Having lived in Rhode Island for most of my life, I’m familiar with hurricanes. We’re not the region for earthquakes or tornadoes, even though we’ve experienced both within the past six months. And we don’t get many hurricanes, certainly not like the Carolinas, Florida, or the Bahamas. I grew up hearing about the Hurricane of ’38 (the big one, pictured) and saw the plaque downtown marking the high water level. I’d listen to my parents, my grandparents, and one old landlady tell the stories of being stranded downtown, of watching the surf in Narragansett the days following the hurricane, and the destruction that remained after the storm had churned its way out to sea. There was Hurricane Carol in 1954, Hurricane Esther in 1961 (on my sister’s birthday), and I was around for Gloria in 1985 and Bob in 1991. We’ve had remnants of many hurricanes, but usually by the time the storm found its way up here, in cooler waters, it was much weaker and we received some strong winds and heavy rain.
I’m not belittling what a hurricane is – the horror and destruction of these storms can be enormous and deadly. When you’re a kid or a carefree young adult, your biggest concern is whether you can surf the waves and the internet. As an adult, you think about your homeowner’s policy, the big old tree in the backyard, the freezer full of food. So you take precautions, because a hurricane, unlike a tornado or an earthquake, provides you with advance warning; for us in Rhode Island, we have days to prepare. We have full tanks of gasoline in the cars, cash on hand, ice for the cooler if we need it, jugs of water, food that doesn’t need to be cooked, batteries, flashlights, candles.
The newscasters and meteorologists are almost giddy with anticipation about this approaching storm. Landfall in southeastern New England is estimated for Sunday, and on Thursday it was all they could talk about. We live here. We know. And we’re ready for Irene when she comes to visit.