strong. That was enough for me. I left on the bus for upstate New York, where my daughter lives with my two grandsons, at 2:30 on Friday.
I've ridden out many a hurricane that hit the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay over the past 18 years. They are fearsome acts of nature, full of lightning, thunder, rain and winds that snap pines in two and slam them into nearby houses, cars and people. The power goes out and inside your abode you hover listening to the sound track that strikes a certain amount of terror into your heart, while you occasionally glance out a window at the show. Evacuation is an option but getting out will only take you to a slow moving line of traffic going nowhere except usually deeper into the storm.
I always stayed home while most friends, particularly those who had not endured the storms, tried to get out, but usually returned with tales of trying to get upstate only to find no lodging and that the hurricane beat them there.
This time, knowing Hoboken's tendency to flood just from a rainstorm, and living in the flood-prone area of the city, I knew enough to call my daughter and say, "I'm coming."
She lives in Kingston, which largely escaped the hurricane although there was some flooding and power outage. Her house was high and not exactly dry, but unscathed. In the early morning hours I awoke, and not hearing thunder or experiencing the flashes of lightning or even hearing wind, I looked out the window of my wee bedroom. It was raining, all right, in heavy sheets--and the wind was blowing it horizontally, hurricane-style. I was glad not to be in Hoboken, as I knew the streets would be rivers and the basement of my building was bound to wash away my stored winter clothes and cartons of old treasured items.
I was unsettled and antsy all day. Being dislocated and picturing your stuff floating around in dirty water can do that for you. I wanted it to be over, and to be home. Unfortunately the buses and trains weren't running on Monday and I had another day of peace and quiet to secretly fret about the condition of my building and my town. My upstairs neighbor, Mark, emailed that there was at least three feet of water in the back yard and much more than that in the basement, and my brand-new hot water heater there was submerged and probably inoperable.
Tuesday morning there was one big bus with the word CHARTER on it in the parking lot at the Kingston bus station. The bus driver had announced when he pulled in, "Here is your bus to Atlantic City!" and we New Yorkers stood on the sidelines grumbling. A few people were getting in, so somebody finally walked over and said something to the bus driver who admitted that it was the New York bus and he was making a little joke. Bus drivers sometimes have an odd sense of humor.
I was able to get home by 11:30 and Mark and his wife were working in the back yard, wringing out what had been in their corner of the basement and I went out at talked with them. The sump pump was working away but there were still a few inches of water to slush around in. I looked around but indulged myself by putting the major clean-up off until today. I called a plumber who can look at my hot water heater Friday.
My electricity and gas is working, my cable tv is fine, and I can shower at the gym. I'm going to the gym this morning and the rest of my day is going to be spent lugging soggy cartons out of the basement and sorting out what to keep and what to discard. I'm lucky--and we in this part of the country are really lucky that we really didn't see much of Irene at all. My heart goes out to the places that were harder hit.