Noticing whether the weather is ugly

BY BOB WACHS, Columnist
Posted 9/1/21

We’re now into a significant period of the year, having sort of eased into it on the calendar, but make no mistake: it’s here.

I’m not speaking of “back-to-school.” And it’s not the …

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Noticing whether the weather is ugly

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We’re now into a significant period of the year, having sort of eased into it on the calendar, but make no mistake: it’s here.

I’m not speaking of “back-to-school.” And it’s not the start of college football, which lately seems to be more and more about semi-pro and less and less about “student-athletes.” And it’s not so much Labor Day, the last hurrah of summer, or even the get-ready period for the State Fair — if we’re going to have one — and all its Polish sausages. (And in this unusual year, you’ll note all of those activities have a COVID tag attached to them.)

What we’re talking about is hurricane season ... and I don’t mean that hockey team which used to live in Connecticut and now calls Raleigh home.

It’s been a while — 16 years ago this past week — when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in general and New Orleans in particular. And within the past few days, The Weather Channel has been telling us that Ida, which also visited Louisiana, was just as bad — or worse — as Katrina. The pictures of the destruction from each were graphic and the accounts intense, and I can only imagine what that was like.

I haven’t been there and I don’t want to start now. But thanks to our own little adventure on September 9, 1996, I can’t get into the start or duration of hurricane season with the same nonchalant attitude I once had.

Lying awake in the dark of night listening to Hurricane Fran on that date 25 years ago do her impression of a mad runaway freight train has forever left its mark on my tender and fragile psyche.

The evening started innocently enough, with the weather folks saying a storm was coming. But they didn’t exactly know how bad it could or would be.

It didn’t take long to find out.

The power was out by 10 p.m. or so; the wind was howling and the rain was coming down not in buckets but in barrels. I found my little transistor radio and located WPTF on the AM dial. By then it was about 1 in the morning and I’m holding prayer meeting in our living room. We’d hear a tree snap and hold our breath, waiting to see if it would soon be joining us in that room. There was no way to judge depth perception and distance in the dark. I still remember the all-night radio personality saying that the National Weather Service was predicting the storm would really hit us at about 2 a.m. and I’m thinking if what we’re having now isn’t the storm, then I don’t think I want to be here when it does show up.

I finally crashed that morning about 4 after the wind died down to just a mild uproar. And in a few hours, I had sort of an idea about what Francis Scott Key meant when he talked about seeing things in the dawn’s early light.

It wasn’t pretty. Eventually I counted 20 trees down in the front yard. Pasture fences were on the ground, but it didn’t matter since the cows couldn’t get around the downed oaks. The 8-passenger van I liked so much and which the two 40-somethings who used to be teenagers who lived at my house jokingly referred to as “the party wagon” was squatting down under the weight of a tree across its roof. A tree was on the house and so on and so forth.

We eventually went nine days without power, which meant I had to watch television in the dark and also meant showers were at a premium. I’m pretty sure my Right Guard broke down a couple of times during that week and a half.

Eventually most things got put back together, for us and countless others. The Party Wagon gave up the ghost and the 20 trees couldn’t be put back, but most things returned to normal ... except my tender and fragile psyche. Soon afterward I discovered the National Hurricane Center on the internet and after a period of time sort of learned how to read and understand their advisories and keep up with what’s going on out in the Atlantic.

I know I can’t control tropical storms and I can’t keep low pressure systems from acting ugly. But I am going to try to keep up with them, which may not be that bad of an idea since the hurricane experts tell us this may be a bit of a rowdy season. I just know I’m not going to let down my guard.

Still, I don’t understand why folks would name a sports team after a thing as devastating as a hurricane. I guess folks in Connecticut have never lived through one.

I hope they, we and the folks in Louisiana and Mississippi, never have to again

Bob Wachs is a native of Chatham County and retired long-time managing editor of the Chatham News/Chatham Record, having written a weekly column for more than 30 years. During most of his time with the newspapers, he was also a bi-vocational pastor and today serves Bear Creek Baptist Church for the second time as pastor.


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Just popping on to comment that our hockey team wasn’t called The Hurricanes when they were in CT. They were the Hartford Whalers. We named them what they are today.

Friday, September 3