Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Jim Cantore, Go Home (please)!

Last weekend we did not get hit by a hurricane.

Granted, I wasn’t all that worried about getting hit by a hurricane, but weather reports were full of breathless meteorologists pointing at maps and standing by beaches, updating Hurricane Earl’s progress about 87 times an hour. Jim Cantore of the Weather Channel was on site in North Carolina, waiting for the Big Hit.

If Jim Cantore comes to your town, prepare to be smote by Mother Nature.

I don’t live on Long Island, or in coastal North Carolina or Cape Cod, or maybe I would have been more concerned. But even for folks living in those beautiful, vulnerable areas, Earl ended up being much less than anticipated. I almost felt bad for the weather people, even as I felt relief for the coastal residents.

Our resident elephant went back under the couch yesterday, and left behind for me a whole new understanding and empathy for people who live in hurricane prone areas.

When a hurricane is predicted, people in vulnerable areas have to take certain precautions. Board up the house, get the boats out of the water, tie down loose stuff in the yard, get provisions, prepare an evacuation plan in case that becomes necessary. I would imagine that with each passing weather report and computer model of the approaching storm, hurricane survivors would remember the one storm they weren’t ready for, or the time their preparations were not enough. The lessons of past storms converge with the potential yikes of the incoming weather.

I would imagine that anxiety would rise, and within the 24 hour mark of landfall residents just start throwing things in the car, or the shed, shoving things in safe places, grabbing cans of Spam and grape jelly from the store even if everyone in the family HATES Spam with our without grape jelly.

But then…what if, like Earl, the storm peters out, or moves off shore and just sits, or takes a new unpredicted path?

Obviously there’s intense relief. A reprieve! An aversion of destruction! Woohoo! Jim Cantore is going home! Yay!

But at the same time, I think there’s probably a sense of…lostness, for lack of a better word. I think of those people looking at the boarded up windows, the boat on land, the case of Spam, and think, “now what?”

Dismantling preparations is a weird thing, especially when you can see the eye of the storm circling just out of the corner of your eye. You know you still live in hurricane zone, but you have to dismantle, find some culinary creativity or donate the Spam, unboard the windows, search for all the stuff you threw in the shed in a panic (“Mom! Where’s my ZhuZhu pet?). This is the easy part, even if it’s a bear to do.

But what do you do with the anxiety? The fear stoked by the storm, the legitimate terror that comes with past experience and knowledge that the storm isn’t gone, it’s just off course for a while?

What do you do with that?

How do you explain to people that yes, you are SO RELIEVED you don’t have waves crashing through the front windows (not that you would, they’re still boarded up), but you see the maps. The maps of the storm are always in your mind. YOU KNOW THEM. The experts told you what the maps said…you’ve been hit before. You know today’s reality is all we’ve got, but you are cognizant of what reality has been, what it was predicted to be, and what it could be down the road.

So even though today is all we’ve got, it’s hard to just zip back to ok.

I appreciate that. So thanks, Earl, even though you disappointed the Weather Channel folks. Poor Jim Cantore will find another storm to cover (he may already be courting Hermine, I don’t know). Thanks for giving me the perfect analogy for the day after the elephant hides again.

We are so grateful, and so relieved. And still reeling a bit, even though the news was good. Unfortunately for humanity I had to return to work today, where the elephant is well known. Hugging a dear friend whose prayers joined with so many others on our behalf almost put me over the edge. Answering the question “They can’t just cut it out?” was ok, having a discussion about a change in services for my child, not so much. Out of the corner of my eye, the eye of the storm waits. I know after a few days I can block it out again, but not today.

But now, baseball practice awaits. A patio umbrella just went through my back window while I was typing this. And I have to figure out what to do with 12 jars of peanut butter…