Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween hurricane

If it's around October twentieth and everything smoky-smelling and the sky orange and ash gray at twilight, it seems Halloween will never come in a fall of broomsticks and a soft flap of bed sheets around corners. But one strange wild dark long year, Halloween came early.
Something Wicked This Way Comes  by Ray Bradbury (1962)

Mother Nature's massive trick has gone, blasting west in a hurry after a leisurely approach.  A long, warm autumn closed suddenly in downpour and wind, uprooted trees and snapped fence posts.  That was if you were lucky.  The storm also killed dozens of people, crushed and burned and flooded homes, and simply minced the plans of millions, from the commuters struggling to reach Lower Manhattan to the workers left without a job in damaged businesses.  Not to mention the uneasily watching candidates.  A mix of powerful mythmaking and brutal destruction, the hurricane was a true Halloween story, which makes it all the more bittersweet that the affected areas have mostly postponed the traditional holiday until at least the weekend, citing the substantial cleanup of broken trees and downed wires.  No trick-or-treaters came to the door tonight; there was no town-wide festival of children in costumes, no elaborate home decorations, no hovering parents trying to take photos in the twilight.  Halloween night passed quietly, in the new cold temperatures, in darkness.**      

I wrote a post in 2010 about the barrier islands of the East Coast. This week, Sandy pelted those vulnerable sandbars with wind and rain and waves, cut them off from the mainland,  drowned their streets and smashed anything in reach of the tide. In New Jersey, where Sandy made landfall on Monday evening, oceans and back bays met in the center of Long Beach Island, long sections of the Atlantic City boardwalk were ripped off their moorings and flung blocks away, and Seaside Park lost a chunk of its amusement pier. The storm had lost its hurricane status by the time it hit the shore, but the waves its low pressure pushed onto land have swamped both the shore towns and the southern tip of Manhattan.  

He opened the door, and the old man and the boy stepped out into a terrifying seventy-five-mile-an-hour gale. The sudden pressure half-knocked Paul's breath out. The rain blew into his eyes faster than he could blink it away. He felt Grandpa thrust a strong arm through his, and linked tight together they flung themselves against the wind, floundering ankle-deep in the choppy water. Paul's heart hammered in his chest and he cried inside, "Please, God, take the sea back where it belongs. Please take it back."
Stormy, Misty's Foal (1963)

Marguerite Henry's sequel to Misty of Chincoteague chronicled the Ash Wednesday Storm, a massive nor'easter* that stalled over the East Coast for three long days in March of 1962.  Like Sandy,it came about through the actions of three colliding weather systems.  Like Sandy, it was a freak storm for the Northeast. 

Lone horsey note:

My 2010 post was about the feral equine herds that inhabit some of these islands.  The early word is that the Chincoteague ponies have likely survived.  There's no news, as far as I can find, on the Banker Ponies.

*A nor'easter is a low pressure system with a cold core that forms over the East Coast in the winter; a hurricane is a low pressure system with a warm core that forms over the Atlantic Ocean in the summer.  I think. 

** Realizing I should clarify, given the huge number of people without power.  We were lucky - no power outage, no trees fell, no damage done.

1 comment:

Christina Wilsdon said...

Hello--glad you and yours rode out the storm safely. You'll be glad to know that the National Park Service reports that Ocracoke was not slammed by Sandy and that "NPS officials also reported the Ocracoke Ponies survived the storm and are well" (this taken from an Ocracoke newspaper). The Chincoteague ponies are apparently all accounted for and doing fine. Thank goodness for small mercies.