Irene Breaths Fury Upon Long Island

From inside my home the sounds of the hurricane remind me of every Nor’easter that I’ve been through. There’s rain in sheets, some moaning of the wind, and the occasional hollow booming sound of a garbage can being blown down the street. But step outside, and it’s a different story.

The area that I live in is a low-lying plot of land just a block away from Pattersquash Creek, which empties into the bay. Fire Island can be seen plainly just across the water. Despite the warnings, I opted to stay with my house, mainly because I cannot take all of my cats to the shelter. Six little kittens kept me from “doing the right thing”. Nevertheless I packed a bugout bag, called my relatives, and made sure that if I had to leave, there would be a place for me to stay. I woke, did a little shopping for sandbags, secured the lawn furniture, set up a water pump in case my driveway flooded, and hunkered down for the night next to my weather radio. I stayed on Facebook all night, trying to make light of what seemed like a disaster in-the-making.

By 9pm it was evident that something was awry. The ocean (which is in earshot on stormy nights) was sounding angrier than usual. During a nor’easter it can sound like a dull roar, but now it was like a train run amok, angrily beating the coastline in defiance. The most frightening part of the storm was not the rain, which came down is soaking sheets, but the wind, whipping the old oak across the street, lashing at the Rose of Sharon hedge next door, and whistling through the electrical lines. Just standing in the street was horrifying. Every tree, bush and telephone pole seemed ominous. They bent struggling against the wind in contortions that surely would result in breakage.

As the eye of the storm reached for Long Island, a welcome series of respite from the rains came. By morning, the threat of tidal surge flooding became evident. A slowly creeping puddle of water started at the reed-bed’s edge, and began sloshing its way slowly down the street. By 11am it was at the foot of my driveway, threatening to flood the bluestone. It stopped right there. All the prep I’d done, the boarding up, the sandbags, the pump – they were all unneeded.

All night long we’d had power. Yes, it had surged a few times and gone down for a moment, causing me to have to bounce the computers and Internet connection, but for the most part we were fine. Fine, that is, until 11:30am, when the power finally went out and didn’t come back on. The wind was shifting from the South South West to the West, and now it was blowing trees in the opposite direction. The flooding subsided slowly, and the winds dropped off to complete silence. By 11pm that night, the only sounds were of generators in people’s backyards, humming into a low drone that was almost worse on one’s nerves than the storm itself.

Thankfully power was restored in a day, but many others in this area are still without power. Everyone is sharing stories and updates at the local convenience store. Advice about purchasing generators abounds, and news of LILCO trucks in the area is putting everyone at ease.

We were lucky this time. As a result of this storm, I know how far the flooding will come, when the winds will be too strong to weather, and which trees need to be trimmed away from the power lines. Come next hurricane, it’s obvious that most of us will be much better prepared.

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