Who Invited Irene To This Party?
Storm threatens one of the last weekends of summer. Maybe.
My mother is climbing the walls and filling the bathtub, my sister is stockpiling Scott Ultra Soft and San Pellegrino, my husband is breathing into a paper bag.
Jim Cantore has stopped in town.
Looks like we’re about to have a weather event.
Now I’m the last person to ignore dire warnings – this little piggy prefers a brick house (though I can do without the earthquakes, thank you very much.) And all these warnings are great, actually. If we had the Weather Channel (or any reliable forecasting) in 1938, none of those south county church ladies would have decided that September 21st was a great day to don their black, calf-length bathing suits and head to the shore for a picnic.
So even though a small part of me thinks that the Weather Channel is getting kickbacks from the bottled water and plywood interests, I do believe that forewarned is forearmed. So let’s call this a case of whistling past the graveyard.
Mom, who is quick to point out that she was most certainly NOT around in 1938 (and also likes to tell strangers that she’s my sister, but that’s another story), asserts that if I were alive for Hurricane Carol in 1954, I would be filling my bathtub as well. Of course by my account, Mom was barely eight years old and living in Washington, DC, which Carol missed comfortably. Clearly a very unnerving day of “showers, heavy at times.”
As we have seen many times, in points south and west, hurricanes can be horrifically devastating, causing significant damage and loss of life, and they are no laughing matter. But for those of us living in New England, the last five decades or so have been pretty lucky ones.
There was Hurricane Bell, which was sometime in the mid-1970s, remarkable for being the first and perhaps only time my dad got to use his cool blue metal emergency lanterns. We sat around for hours, playing Parcheesi in the toxic glow of whatever not-for-indoor-use liquid fuel the lanterns burned, the howl of the wind punctuated regularly by shouts of “close the fridge!”
There was Hurricane Gloria, in the mid-1980s, which left me with the wonderful, indelible memory of Dad taking me up to the third floor of Linden Place (he was the caretaker and we lived there at the time.) He sat me down in front of a window and told me to fix on a detail of the Post Office across the street, which revealed that the old mansion was actually swaying in the wind – about 3 inches in either direction!
Once I stopped screaming and trying to bolt for the exits, it was pretty cool to see. We spent an enjoyable afternoon watching the post office and laughing at how many knuckleheads thought it was fun to walk north on Hope Street into the wind, dodging the flying debris.
You can bet Linden Place will be shimmying if Irene hits us hard. If you are the caretaker and want to give the kids a scare, you heard it here first. If you aren’t, breaking and entering is not advised.
Hurricane Bob, in the early 1990s, was the kind of non-event that could lull even the most paranoid Rhode Islander into a false sense of storm security. It began with a hysterical call from my sister, who was living with my parents while I was in school in New Hampshire. Something about Dad climbing on the roof of the garage in the middle of a lightning storm because there was some concern that the weathervane was going to be damaged. Also, they couldn’t find the cat. But Bob ended with a somewhat of a whimper.
The real weather story of that year was exactly a week later, when a strong nor’easter hit with very little warning or fanfare, catching New England with its pants down. The biggest news out of that storm was immortalized in Sebastian Junger’s A Perfect Storm – a great book whose title has unfortunately become part of the vernacular.
What’s worse, the film adaptation featured George Clooney with such a horrific fake Boston accent, it’s hard to believe his Dorchester-bred co-star Marky Mark didn’t walk off the set.
So that is all to say that bad forecasting can have serious consequences.
Even though there is no snow, get your bread and milk. Or maybe stick to water, since the milk will just spoil when the power goes out and the kids leave the fridge door open. Or, if your life is way more fun than mine, be the people Dad saw at the Hi-Lo in advance of Bob. They bought three things: a deck of cards, a carton of cigarettes, and a box of condoms. Hey at least they were taking steps to prepare. It’s not ours to judge.
I’m hoping Irene will be just like what’s-her-face from last summer, who stirred everyone up before standing us up and leaving us without even enough wind for a sail around Hog Island. Either way, I’m taking steps to ensure I’m prepared. I’ve got the spare keys to my sister’s house in my pocket, and I know where she keeps the Scott and San Pellegrino.