Friday, September 22, 2023

Andy Young: The Storm That Wasn’t

By Andy Young

Hurricane Lee was of no more than passing interest to residents of northern New England when it began forming off the African coast in early September. Such storms never directly affect Maine, although those of us living in the Pine Tree State always cross our collective fingers that such destructive weather events don’t lay waste to any unfortunate island, Caribbean nation, or southern United State in its path.

Hurricane Lee is shown in a National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration photo as it
approaches Maine on Sept. 15, 2023.
But then Lee changed direction, and by the middle of the following week she appeared to be on a course headed directly toward southern Maine’s coast.

I was never a Boy Scout, but several friends who were always impressed upon me the importance of being prepared, and I’ve always taken that advice seriously.

On Thursday, Sept. 14, I went down to the grocery store and bought every last gallon jug of bottled water they had. I also grabbed 60 rolls of toilet paper, several cartons of canned soup, and one manually operated can opener. I then went to the hardware store to procure a dozen flashlights, along with enough batteries to power the city of New Orleans for the entire week of Mardi Gras. I subsequently secured enough flotation devices to stay buoyant in case my family and I were washed out to sea, and some neon vests so that we’d be visible to any and all potential rescuers.

Since the increasingly dire forecast indicated the storm and all its destructive fury would arrive at around dawn on Saturday, I went to bed early Friday evening, clutching a flashlight in each hand. However, before retiring I securely attached a life vest to each of my four extremities.

That night I had the sorts of nightmares no one’s experienced since poor Dorothy Gale back in turn-of-the-20th-century Kansas. I wasn’t seeing any scarecrows, tin men, or cowardly lions, though; my terrifying visions involved my loved ones and I being torn to shreds by ravenous sharks, swallowed by whales, or, worst of all, getting swallowed by a whale, regurgitated, and then eaten by ravenous sharks.

I awoke Saturday morning to an eerie stillness. Assuming it was the calm before the storm, I tip-toed out of my bedroom, preparing to witness the deluge.

The skies were cloudy, but there had been little to no rain. There was a gentle breeze, although at one point I thought I detected a gust that exceeded ten miles per hour. By 10:45 that morning the sun was out.

The prophets of doom at the weather bureau had been wrong. To paraphrase Ernest Lawrence Thayer (author of “Casey at the Bat,” for the uninitiated), mighty Lee had struck out.

Of course, I’m not complaining. We all make mistakes, and I for one would prefer that when they do miscalculate, our weather predictors overstate a non-event rather than pooh-pooh something that ends up being cataclysmic.

We actually did get a small vestige of the storm Saturday afternoon. The wind gusts had picked up by the time I decided to bike to the local Hannaford to simultaneously obtain some bananas and some exercise, although happily the intensifying air currents were at my back. Feeling like a Tour de France participant, I made what is ordinarily a 25-minute trek in less than 15 minutes. Unfortunately, the wind became even more severe while I was in the store, and when I emerged it was clear I’d be facing gale-force tempests as I attempted to pedal home.

How long did that return trip take me?

I don’t know.

I haven’t gotten back yet.

But at least I know that whenever I arrive, I’ll have plenty of toilet paper. <

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