All things considered, Hurricane Irene could have been far worse. Yet as we bade Irene goodnight, she did not go gentle. She took the lives of 24 people and cost at least a billion dollars worth of damage to property. These totals are bound to rise given the flooding that is expected.
I must admit that I was quite anxious in the days before Irene landed, even though I've had plenty of experience with harsh winter weather. In fact, it amazes me how people here in Boston freak out every time a snowstorm is about to hit. It's not to say that New England winters aren't without its challenges. But when you grow up in Northwestern Ontario, where the snow doesn’t leave the ground until May, it's nearly impossible to be intimidated by winter weather. Yet, like most New Englanders, I had never experienced a hurricane and was thus on unfamiliar terrain. Naturally, I prepared as best as I could: stocking up on food and beverages, flashlights, candles and matches and moving valuables away from windows. A deck of cards was also purchased in case amenities like the Internet and television were unavailable.
My greatest concern was with the wind rather than the rain. After all, it was projected that Boston was going to receive no more than five inches of rain. Back in March 2010, more than ten inches of rain fell in Boston over a 72-hour period. It caused some minor leakage in my apartment but nothing more. But the wind was a whole other matter.
My roommate Christopher and I live on a hill near Franklin Park in Jamaica Plain. While that setting guards against flooding it can be a disadvantage when it comes to wind. Complicating matters was the fact there are several large trees on our street, including one on the grounds of our building -- which was leaning rather precariously with low-hanging power lines. I called our landlord's emergency maintenance line. They took my information but I received no reply. Given the circumstances, there probably wasn't much they could do. At this point, whatever happened was beyond my control. Still, I did not take much comfort in the news that an 11-year old boy in Virginia had been killed by a tree which fell into his home.
But by the time Irene hit land it had been downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm. So I still haven't experienced a hurricane -- thankfully. While the rain was heavy in the morning and winds were fierce in the afternoon and late into the evening, we did not lose power. The new deck of cards was not deployed. Most of the day was spent alternating between watching baseball games and the weather report on WBZ-TV.
Much of WBZ's reporting focused on Cape Cod which was exposed not only to rain and wind but to flooding, high tides and storm surges. What struck me most though was the number of people who had gathered to take a closer look at the ocean despite the best efforts of the local authorities to dissuade such activity. It's too bad that we have Deval Patrick instead of Chris Christie as our governor. It's also too bad that Christie isn't planning to challenge President Obama. Christie's exhortation to "get the hell off the beach" was the most sensible advice I heard all weekend. Who inspires greater confidence? Someone who claims he can calm the oceans or someone who tells us to get out of its way? Alas, Christie's authority does not reach beyond the Jersey shore -- at least for now.
Getting back to the Cape… The night before my mother told me that my cousin had rented a house (where, precisely, she didn't know) and that he and his family were about to embark there for a late summer respite. I told my mother that he might not have a house in which to vacation.
Speaking of family, I would be remiss if I didn't mention calling my grandmother to wish her a happy 92nd birthday. She asked me if I was affected by the storm. Not only did I assure my grandmother all was well but I even told her that I would rather deal with Irene than have to put up with what the good people of Texas have to endure this summer. For the better part of the last two and a half months, Lone Star State residents have faced temperatures north of 100 degrees. Conversely, we have had exactly one 100-degree day this summer in Boston and it was one too many for me. I know there's plenty of air conditioning in Texas but you can't stay indoors forever. Under those conditions, I'll take Boston over Austin every time.
Indeed, by around 6 p.m. on Sunday, the winds had calmed sufficiently that Christopher and I went outside on the sidewalk in front of our building to play a round of hit the penny. (O.K, we used a quarter.) The wind was doing funny things with the rubber ball which came very close to making its permanent residence at the bottom of a nearby storm drain. Yet it was good to get outside in the cool air after having our windows closed since late the previous night. I also think it was our way of celebrating our good fortune. Aside from the occasional gust and a few fallen branches in our neighborhood nothing was amiss.
At least where it concerns the Metro Boston area, it appears our forbearance will be rewarded with a week's worth of sunny and comfortably warm weather leading into Labor Day weekend. I'll enjoy this weather with the knowledge that nature might not be smiling upon us next time around.
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