The end of September is bittersweet for us. We are blessed to be able to spend a good part of the summer down at this old beach house. We set up our computers on the porch, and work, looking out at the waterway. The days are cooler now and the water temperature is cooling down from it’s 80 something degrees from summer. We’ve had several nights chilly enough for the old wool blankets that are at least 60 years old. I started putting them in those big zip-lock bags with just a hint of mothballs so of course they need a good airing unless you want your nose to twitch all night.
The old guy is out shrimping in the waterway this morning. I can hear that ancient motor coming down the channel but it’s quietly steady and I know he keeps it in humming order. His wooden boat looks ancient too, but it’s easily pulling that heavy net through the waterway. Every once in awhile he’ll stop off our dock to pull in the net and go through his catch. The seagulls hover overhead crying for their share and will dive madly as soon as he tosses something overboard.
There isn’t the bumper to bumper stream of traffic coming over the bridge on Saturdays like in the summer months. The kids are back in school and sports have started so most have had their final trip to the beach.
But with September comes the threat of hurricanes and tropical storms. This year the weather folks started talking early about a spot right off Africa. We watched it several times a day as it grew larger and larger. We heard the weather men talk about the size and the strength and the danger so often that for a bit our eyes glazed over. Surely it couldn’t keep on it’s course – surely it will take a turn and go back out to sea.
As the storm came closer to land, a mandatory evacuation was ordered for those of us near the beach at Ocean Isle, North Carolina. We battened down the hatches at our old place just the same way it’s been done for 80 years. Chairs were stacked and stowed away, porch furniture was moved into the house, windows were closed and locked, the old aluminum boat and sunfish were hauled to the street side yard, chained together and filled with water. (Some bad news guys, who obviously had nothing good on their minds, stole our canoe after the last hurricane, so we tried to make it as difficult as possible this year). Trash cans, although full, were secured, as were things that might go flying around. Refrigerator and freezer was emptied and car packed to the brim with clothes, food and memories for the long drive home.
Hurricane Florence stayed on course and made a bee line straight for the coast of North Carolina, but thankfully, she did not barrel in at a Category 4 but slowed down to a Cat 1 as she hit the coast above Wilmington Thursday night. But 90 mph is nothing to sneeze at and slowing down is NOT what you want with a hurricane – you want that storm to go flying by. And the skies opened up and poured and poured. Now then weather forecasters were saying that the worst is yet to come. The winds hadn’t done too much damage, but the rains were going to be horrific for low lying areas. The amount of rain that continued for days has been estimated as the same amount of water that fills the Chesapeake Bay. And the cities and towns along the rivers just couldn’t hold back the deluge. So the roads filled and the bridges were over run and we watched as lives changed forever. Life time memories destroyed by the rising waters.
Big Flo decided she want to check out North Carolina and dip into South Carolina too. The devastation has been awful to watch. Houses flooded to the attic, boats washed up into yards, ancient trees falling on homes, farm crops covered with water, creeks overflowing their banks by yards not inches, livestock stranded or drowned. But much worse than that is the loss of life. Babies swept away, makes us grab our own and hold on for dear life. Emergency workers and responders made over 700 rescues. Sunday, three days later after Flo came ashore, it was still raining and they were calling it the 500 year flood because it’s a phenomenon never seen before. As of right now, almost forty people have died, and since the rivers are not cresting till today, that number could go higher.
Clean up started as soon as it was safe enough to venture out. People attempting to get back to their daily lives is amazing to see. The stories of rescue are uplifting and powerful. The grief of lives lost is numbing.
So many who were able to ride out the storm in shelters may not have anything to go back to. But time and again in interviews, people are grateful for their lives and are resolute about rebuilding. North Carolinians are a hearty bunch and neighbors are helping neighbors and relief efforts are ongoing to help them.
I am so grateful for all the rescue crews, volunteers, electric power line workers, and neighbors who showed up to help all across the Carolina’s. Stores are beginning to open in places, for others it will be weeks or even months, of cleanup.
So it’s been a pretty sobering week here with wonderful highs and sobering lows. Hug your families and be grateful that you have a roof for shelter.