This is not the first hurricane we’ve weathered here in Richmond. It’s not even the first hurricane that’s disrupted classes, or that I’ve blogged about. Last year our power was out for four days with Irene ; Isabel, in 2003, closed my campus for a week. Gaston, which was only a tropical storm by the time it got here in 2004, flooded downtown Richmond and all the roads between my home and campus; it took me two hours to get home from campus on the first day of classes that year as I sought an unflooded route (and, failing to find one, simply drove through the least-flooded street I could find). We’re far enough inland that most storms don’t cause quite the devastation here that they do in coastal regions, though we’ve certainly seen our share of trees down and cars, porches, and roofs smashed in. I keep my fingers crossed that that’s the worst of it, and then forget to buy candles the next hurricane season.
But the hype got to me this time. We filled a large cooler with ice. We made sure we had plenty of extra water. I sent my husband out for batteries, propane, and candles—but the latter were already cleared off all the store shelves, and there weren’t to many batteries left, either. We even cleared out the (tiny) garage, moving bikes and other outdoor things to the basement so we could at least shelter one car from the rain and possible dropping tree limbs. I did laundry a couple of days earlier than usual, figuring we’d want clean clothes if the power went out. My husband cleared out the gutters and we brought in the recycling bins that usually live on the porch. And I baked—though that’s hardly unusual on the weekends, I still thought of it as storm preparation.
And then we waited. Last night the call came in telling us that Nick’s school was cancelled. My brother and sister-in-law in New Jersey reported on their storm preparations, far more serious than our own. My daughter, over 500 miles north of us, reported that her classes were cancelled on Monday. My brother in Queens was staying home and sending periodic updates. My parents, in Connecticut, seemed unfazed by the warnings. Sometimes living in the middle of nowhere has its advantages—of necessity, they have a generator and are largely self-sufficient, at least for a few days. While my own campus remained open, I don’t have Monday classes, so I planned a day of working from home. And then I stayed up late and watched the Giants win the World Series, and celebrated virtually with my only relatives out of the storm’s path, my sister and her family in San Francisco.
Monday morning dawned grey and rainy. I heard the recycling trucks out on the street and realized that they had not cancelled their pickup—so I pulled the bins out of the basement and onto the street, hoping the truck would get to us before the winds picked up too much and scattered debris all over the neighborhood. They did.
And then I spent a quiet and productive day at home. I caught up on lots of work that might have taken longer in my highly interruptible office. I watched the weather reports and the wind gusts outside, and felt the dropping temperatures. As I write this Monday afternoon, so far all is well, but the highest winds are supposed to start gusting in the next hour or so. And I’ve just heard that the university won’t open until 10:30 Tuesday morning—my 9 am class is cancelled. Nick will have another full day off school. Time for more baking, and more quiet catching up, as long as we have power. The worst of it will hit tomorrow morning, we’re told now.
Certainly not every disruptive weather event is this productive for me; whether productive or not, though, I have to confess I enjoy (once the danger has passed) the reminder that we are indeed subject to forces larger than ourselves—not to mention the occasional break from electronic connectivity. I’m also very grateful for the early warnings that, so far, have proved useful to so many. I hope all who are reading this are safe and dry, and that those who usually read, but don’t have power right now, get it back quickly. I’ll report back when the storm has passed.