Last week was a very long one. I don’t remember when the forecasters started saying that Hurricane Matthew was headed this way, but any time a major storm (Cat. 3 or higher) is out there, everyone keeps a close eye.
As each day passed, the track brought the storm further and further east. Towards land. Towards us.
We watched the local news intently. The normal hype was nowhere to be found. They didn’t need it. Watching a category 4 storm sweep through the Caribbean islands and then turn so sharply to come straight at us was plenty to report.
On Wednesday, it was just a waiting game. By Thursday morning, the storm took a turn for the worse. Instead of being 15-20 miles off the coast, it was projected to make landfall. The red line went straight up the coast. It was going to be way too close to us for what we had prepared for. We thought about boarding up, but it was too late. All of the stores were already out of lumber, and the storm was so big that we would feel it by the end of the day. We were out of time.
So instead, we prayed, prepared ourselves mentally and emotionally for broken windows and a heavily damaged roof, and prepared the closet in the middle of the house to be our shelter if things went south. And we prayed that we wouldn’t end up on the east side of the storm, especially the northeast. It’s the worst side to be on. Not only are the winds higher, but tornados hide in clouds and the destruction they leave can be more detrimental than the hurricane.
One of the fascinating things about a hurricane is that you always know what direction the wind will come from. It always moves counterclockwise around the eye. This time, that meant we would spend hours with the winds to the north before they slowly shifted west (as the eye passed) then south (as it continued up the coast). We examined the house for weaknesses, especially to the north and south.
Another fascinating thing is the feeder bands that come off of a hurricane. I would dare to say it’s unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. The sky can be completely clear. Then a low, fast bunch of clouds comes in, usually in rather thin, line-like patterns. With them come gusts of wind and large, intense rain. Then, as suddenly as they show up, they blow away. If I hadn’t been so worried about repairing the fence and wondering how bad it would be, I would have thought to take a picture.
With such a large storm, the wind and rain settled in by Thursday night. The gusts were still light and the rain intermittent, but it was especially dark and nearly impossible to sleep. We tried to go to bed early, well before the worst came, but we soon ended up in front of the tv. That’s when we found the unexpected news. The storm had shifted back offshore. It would brush the coast, but that was it. Even better, it went from a catastrophic category 4 to a category 3. The damage along the coast would still be bad and there would still be power outages, but nothing compared to what we all had braced for. I still can barely believe that I currently have electricity, still have an intact roof, and that the fence is still up, and my heart breaks for those who’ve experienced so much worse, especially in Haiti.
Now, as a writer and one who collects things, I like collecting experiences. Some of them are my own, but many are others’ that I’ve “collected” from people’s stories, books, documentaries, etc. So for those of you who like collecting things too (or if you want some writing reference on hurricanes), here’s some firsthand info.
According to the meteorologists, we experienced somewhere between tropical storm and category 1 conditions. Homes in this area are built for it. Our house is newer, so the windows are made to take the pressure from at least 140mph. It won’t save a window if debris hits it, but it will manage against the pressure.
Most of the time, tropical storms are pretty negligible inland, damage-wise. Some weak trees and limbs will go down, and the sustained winds are unsafe to drive in but it’s not really that bad. It’s more like staying home during a bad, windy storm.
A category 1 is a little more intense. More trees can go down, which means more power outages. If things are weak, they will be damaged, like roofs. But it’s still not really that bad.
Especially with a storm so large, the rain comes in waves. Or, literally, feeder bands. It might be breezy and drizzly throughout, but the high winds and driving rain come in bursts as feeder bands make their way through. The houses, even the concrete ones, sometimes creak, and heavy gusts come suddenly. They’re quite startling, especially if you’re near a window.
The winds lasted for hours after the storm left just because it was so huge. Basically, if you can see white clouds from the hurricane extending over an area, they’re feeling something.
Want to see more about the types of damage that comes with each type of storm? Check out the National Hurricane Center here.
Oh, and one other weird thing that happened. I had my FitBit on, and evidently the pressure of the storm around me counted as flights of stairs! 57, to be exact!
So there we are. All of the ramblings about what it’s like to live through a hurricane and come out unscathed. Now to focus our efforts on those who have been affected and need help.