‘Good Night, Irene’….(And Don’t Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out)

(Just heard the description of Hurricane Irene on Piers Morgan as “bigger than all of Europe.” That really puts it in perspective.)

Woah, we’re reeling….We’ve been pummeled for days with threats of Irene’s mega-damage brought to us via news team whose comments almost taunt as they say: “No matter how ‘cool’ New Yorkers think they are, they’ve never fought a natural monster like this (New Orleans folks are paying attention.)”

“How so?” you ask. Weather experts predict that New York Harbor will choke on massive surges of water; 8′ water depths will encircle the Stock Exchange; the subway system, trains, and highways will all close…for the first time ever!

Oh, one hears it all the time: “Northerners (New Yorkers included) are tough; they’re used to dealing with brutal weather.” But here’s a newsflash: The weather along the upper Atlantic coastline and southern and central New England is never that bad…not compared to the rest of the country (or the world).

Why do I say this? Check out North Dakota (remember the movie “Fargo“) where winter snow and ice chill the bones to a whole new depth; face Oklahoma or Kansas tornadoes that form in a blink, offering little chance at escape; suffer the heat of a Georgia or Florida summer where the only things that thrive are the insects; endure the floods of Anywhere-Near-a-River USA, in recent years, when whole towns disappeared and cars became boats, in newly-made channels.

We in Rhode Island have it especially good–at least relatively so, despite the illusion spun by those lovely Currier & Ives prints of a New Enfland winter (you know–where perfectly-matched chestnut mares pull sleighs over snow trails that none of us really remember.)

Last year’s snowfall amount came close to hardship level, but last year was an aberration: Everyone said so. Mostly we’re in a temperate zone, too close to the ocean to allow major snowfall (it turns to rain,); we’re not far enough north to invite blizzards; not many hurricanes have the staying power to make it up the full length of the Eastern Coast (with the exception of Irene); and a tornado’s a really strange dude (but we did have one this year.)

Which is why–when a momentous weather event happens–we sit up and take notice. And no one’s grabbed our attention lately more than Irene, as we’ve wondered: “When and where will she turn?” or “When do we bring in yard furniture so they don’t become projectiles?” “How soon should we button up the pool lest it fill with debris from the neighborhood?””At what point do we plyboard the windows so high winds don’t shatter?” “

It’s like we’re gaming the hurricane and her course. “Who’ll turn chicken first?”

But, even in this melee, I take comfort: For instance, “Thank you” Weather Channel meteorologist, Kerry Sanders, for finally explaining to me why we need fill our bathtubs with water: It’s so we can manually flush toilets which won’t operate if the public water system is knocked out. Just bucket the water out of the tub and bucket it into the toilet bowl. The pressure scoots “it” away.

I used to wonder “Why save that water? We can’t drink it…It’s not exactly pure.”

I’d always believed the bathtub-filling directive mere folklore, like the one whereby the men in the Old West were told to boil water whenever a woman was set to deliver a new baby. What was that for? To dip the baby and sanitize him? Alas, I never learned the real reason for this activity but suspected it was just to keep the men occupied.

On the flip side, I want to thank Sanders, too, for telling me I didn’t need those 8 rolls of tape I bought at Benny’s for the picture windows. Apparently that’s the #1 most wasted precaution, but this is the first time I’ve heard such a thing. After learning that, husband and I went to Home Depot to get those heavy plyboards to nail over our picture windows and then I stood beside him to steady him as he juggled the 5′ by 8′ wooden sheets, nails, and hammer. That’s why I’m on the record as saying: “I like the tape solution waaayyy better (even if ineffectual.”)

Now, we just wait…I write this post on the eve of what experts say will be the worst storm to hit Rhode Island in decades and I’m so nervous I can’t sleep. You see, I’m old enough to remember another bad one–Carol. She knocked Rhode Island out of commission for weeks. If things turn out as dire as experts predict, Biddy Bytes won’t be on-line for a while. There’ll be just too many downed lines.

But, if you’re one of the fortunate ones still enjoying electricity, weigh in and share your storm experience (or a past one.) If I don’t answer you right away, it’s because my electricty’s down and the blog’s on auto-pilot. But have no fear: I’ll be back, with doubtless another life experience to share. After all, I’m one of those ‘tough New Englanders.’

***Now, that I’m back on-line (after a week of being without electricity, cable, phone (cell doesn’t work here either), internet, refrigerators, whatever, the following are scenes of the wreckage in our neighborhood as well as those miraculous work crews (independent vendors included) who cut through the massive carnage to get us back up and running…Thank you, National Grid, perhaps Rhode Island’s greatest resource (but that doesn’t mean I’ll support a fee hike!)

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A lifetime teacher and realtor who's now a published writer, Colleen Kelly Mellor is a humorist first, ever aware of the thread that connects us all. Her works have appeared in the WSJ, Providence Journal, and CNN and NY Times-acclaimed medical blog, kevinMD.com, to name a few. All material on this blog is exclusive property of the author and cannot be reproduced without this author's express written consent.
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