Saturday, August 27, 2011 ~ 3:00 PM ~ The Calm Before the Storm
At roughly 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon, there was a noticeable change in atmospheric pressure. The drop in barometric pressure this close to the shore was palpable. The air went completely still; birds stopped chirping and the bees and butterflies that had swarmed the butterfly bushes for most of the day disappeared. Even the seagulls took cover.
Earlier in the day, fluffy clouds paraded slowly across the sky. By mid afternoon, the sky was a solid cover of pale gray and the sounds of nature - the squawking gulls, birds chirping, buzzing and clacking of insects and even the rustle of leaves - were absent. It was eerie.
My hip and pelvis had already been aching and acutely tender for a full 48 hours but over the course of a half hour, the pain became dramatically more intense, so much so, I could hardly bear to lie on my back It was torture to even try to turn onto my side by myself. Nothing - medication, hot and cold packs, gentle massage - eased it in the least. I knew it would be an uncomfortable weekend until the storm system passed.
The strongest hurricane to track along the New England coast in a generation was expected to move into New England the following afternoon. The benefit of advanced warning can't be overstated. We had plenty of time to plan and prepare.
Preparations began on Thursday and with most of the same chores we do when we are getting ready for winter, just 10 weeks earlier than usual.
Because the curtains and lantern are attached with cable ties, they were quickly and easily removed with a snip of the tie.
Over the course of the next two days, the furniture, bird feeders and lawn ornaments were secured under the deck, cushions brought in, and potted trees and plants moved indoors.
|The curtains were taken down quickly with a snip of the cable ties.|
|The yard looks bare with the furniture and most of the lawn ornaments stowed.|
|The deck minus the trees, pots, canopy and curtains.|
|Steve's office turned greenhouse for the storm. His office opens onto the deck and he was able to quickly and easily roll the trees inside.|
|The deck minus trees, potted plants, canopy and most of the furniture.|
We also made a trip to the grocery store. We knew that many people would flock to the markets and hardware stores on Friday and Saturday, so we got that chore out of the way on Thursday. Honestly, it was a typical shopping expedition for us and we bought the same things we ordinarily get in our biweekly shopping trip; we just went a couple of days earlier.
While a hurricane with a name and a reputation is big news in New England, violent storms with gale force and hurricane force winds are nothing new to us. In many respects, being always at the ready for a severe winter storm, we were already prepared for Irene. We have battery powered lanterns and extra batteries on hand, and a battery powered radio. We also have a power pack - a huge rechargeable battery pack - that can power cell phone chargers and some of my medical equipment. We did make it a point to refill the extra propane tanks for the grill.
Saturday, August 27, 2011 ~ 6:00 PM ~ A Taste of the Bad Weather to Follow
The hurricane was preceded by another smaller storm system that arrived Saturday night as dusk fell. The cloud cover became more intense, the skis grew very dark, and dusk came very early. Pelting rain and strong winds were a taste of what was to come. The dogs were unsettled by the weather and so were we. The storm continued all evening, and were it not for the fact that Irene was coming fast on its heels, we wouldn't have been troubled, but with every major station broadcasting forecasts of some of the most severe weather to strike the area in decades, we worried about what the morning would bring.
Sunday, August 28, 2011 7:45 AM ~ Irene Approaches Massachusetts
Once she hit the Carolinas, Irene headed straight for New York City and from there, she headed due north, moving over land instead of hugging the coastline. As a result, wind speeds began to slacken and the storm began to weaken.
The change in course also meant that instead of being dead center in Irene's anticipated path, we were now on the eastern edge of the area that was expected to see the most severe weather.
At 8 AM, while the main part of the storm was pummeling New York City, we began to experience the same phenomenon they had seen as the leading edge of the storm arrived in New England. Bands of rain and wind moved in. We saw short bursts of driving, torrential rain, followed by winds in the 30-40 MPH range, followed by periods of unnatural calm.
Mid-morning, as the storm moved northward, the skies darkened considerably and the bands of rain and wind came more rapidly and the separations between them were less distinct. We received several inches of rain causing the yard to flood, but the winds, which had been originally expected to top 90 mph, stayed in the 35-40 mph range with a few gusts only slightly higher. Winds approaching 50 mph are not unusual for us, and while some thought the storm was still a major threat, we knew we were getting off easy.
|The rain, when it came, was torrential and quickly flooded the yard.|
|The rain striking the surface of the water in the pool gives some indication behind the force of the downpours.|
|A lull in the storm as several bands of wind and rain passed over us. The patio remained flooded for much of the day.|
|Over the course of the evening and the next morning, the water gradually drained away. The level of the water in the pool and koi pond increased by 3 inches over the course of the storm.|
Large galls on the main trunks suggest that the tree suffers from disease as well.
Last summer, they trimmed back one large branch that leaned perilously in the direction of our home, but other branches arch this way as well, causing us much anxiety, especially given the forecast.
We were fortunate that many of the branches that broke in the wind snapped but didn't fall completely off nor get propelled into our house by the wind. We are also fortunate that the damage occurred at a time of the year when the tree can be easily accessed and trimmed. This kind of damage, in this location on their property, would be much harder to address if it happened during a winter storm.
|It was hard to capture the effects of the wind in a photograph.|
|Several large branches broke but remained attached to the tree, preventing damage to our home.|
|Damage to branches and galls on one of the larger trunks.|
|The presence of large galls suggests that the tree is suffering from a disease, which weakens the wood and makes the branches more susceptible to breaking.|
Adjacent to our property is a 55 acre conservation area that is mostly marshy field with 8-10 acres of woods. After the storm, we saw that several trees had toppled along the edge of the woods and large branches and piles of leaves littered the field.
|Once one of the tallest trees along the edge of the wooded area, this tree snapped and fell during the height of the winds.|
It was an unexpected blessing that the storm traveled inland just south of us and we were spared more severe winds and flooding. Had it continued on its original path, we would not have gotten off as easily as we did. In times of bad weather, it's not easy being a politician or an emergency manager. This storm showed that you're damned if you do, damned if you don't. Had the state not been as well prepared, and had the storm struck with all of its anticipated fury, these same "naysayers" would have been the first to throw the forecasters and emergency planners under the bus. Better to be prepared for the storm that passed us by than to not be prepared for the one that strikes head on.
Hopefully, as we meander through hurricane season, this will be our closest call. Soon enough, it will be time for the Nor'easters to roll in!