Hurricane Earl is on its way. After wending its way through the Caribbean, the latest weather reports indicate that the East Coast will bear the brunt of the storm either south at Cape Hatteras or further north toward New Jersey. Earl is now a Category 4 storm and could make landfall on the North Carolina coast as early as Thursday evening. Hurricane force winds are expected to extend up to 70 miles from its eye.
I now live in Harrisonburg, VA, a good 300-miles inland from Nags Head, NC. I’m not concerned about a storm surge or hurricane winds. Yet, I am preparing for Hurricane Earl. Am I demented?
No, I just have a long memory. In 1969, Hurricane Camille blasted the Gulf coast, arced up and to the right, and then, literally parked herself over Virginia. Camille was Virginia’s Katrina.
At that time, I was a little girl in the mountains of SW Virginia. We didn’t have a storm surge from the ocean, we had rains so heavy you couldn’t breath outside without an umbrella. We weren’t flooded because our home was just a couple of feet above sea level, we were flooded because that amount of rain falling on mountains runs off any way it can. While we did have some wind, it wasn’t as dangerous as the flooding creeks that ate up roads built, “mountain-style,” beside the creeks that overran them. And then there were the trees in that little bit of wind, huge, mature, heavy creatures whose roots no longer bit into earth, but only mud, and down they came willy-nilly. And there were mudslides, too. It didn’t matter that the hills that moved weren’t bare and held a thick carpet of growth from grass, to kudzu, to trees.
Just a couple of counties east of here, in Nelson County, VA, the rainfall was so great and the flooding so quick and severe that they lost 1% of their population in one night. Some bodies have never been recovered.
So, yes I’m preparing for Hurricane Earl and probably Camille, too, from 1969 as well as the next one that’s in line this season, Fiona.
We just moved into our new home this June. Our condo sits – literally, there is a spillway – over a spring active enough to form a small lake for the community. While I’m not worried about wind damage or falling trees from saturated soil, I’m not quite sure how fast the municipal “drain” on this tiny lake would act should torrential rains fall. The cute little spillway that we’ve filled with goldfish is much less so when I consider it in my living room.
And we just moved to this area this past January. I don’t know how pastoral and hilly compares to woody and mountainous when it comes to the inland behavior of hurricanes. I’ve prepared for hurricanes in many homes, some within sight of the ocean and other in the mountains, but never in this in-between place where, nonetheless, an entire county was devastated some 40 years ago.
So, I’ve checked out the insurance website to definitively put to rest any hope that our policy will cover flooding. That requires a separate policy and a payment to go into effect that I can’t meet at the moment. My boyfriend laughs and insists that nothing – including a hurricane – will keep him from attending his beloved Virginia Cavaliers opening football game. I fret. I double-check the kerosene lanterns and candles and all the “power off” supplies we brought from the mountains where that happened frequently enough. And I already have an emergency kit in the trunk of my car. There’s no sense stockpiling food or supplies here if the lake would actually flood. Which it won’t. Hopefully. Unless what happened 40+ years ago repeats itself. So, I did what anyone else in their right mind would do in this situation: I refilled my Xanax prescription.
CNN Weather, Tuesday AM, 8:50 AM
A Preparedness Guide, U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,
National Weather Service. Revised August 2001