"Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am vast. I contain multitudes." -Walt Whitman

:malicious user:

Monday, September 08, 2003

here comes the story of the hurricane . . .

i'd known j about 6 months in august 1998. it was a long-distance relationship (ny to va), and would stay that way until june 2002. i would drive down each weekend, and drive back sunday night. we'd been tracking hurricane bonnie since monday the 24th. on thursday the 27th at 11am, the national weather service downgraded bonnie to a tropical storm, and the east coast waved byebye as she drifted east out to sea. i left the office at 4 pm and started the weekly trek southwards. 384 miles straight down the seaboard, following route 13, which is rural road from delaware on down.

if you go south, you have a crossroads in northern delaware whereupon you must make a decision. staying with route 13 is faster because it hugs the coast, even though it's got traffic lights and speed traps and too many signs for ham/fireworks/bbq/cigarettes. the interstate (I95) goes southwest through washington dc, down to richmond, and you can catch a state highway back east to the beach. it's superhighway, but it's three more hours of driving.

i called the chesapeake bay bridge tunnel at the crossroads, to ensure that it was still open. no prob, they said, come on down. route 13 it was, towards the 17 miles of pavement over/under water that connects the eastern shore of va to virginia beach.

at 11:20 pm i was two miles from the northern end of the bridge-tunnel.

whereupon they closed it.

an hour earlier, bonnie had decided to have another go at the mainland, and had picked up strength as she lumbered westward. at 11 pm the nws upgraded bonnie to a hurricane. again.

bonnie and i met at the toll booth.

approximately two dozen cars and a dozen tractor trailers were directed to the rest stop next to the toll plaza by the state police. it was a choice between waiting out the hurricane in a parking lot a half mile from the ocean, or trying to make the ten-hour round trip back up to delaware and back through dc.

i chose the hotel nissan.

i parked facing west, then ran across the road to the police annex, where the only phone within 2 miles waited. the eastern side of the road was blanketed in reeds and sea grass; the west side was completely clean. the rain came in bursts, like a bucket brigade being dropped on us. the wind was incredible, but also incredibly warm and humid. i called j to let her know i'd be a little late. her house had already lost power, and they had sandbagged the front door. a few hours earlier, when the storm had been weakening, j had stood in the backyard two blocks from the ocean, arms spread, and yelled at the sky "c'mon bonnie, is that all you've got?". now, bonnie was taking her up on the challenge.

j and her three teenage kids were taking care of the house and j's invalid parents. gramp's airbed had deflated due to lack of power, so they had transferred him to another bed. i was in a 84 sentra 17 miles away. with no way to get there.

the path to true love never did run smooth, did it?

back in the car, i tilted the seat back and grabbed some zzzs. what the hell. even hurricanes get boring after a while.

around 5 am the bridge-tunnel was reopened, but there was no power. it was like an exodus, slowly moving cars and trucks moving across the water in grey morning light. there were none of the ubiquitous seagulls to accompany us, no northbound traffic. the only illumination in the two mile-long tunnels came from our headlights. i rolled down my windows.

there was no wind. at all.

i arrived at j's at about 5:45am. we'd spent 6 hours apart, 45 minutes away from one another. that, people, is the definition of frustration.

hurricane bonnie edged into north carolina's southern coastline near wilmington on august 26, 1998. bonnie was the first major hurricane (category 3) of the 1998 season, and the winds and flooding rains damaged buildings and cut off power to nearly a half-million people. the storm, which was nearly 400 miles wide, stalled near wilmington for an hour after its eye crossed land at cape fear at 5 pm on august 26th. due to the slow movement of bonnie, rainfall totals were rather high in parts of eastern north carolina and extreme southeastern virginia. overall damages are estimated in the $1.0 billion dollar range. insured losses were approximately $360 million, but these losses do not include flooding and agricultural damages, which were quite extensive. three deaths were attributed to the storm. peak wind gusts recorded during the hurricane reached 104 mph.
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i used to be disgusted. now i try to be amused.
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