I wrote the following words just short of one year ago about the reality of a hurricane.
Hurricane Matthew has moved east. The track for a direct hit took it to Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Residents fled the coastal areas. Those further inland considered themselves safe. Those further north including ourselves breathed a sigh of relief.
Then reality set in. This massive storm did not need to be a direct hit to cause epic damage. In fact, I am not certain at this point who is fairing worse. The ramifications certainly are not over. As I watch the water continuing to rise in Virginia and North Carolina and the coastal flooding continue as the high tides of the day occur, it appears to me that no one was truly prepared for the wind and the rain that raged for days. After all the hype and warnings how could so many be unprepared?
I know that here in Norfolk and the Hampton Roads area most were so relieved that the storm would turn east, they failed to prepare for the strong winds and massive rain that would fall upon us. The ‘Ole Buckeye and I were lucky. We hunkered down and although we had short moments of power loss, we did not loose power. We had no damage and as of today have returned to relative normalcy.
Many around us were not as fortunate. Our generator has been moved to an address that has not had power for 2 days. My sons generator has traveled to yet another address and he and his family are removing tree limbs and debris from a friend’s home. The flood waters although they have receded from some areas are still causing road and business closures in others. Schools are without power and after the holiday today, students face missing even more school. Norfolk has been declared a disaster area. Further south in North Carolina the images are horrific. And to think one of our considerations if we needed to flee was to go inland possibly to Raleigh or Charlottesville. We were worried about being close to the coast, never thinking about the far reaching flood dangers. I am beginning to realize how naive I am.
Growing up I became well acquainted with tornadoes I remember vividly as a child the effects of a tornado near my grandparents’ homes. In later years we spent several days attempting to determine if our family survived the 1974 tornado that literally destroyed most of our home town of Xenia, Ohio. I remember how helpless we felt trying to get information. Those were the days without cell phones.
In the years since I have heeded the warning sirens in the midwest and this past spring the sirens here.
One reason for our recent move to coastal Virginia was to remove ourselves from the cold, wind and heavy snow in the Chicagoland area. We wanted coastal living while still experiencing the seasonal changes that fall and spring bring. The ‘Ole Buckeye wanted to sail and I wanted more temperate weather. Since our son and his family were relocated to Norfolk by the Navy, we ventured this direction. Ultimately we moved here a year ago.
I have come to learn that with each place comes the unique experiences of the area. California has their earthquakes and drought, the midwest tornadoes and blizzards, and coastal areas the hurricanes. No where is perfect it seems.
The past year has taught me much about Norfolk and Virginia Beach with the many rivers, streams, lowlands, beaches, and coastlines. Last year just about this time, we watched three weather features come together to set the stage for the worst coastal flooding since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Joaquin, a tropical storm that developed into a hurricane, a cold front that stalled and hovered over our area for days, then a high pressure system meeting Joaquin causing torrential rain and historic winds.
In summary, the combination of Major Hurricane Joaquin and strong surface high pressure over eastern Canada and New England produced an extended period of strong onshore flow. Water levels were already elevated due to persistent onshore flow and high seas in combination with high astronomical tides. The result was a significant, multi-day coastal flood event.
I have come to realize that weather systems hovering the coast can be as or more devastating than a hurricane. I am learning how the relationship between high tides, the phase of the moon and sea level can affect our lives.
That brings us back to now. One year later nearly to the day. This year is different.
Most of the children returned to school today on a 2 hour delay. Much of the flooding is receding and electricity is being restored. That is us.
I look to North Carolina with over 1000 water rescues, thousands of cars abandoned in high water and homes unlivable. I feel so thankful that I am not facing their heartbreak.
It is hard to comprehend the suffering and hardship as the bright sun shines in the once again fair blue skies.
That was then…this is now. It is just short of one year later and once again we are watching the weather channel morning, noon, and night. Once again we pray for a direction shift so that it will avoid the Norfolk area. After days of the horrifying effects of Harvey in Texas and Louisiana headlining the news all of a sudden Irma grabbed the spotlight. Irma the most intense hurricane ever recorded with a path that could not be pinpointed. The only certainty was that it would hit Florida. Would it travel Eastward up the coast. No one can predict. Advise…prepare.
So I find myself once again praying that the storm tracks away from us. At this point with the its’ trajectory already hitting Florida I find myself praying for a western track. Once again I feel guilty. Once again my fortune will leads to someone else’s misfortune.
We have spent days watching the weather channel. Our new generator is in the garage and all electrical work to accommodate it has been completed. (An expense occurred over the summer. ) Our list of supplies is made and items are being staged. Bottled water is on hand.
The latest reports appear to show the storm tracking west. I have learned over the past two years that Mother Nature has a mind of her own. It is up to us to be smart and be safe. It is also up to us to help our neighbor whether they live next door or in the next state.
And so we wait…for Irma.