There is a hurricane (Danny) in the ocean right now. Apparently it is headed towards the north Carribean Islands. The latest news reports indicate that it will likely weaken to a tropical storm (or less?) before hitting the islands. This change turns the storm into a good thing instead of a bad, as these islands will benefit greatly from the rain.
Watching this story on the news has brought back memories of hurricanes that I’ve experienced in my lifetime, and has also made me wonder when and what other storms there will be for us here in Virginia.
Hugo – 1989
Even though I grew up in North Carolina, only a couple of hours from the coast-line, I never actually have been through a hurricane until I became an adult. My first real memory of even hearing about a hurricane was from my Sophomore year in High School (1989). Hurricane Hugo was reported to be hitting the coast line of NC in a way that would bring it straight for my little town. There was quite a bit of talk about this, and me not having been in any hurricane before, took the worried conversation to the next level. I remember very clearly thinking, “I don’t want a hurricane. I don’t want to die!” I really had no idea of what being in a hurricane actually meant, and as it turned out I didn’t find out that year. Hugo changed its course and made landfall instead, in South Carolina.
Fran – 1996
The next one that I remember was Fran. I was on my mission when this one hit, so I didn’t even know that it was headed towards my family until afterwards. But what I remember is geting a picture in the mail with my sisters standing triumphantly on a fallen tree and the caption reading “We survived the hurricane!”
Isabel – 2003
That was my preliminary experience. But my real first experience was Hurricane Isabel in 2003. My oldest daughter had just been born. Actually she was born 4 weeks early which turned out to be a blessing because two weeks after her birth (and two weeks prior to her due date) Isabel paid us a visit. At this time, my husband and I were living in Richmond, VA.
I was having a terrible time breastfeeding my daughter, because she wasn’t latching well, and I wasn’t producing a lot of milk, but I was giving it everything that I had to make it work. I had only been able to partially breastfeed my son, and I was determined to fully breastfeed her. I had even seen a lactation consultant who helped me and loaned me a pump. So all day every day and most of the night I was either feeding or pumping.
My mother-in-law was visiting to help out, and when the notification of Isabel came through she and my husband went fully into preparation mode. They went shopping for all kinds of shelf-stable food, and made sure we had means to heat it up as well as boil water in case the power went out (which it was certain to do). They worked very hard, but to be honest I hardly paid any attention. Even though I recognized the immediate nature of the storm, I also knew that if I took my focus off of being able to breast-feed my baby even a little bit, then that would be the end of it.
The night of the storm my sister-in-law who lived 5 minutes away from us called on the telephone. She said a large tree went down on the house across the street from her putting a hole in the roof. She strongly recommended that we all sleep downstairs because it went down on their master bedroom. In her words, “if they had been in their bed, it would have killed them.” We also had a large tree right by our master bedroom, so we took her advice and slept downstairs.
I had a battery-powered breast-pump, so that I could continue with my pumping/feeding routine even if the power went out, which of course it did. But that night I was so exhausted that I just slept right through the time I was supposed to feed my daughter (and she did too). When I woke up the winds had been blowing their fury throughout the night. My first thoughts, instead of being on the storm, were a panicked feeling that too much time had passed in between feedings for my milk supply and that I needed to feed her ASAP.
My mother-in-law came in the room at that time and said I should take a walk and look at the fallen trees and other damage around our neighborhood. I resisted, stating that I needed to feed the baby, but she said, “won’t you let me feed her, and you can take a walk? It would be good for you to get out of the house for a little while, and the weather is beautiful now that the storm has passed.” In that moment I made a decision to give up on breast feeding and simply bottle-feed her. I fixed the bottle, handed my baby to my mother-in-law, and went for my walk. Even though it was a sudden decision, ultimately I really felt like that was the right one.
The damage that I saw wasn’t as horrific as you see on the news (they always show the worst places), but even so there were several fallen trees down. Some people had them on their houses, which we were very grateful had not been the case with us. The power was out, of course, and stayed out for two weeks. We also learned that something had happened to the drinking water, contaminating it. Everyone was instructed to boil water before using it to drink or cook with. So we also had to boil my daughter’s bottles and use bottled water to mix her formula. My husband took on this job with the help of a little camping burner, and a small pot.
For the next two weeks we lived like this, but eventually the power did come back on, the drinking water was declared safe, and life went back to normal.
Gaston – 2004
Gaston was next, in 2004. It was a super-slow moving storm, but without a lot of wind. Instead of blowing everything over, it simply dumped rain and rain and rain. It flooded parts of downtown Richmond, and we saw on the news that anyone living near a certain creek needed to evacuate immediately. The apartments that we had lived in as newlyweds were part of that evacuation order, so even though we didn’t have to go anywhere, we still recognized that this could have been us just a few years ago. It was kind of a weird feeling.
Irene – 2011
There were a few other little storms after that, each with their own unique “personality” and characteristics. But the next big one for us occurred after our move to where we are now…which is a little closer to the coast-line but still with some distance.
This time it was Irene in 2011. I had two advantages during this storm: experience from Isabel, and no new-born to take care of. Of course that also meant that my mother-in-law was not around to help out, so it was up to me to do the preparation work that she had taken care of previously. One kind of funny memory that I have is that as soon as the power went out (we knew it would), I pulled out some of the snacks we had bought. These were snacks that we don’t normally buy, and I had been looking at them for several days. So now that the power was out, I felt justified in eating some. But not my husband. He found my actions to be pretty careless, and requested that I put them back. “They are supposed to be when the power has been out so long that feel like we really need a treat to help us get to the end,” he said. I responded that after all of the anxiety-driven preparation work, I felt like I really needed a treat right then. But I finally conceded and put them back. Funny, huh? Maybe the solution next time will be to buy some snacks specifically for a reward for all the preparation work, and some different snacks for when the going gets tough after the storm.
The other thing I remember is the sound of the wind blowing while I was laying in bed to go to sleep. Like Isabel, this one hit in the night time, so we couldn’t actually see the trees blowing. But we could hear it.
When I woke up, I went for a walk and was saddened to see that our border ever-green trees were all tipping. We love those trees. But all-in-all my street looked pretty good. I could see that most of the trees and bushes had a bit of a lean to them, all in the same direction, and one of my neighbor’s had a tree that fell over (not on anything), but really everything looked pretty good.
A few days later, however, I drove to the next town over to visit my friend. Her phone was not working so I wanted to see how her family was doing. I never reached her house though, because I was greeted by this:
Their family was fine, though. This was at the entrance to the neighborhood, but not anywhere near their house. You can see the pathway people were using to get in and out, so as not to hit the power lines that were across the street.
Another big memory is how important bagged ice became. The grocery stores had their power restored quickly, and all day every day, people were buying up all of the ice. Just as soon as a truck would deliver it, people would buy it. I found that so interesting, because it shows clearly how simple things that we take so for granted can become really important in emergency times.
We fully expected out power to be out two weeks just like it had before. But…we were thrilled when we returned home from running some errands on day four to find our lights on! After a storm like this, electricity just makes everything feel like it is all better, in my opinion.
Sandy – 2012
A year later (2012) Sandy came along. At first they said it was going to hit us, but instead it went north, hitting and totally devastating the areas of New Jersey and New York City area. For me, there was definitely a feeling of survivor’s guilt. You know…that feeling where you want to be relieved for yourself but instead you just feel so bad for the other party. Yeah, that was me.
Trying to Be Prepared
Hurricanes are not fun, but the nice thing is that they come with a warning. Even if we don’t know exactly where they will hit, there is time to make preparations, just in case. I feel like my husband and I have quite a bit more experience getting ready for the storm than actually being in the storm, because over the years we have had several that they thought might hit us, but did not. I think this practice has been good for us.
My husband went to a Stake Priesthood Meeting where it was mentioned that even though we’ve been through some tough storms, there will very possibly be bigger ones (with longer power outages) to deal with in the future. Since then, we’ve been making some efforts to be more prepared, although I feel like we still have such a long ways to go.