Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hurricane Irene

Last Sunday was the closest experience that I have had to a hurricane since we’ve been here.  Earlier in the week I had heard that there was a storm expected to hit on Sunday.  However, I was unphased by this news, knowing that most of the time these storms don’t develop into anything to be too concerned about.  Regardless, since my boyfriend had been traveling all week, I was relieved that he would be back in town before the storm was expected to hit. 
Sunday was the annual chili cook-off, which is a big local event here on St. Thomas, and while I wasn’t planning on participating, I was looking forward to checking out my competition for next year’s cook-off.  However, on Sunday morning the sky looked ominous, and people started to become more and more concerned with what was starting to develop into an increasingly threatening storm than anticipated.  Our landlord called to give us instructions on what to do to prepare our house, and my boss had called to see if I could swing by the office to prepare the building for the storm.   
With this in mind, we decided that our time would be better spent running errands to buy canned goods and extra gasoline at the store in case we lost power during the storm.  We also moved all of the outdoor furniture inside, off the deck since the wind gusts were expected to be about 50 - 70 mph.  Of course, we had experienced worse wind in Chicago, but you learn quickly that storms down here can be extremely unpredictable.  Rather than take our chances on having a lawn chair blow through one of our glass sliding doors, we decided to move everything inside. 
By the time we got home from our errands the cable was out, but the power was still on.   I spent the rest of the afternoon roasting a chicken, scrubbing the shower, monitoring the storm on-line and finishing the book I was reading – Bossypants by Tina Fey (a true, honest, funny and fair feminist to the core – I love her!).  At around 2:30 the wind picked up considerably and the choppy waves in the ocean came crashing down on the rocky coastline.  By 5:00 I had nothing left to do, but the wind was gusting pretty fast and the rain came pouring down against our windows.  I realized how boring life can be when you’re cooped up inside all day and thought about all those years in Chicago where month after month it was too miserable outside to do anything but stay in and watch TV.  It made me appreciate being here in nice weather, where most of the time we can be outside and live life to the fullest.
However, with the storm gaining momentum, no cable TV and the eminant threat of losing power, I was desperate to find something to do.  I found an old Backgammon game and dusted it off.  We tried to teach ourselves how to play the game, but after spending an hour looking up rules that we found conflicting, we became completely confused and gave up on Backgammon.   We then decided to try to watch a movie on our iPad, which we plugged into the stereo for better sound quality since the rain and wind were so loud that we couldn’t hear the movie from just the iPad speaker.  The iPad was plugged in on a short chord so we both had to be close to the TV/stereo.  We sat crammed in together on a lounge chair, holding the iPad in our lap and trying to enjoy a glass of wine.  Not only did this become increasingly uncomfortable, but it was really weird to have the sound coming from behind the iPad.  About 10 minutes into the movie, we gave up on it too.  We spent the rest of the night playing Gin Rummy.  Naturally, I let my boyfriend think he was going to win the game by allowing him to beat me in the first two hands, I then slaughtered him in the 3rd round, and we called it a night.
On Monday morning I woke up like it was any other morning and got ready for work.  The storm had settled down considerably.  However, I got an early message from my boss, saying that I should stay off the roads until 10:00 and then come into the office.  I was surprised.  The storm didn’t seem that bad to me…some rain and some wind – no big deal.  I hung around until it was time to leave, then drove off to work.  Aside from some loose branches and rocks, the roads were fine and I made it to work in no time.       
In the end, Irene was a good warm up to whatever the rest of the hurricane season will bring…a test run, if you will.  She was serious enough that we had to prepare for the worst, but not a strong enough storm to be a real threat to us, or the island.  I know we were lucky because she continues to build in strength as she heads right for the Bahamas and has her sight set on the United States.

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