Ride ’em hurricane

A little sand in the parking lot

The beach highway in Alabama

I mentioned a little of my family’s status after Hurrican Katrina, but upon further review, I don’t think I did my fellow Middle Tennesseans justice. There are a lot of country songs written about hurricanes, but not everyone around here as experienced one. Being a hurricane veteran myself, it’s often hard for me to understand people’s reaction to such storms. Most often, it’s overreaction for the smaller ones, and not enough for the big ones. You don’t just clear out for a Cat. 1. However, this one was a doozy. So I’ll tell you a little about what it’s like to stay in your house while one of these things is blowing outside your front door.

Yes, my parents stayed in their house, for Katrina, and for Ivan last year. No, they are not currently sitting on their roof waiting to be rescued, thank the Lord. They actually live about 15 minutes north of Mobile, and their neighborhood sits pretty high and dry, so there was no danger of flooding. My aunt and uncle, however, live on Dog River, and they were about six inches from water finding its way into the house, as were another aunt and uncle who live at the beach. My parents housed my grandmother and her two friends who all live at the beach, while my grandfather stayed in Orange Beach, AL to keep an eye on the family business. If the storm is far enough away or really small, he likes to be the first person to get things up and running. During Ivan, he was at my parent’s house too, which tells you how severe it really was. That was the first storm in a long time where he left his post to flee to my parents’ house.

So, hurricane. First, it just starts off as rain like any other rainy day. You fill up bathtubs and other containers with water so you’ll have some in case there is no drinkable water, then head off to the grocery store to stand in line with everyone else stocking up on supplies. After three to six hours of rain, the wind starts to pick up noticeably. Trees start to sway like they are made of rubber. Not just the little trees, the big ones too. Sort of looks like a dance concert in your backyard. The rain starts to drive and gusts of wind whistle around the windows and door facings. This storm came through during the day, which is nice, because you don’t lose sleep keeping an eye on The Weather Channel. That’s about the only nice thing about it. Those pictures on the TV may be the drastic end, but there is still plenty of action.

It can get scary, especially if the winds are high enough to create debris. Let’s put it this way: I’ve seen pine needles sticking into the side of trees like arrows. My mom’s favorite bay window got cracked by an errant branch yesterday, but it didn’t go all the way through. By late Monday morning, the power was out at the house. My dad broke out the generator at this point, and rigged up lights and fans, plugged up refrigerators. Thankfully, the power was only out for a day and a half. During Ivan, it was out for a week. When the power is out that long, you are cleaning out the fridge beforehand and cooking for everyone in the neighborhood (hurricane party!), or you are throwing stuff out that smells like roadkill times three. If you can’t get to your house (or beach house) for a longer time, you are throwing out food that smells like roadkill times five plus maggots. You will throw up. There’s no avoiding it.

Back to the storm. Depending on where you are located, the eye of the storm might pass over you. I’ve only seen this once, and it’s the most eerie thing you’ve ever experienced. You can see storm in front of you, storm behind you, and sometimes, sunshine overhead. It’s beautiful, but that only lasts for about 30 minutes. Then the storm picks up with full violence again, because you’re right in the center. My advice is to stay indoors, because you never know when the eye will pass on.

Eventually, things start to calm down, and depending on what time of day it ends, you might go outside and start picking up. As the weather folks tell you, this is where the real danger begins, because some idiot is going to decide to go wading through floodwaters or whack his arm off with a chainsaw. My mom almost got heat exhaustion trying to clean up the yard today, which just goes to show that the storm can take your mind off common sense and make you a little crazed. All in all, it’s a draining experience, even without flooding or storm damage.

I posted a couple of images from Orange Beach/Gulf Shores. For more pictures, visit Brett-Robinson.

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