Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Hurricane Anniversary

Months ago, my mom asked if we could all come up to Williamsburg for their 50th anniversary celebration.  I did the usual calculations:  where would I be work-wise, what else was on the calendar, any other considerations?  Did I think about hurricanes?  Probably not.  If they had been married at the end of August, possible hurricanes might have entered into my calculation, but I'd have likely proceeded anyway.

Who would have guessed that we'd spend so much time monitoring a hurricane all week-end?  I should have known.  After all, I am always haunted by Hurricane Wilma, which wiped out the end of October 2005 and much of the rest of 2005 for us. 

Many more millions of people will probably have similar memories about Hurricane Sandy.  Although it's early, I predict that it will take at least a month to recover from this massive storm, and when I say "recover," I mean only on the most basic level.  And as we know, many humans and some institutions will never recover.

We were scheduled to leave on Friday afternoon, so I spent much of last week trying to guess where the storm would be and how strong it would be.  On Friday morning, it became clear that we'd be able to leave, but less clear that we'd be able to get back. I had one friend suggest that we cancel our trip.

I had already written to my parents to make sure that if we were stranded up in Virginia, that they'd be OK with that.  I have some extra vacation time, so it wouldn't have to be catastrophic.  I did have one friend remind me that it might not be vacation-like if we were stuck without power.

We decided to go and take our chances on the return.

We got to the airport early, since there was a storm in the area, and I wasn't sure what would happen.  It couldn't have been more easy.  We walked right up to the Jet Blue counter to check in our bags and had similar success at security.

As we left, the pilot said, "It may be a little bumpy, but we'll fly out of that soon.  If you're on the right side of the plane, you should be able to get a pretty good view of the hurricane."

We were on the right side of the plane, but all I saw were thick clouds, even though I kept looking for the characteristic swirl.  Still, it was cool to see the layers of the clouds.

We had an easy flight to the Richmond airport.  We did leave the cell phone charger on the plane, but that was the only glitch.

We had a great week-end with my parents, and my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew.  It was rainy and breezy, but since we didn't have sightseeing plans, that was fine.  We lifted our glasses several times throughout the week-end to the 50 years of married life my parents have enjoyed.

And since my parents lived in the outside edge of the hurricane cone, we kept tuning in to the Weather Channel.  It became clear that we wouldn't suffer a direct hit, but as the forecasters kept warning, it was hard to predict how much of the effects we would feel.

I usually get a lot of reading done when we travel, but I was too distracted by the storm.  I watched the Weather Channel on the Jet Blue flight up and back.  I got up in the morning and got sucked into the Weather Channel vortex.  Even though I know that once you've seen about 15 minutes of their programming, you've gotten the most important info, it felt impossible to tear my attention away.

Yesterday, I got up and checked our flight info.  The plane was still listed as an on-time departure, so we headed off to the Richmond airport.  We were one of two flights set to depart, so the airport was gloriously empty.  Before we checked our bags, I checked to make sure we had a plane and a crew.  The guy at the desk said we did.

We checked in and breezed through security. 

I happened to think to ask about our cell phone charger that we left on the plane. The woman at the Jet Blue desk said she'd just seen it in the break room where they keep the lost and found items. She called to see if someone could bring it to me at security but they were short staffed, so no luck.

But security had been easy, and we had 40 minutes before departure, so I decided to go back and get it. Sure enough, there it was. Hurrah! And I had no trouble getting back.  I was happy out of all proportion to have retrieved our lost cell phone charger.

And even if I had run into a line at security, it wouldn't have mattered, because our departure was delayed. One steward was delayed by flooding, so another one volunteered, but he still faced a challenge in driving to the airport through the increasingly heavy rain. 

But he made it and off we went to sunny South Florida.  It's cooler here than it was when we left.  We slept with a few windows open.  Ahhhh!

This morning, my thoughts are with the people who were more directly impacted by Hurricane Sandy than I was.  It's no fun to deal with that.

I wrote a poem about it, which I won't post here.  I found out over the week-end that my poem "What They Don't Tell You About Hurricanes" was accepted by Paper Nautilus and will appear in the Fall 2012 issue, when I will repost it here.  It seemed a fitting end to the Hurricane Anniversary week-end.

And perhaps I'll write a poem about Golden anniversaries and Hurricane anniversaries.  If you feel similarly inspired, feel free to play too.

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