I’m still running into people I haven’t seen since Hurricane Irene came through, and the opening remark is, inevitably,
“Any damage from the storm?” I’ve been gratefully waving off this question with the truth – our house in Fairfield was absolutely fine – something I put down to the fact that we practically back onto the Police and fire stations. Presumably they have to have power to keep them working.
Frankly, though, I was skeptical about the storm. I was in London when Irene first threatened, then hit, then blustered and finally faded into a depression, the way one does… The thing about being in London was that there wasn’t really anything I could do about Irene, except try to keep informed, and hope it would all be OK. Keeping up to date wasn’t as easy as you might think, given the internet, global news etc. The BBC kept showing us the same bits of film of the Carolinas, and of Mayor Bloomberg trying to boss New Yorkers about. On the internet, I kept looking for a moving radar picture of the storm, but couldn’t find one. Weather Underground, Weather Channel, Accuweather – all showed static photos or maps. Eventually, I called my engineering son back in the States and asked him to send me a link.
“Why do you want to know?” he asked. “It doesn’t matter whether you see it or not. You can’t do anything about it.”
I gritted my teeth. “Just send it,” I said. This wasn’t a time for listening to reason. I just needed to know.
I never did find out exactly where it was. My friends had battened down the hatches, and as the storm rolled over New England, cutting power as it went, there was no way for them to keep me up to date.
All I knew was that because of Irene, my other son and I spent three days travelling to and from Heathrow Airport in London trying to get a flight back to Boston. It was a kind of adventure to begin with, but it got old pretty fast. Eventually, on Monday night, we were booked onto a flight for Montreal. It wasn’t too bad; we even managed to have the only free seat on the plane between us. But driving out of Montreal itself was rather like trying to get somewhere in the wake of a hurricane. It was only road works, I guess, but it took us an hour of driving past the same piece of the city, as we followed one detour after another, and ended up in dead ends. It reminded me of driving in Poland in the 1960’s (but that’s another blog post).
The point is that yesterday, I wandered down to the beach, and I found it – in great heaps beside the houses on Fairfield Beach road.
There were piles of soggy belongings still stacked outside the houses, which had a distinctly sorry air about them. Forlorn “For Rent” signs flapped in the breeze. New houses, built in the boom times and to code, seemed fine, but the oldest ones had really taken a beating.
My nephew’s built-on-stilts house turned out to be one of those. This building is unsafe, read the sign on the house. I’m not even sure how they reached the house to put up the sign. He’ll be OK, I expect, but it made me realize that I’d been rather cavalier, and how extremely lucky we were.
Only two things survived the storm completely intact – the giant pumpkins grown annually by an aficionado near the beach. They’re still sitting there, looking a bit like Jabba the Hut, ready to face down all competition in the annual pumpkin-growing contest. The irresistible force met the immoveable objects, and the pumpkins stared Irene down.