The last few days of homeschooling have been a tad less productive due to the impending arrival of the first big Hurricane of the 2011 Season, Irene. Our last big Hurricane was Isabel in 2003 which took out huge established trees, closed schools, knocked out power for some for weeks, and flooded Hampton Roads.
The first decision is whether to go or stay. It’s a decision that if made early, is made without all the information. Hurricanes at sea are quite powerful, stirring and stewing over the open sea, and media hype often plays up the danger, particularly in our post-Katrina world. Hurricanes may start out at Category 4 or 5, but almost always reduce in strength after hitting the barrier islands of North Carolina. If one chooses to evacuate, it would be if the hurricane is not expected to weaken. In that case, one needs to pack for an undetermined length of time, because in the aftermath, one is not able to return for an undetermined length of time. Additionally, The Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, and the Mid-town and Downtown Tunnels (the most efficient routes out-of-town) will close at some point, so one’s departure must be prior to their closing. Our family has a safe destination, but many people do not, so evacuation is not as simple as it may seem.
We’ve lived here for 12 years, and stayed through each of the storm systems that have come through. Our home is in a historic neighborhood located on a small finger of the Lafayette River, which is fed by the Chesapeake Bay. Wind pushing water up into the Bay is our issue, and we’ve actually experienced worse flooding with a Nor’easter than any of our hurricanes to date. Our neighbors have lived in their home since just after WWII, and have stayed through all the storms, including the really big one, Hurricane Camille . Our first experience with hurricanes in our home, the “twin storms” Hurricanes Dennis and Floyd , was a baptism by drenching! The water table was so high after Dennis, that during Floyd, our basement wall literally spurted holes and water flowed in as if a faucet had been turned on. As soon as Ralph would plug one with marine cement, another would start.
Hurricane Isabel blew through in September, and it never occurred to us to leave. For one thing we were in the middle of our kitchen renovation – our cabinets were delivered in the rain just as Isabel was making her way through North Carolina. She started out a Category 4 but was a Category 2 when Isabel finally hit our area. Our yard flooded, and Ian was out of school for a week. The two big oak trees at his school (that were part of the school logo) were completely uprooted. Our basement flooded when the power went out, but our neighbor armed with a Y2K (remember that?) generator went up and down the street pumping out basements. We lost tree branches, we had leaks in our (new) roof, and our sump pump was running off and on for weeks afterward. We were lucky. Due to a city pumping station at the end of our street, our little neighborhood is rarely without power for long. Still, we learned that a Category 2 is our limit.
So, when the hurricane reports start coming in, we are watching closely to see how much the hurricane is going to weaken, when is the eye supposed to be closest to us and what will the tides be like. Often this information is not available until the storm is closer, and even now, if I chose to leave – the tunnel just closed at 10 a.m. After studying hurricane center maps, looking at tide tables, calculating risks and consulting “He who fixes the weight of the wind and limits the water by measure,” we felt at peace deciding Friday morning to sit tight despite our city’s call for a mandatory evacuation for low-lying areas. It sounds dire, but official announcement is a classic CYA move, again post Katrina. We spent Friday checking gutters, doing laundry (sewer system will be compromised afterwards…), cooking up items in the freezer, doing a little baking, filling up containers with water, making a few last-minute purchases at crowded stores, checking batteries, moving potted plants to a spot out of the wind, putting away lawn furniture, porch furniture, etc.
Grace did do some school work, and we’ve printed out a hurricane tracking map for her to complete!
This morning we are watching the news, and sitting by the window watching the yard fill up with rain water! Irene has reduced to a Category 1, but we will be watching for falling limbs, and tonight high tide will occur just after the eye passes unless she speeds up some – praying for that! In any case we are here, and as always in the palm of God’s hand.