As noted in a previous post, Dan and I decided to do our weekly grocery shopping on Wednesday, using the rationale that the weather will be bad Friday night and the roads could fill up with evacuees on Thursday. Since it was also Dan’s run night, I went with him and enjoyed an evening run at Memorial Park.
One of the interesting things about the last couple of days before a hurricane is the way people react. On the local newspaper’s online chats, every neuron-impaired fool in south Texas is freaking out, wanting to know if they should cancel their coastal duck hunting trip this weekend (might be a good idea, genius) to whether they should evacuate from exurban neighborhoods far to the north or even from as far away as San Antonio. I don’t know where these people come from, but they scare me.
Runners are a different bunch, though. As I made the loop at the park I heard snippets of conversation and it seemed everyone was talking about the hurricane, but with no particular sense of panic. These were people who were confident in their ability to correctly prepare and carry out a rational plan.
While I was running, I thought about Hurricane Alicia. I was sixteen, the school year had barely started, and I wasn’t much involved with my family’s preparations. Oddly, I have little memory of the actual storm, perhaps because not a whole lot really happens in a hurricane. You mostly sit in the dark and wait for it to be over.
I remember how dark the house was after my father nailed up the plywood. I remember the inconvenience of carrying a flashlight everywhere after the lights went out, and I remember how the house became warm and stuffy, although I have no recollection of it ever being particularly bad. It was just a nuisance. The noise affected me more than anything else. The wind howled for hours and sometimes we heard things crash against the house. Making things worse, my father neglected to remove the dryer vent and the wind made it moan and rattle like a caged animal for the duration of the storm. It was worse than the wind because it sounded like something snarling right outside the door, trying to get in.
At one point my father called me to the sliding glass patio door—the only glass he hadn’t had plywood to cover. As if it were yesterday, I can hear my father call my name. Then softly, he said, “Come here.” He pressed the flat of his palm against the door. I followed suit and scared myself half to death. The wind was bowing in the glass, making it bend in and out with every gust as if it were breathing. It wasn’t in danger of shattering—my father knows his stuff in that regard. But it sure felt dangerous to me, and I stayed away from the door after that.
During the silence of the eye, we all went outside for a few minutes. I looked around, thinking I would see a deceptive calm and blue skies like the books said to expect. Instead, it was cloudy with dark, ominous clouds moving in rapidly. I was glad to get back inside.
Later my father fired up the camp stove and made pancakes. And when the storm cleared, I lay on my parents’ bed for a long time chatting on the phone with my friends. Some never lost power, but most did for awhile like we did. We weren’t without power for long. Perhaps a day at most. I had teachers who didn’t get their electricity restored for weeks, though.
If we do get a hurricane this weekend, I hope the city’s repair crews are quicker than they were twenty-five years ago. September is still summer on the Gulf Coast and it's miserable without air conditioning.