Friday, August 26, 2011

Goodnight, Irene

Surveying the apartment, I decided what to pack and what would remain. Hurricane Irene threatens New Jersey and where I live, on a barrier island in Cape May County, is particularly vulnerable. Meteorologists and emergency management officials I interviewed spun tales of the “100 year hurricane”, that one mighty storm which manifested once every century over the New Jersey coast and wreaked havoc and destruction. They said we were long overdue for a hurricane to make landfall over New Jersey.

Irene granted their wish.

The county issued a mandatory evacuation effective today. On the Boardwalk, shops shuttered, plywood over their windows. Gas stations are inundated with cars and traffic off the island is bumper to bumper. Such dire scenarios play themselves out on TV in the Carolinas and Florida, but not in New Jersey.

Like the Chinese say, “May you live in interesting times.”

An earthquake on Tuesday and hurricane on Sunday. How about we go for the tornado of human feces or flaming asteroid strike for a trifecta?

Officials tell us Hurricane Irene will strike New Jersey and we should secure our properties and evacuate.

Get bottled water, a flashlight and head for the fucking hills.

So I’m sorting out my life in a lone duffel bag and backpack, deciding what’s important enough to take and what will be left to nature’s cruel elemental forces. A change of clothes necessary toiletries, important papers and two computers made the cut. I'm also taking two jump drives with my current writing projects and a list of work contacts. My cat Smuttynose will also accompany me, although he has no choice in the matter.

There’s a real possibility the storm surge will inundate the island, that the apartment will suffer water damage and my furniture, books and other possessions will be lost. This apprehension and worry kept me up for most of the night, a fretful insomnia born from the knowledge my home of four years will be an aquarium.

In emergencies like these, you do the best you can. You think rationally about what you need to take and move on. When you return and find waterlogged wreckage, you take stock, do what you can and survive.

I don’t know if I’m going to return to damp carpets or floating debris. Nothing of this magnitude has happened here, and people are muddling along the best they can, devouring as much information as it becomes available, making preparations and evacuating inland where the flooding and storm surge risks are severely minimized.

Still, you wonder: Will our island home be uncomfortably damp or a new Atlantis?

We’ll have to wait until Monday to discover whether Irene is a shameless flirt or a sadistic, ballgag-choking dominatrix.

Until then, I’m packing up my shit and getting out of Dodge.

Stay dry, people.

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