Using a small, gas-powered generator, I am able to send you this column over the seas, over the land, into my own backyard.
I have limited time with our limited resources, so I will just quickly ramble on hoping the generator lasts long enough to get my story told.
Early in the week we were having morning coffee on the pizer when our friend and neighbor, Matt, stopped by to tell us about the possibility of a storm … a big storm. He tossed out words like “hurricane” and “Fourth of July,” but we really didn’t pay him a bit of attention.
At the time we were working on our float for the parade. We have the best float every year, winning first prize. Our floats reflect island history or timely events. We always take our winning money and buy shrimp from James Barry to share with friends and family.
By the end of the day we had checked the weather ourselves and became a little curious about the possibility of the storm.
By Wednesday morning we abandoned our float to concentrate on the arrival of the now-named tropical storm, Arthur. The park service was the first to close by closing all lighthouses, beaches, programs and visitor centers on the Outer Banks. That meant, of course, that I wouldn’t be working in the lighthouse on Wednesday or Thursday. I wished the rangers good luck and farewell as they now were asked to leave the island.
By Wednesday evening many preparations were already accomplished such as trimming branches from trees so they wouldn’t rub on the houses, clearing yards of debris and those with boats were busy securing them in the harbor. The Opry went on as scheduled on Wednesday evening, but there were just a handful of performers and about that many guests.
By Thursday morning information was coming in quickly from weather stations, our local radio station and our online newspaper, The Current. There appeared to be bulletins every half hour informing us of the possibility of a Category 2 hurricane, completing the voluntary evacuation and letting everyone know when the last ferry would be leaving.
By 4 in the afternoon the decision had to be made to stay or go. Philip and I decided to stay, of course. I think we only had one brief conversation about what to do, but leaving wasn’t even a possibility.
The ferries were gone by 5. Friends stopped by in the early evening as we laughed and told jokes about Arthur. I checked the list in my head … water jugs full, bikes in shed, plants put up, laundry off line … there was nothing to do but wait and check the weather reports.
I only had a few moments of panic when it began to grow dark and the wind picked up. I knew in my heart of hearts that this old house was strong and able to withstand hurricanes. It was built in 1865 and had weathered many storms. I took a look in the corner of the parlor where Philip’s grandfather cut the floor boards during the ’33 hurricane. It was to let the water in so the house would not float away. I am sure Miss Aliph, his wife, was not too happy to have all that storm water brought into her house, but it did save the house.
We talked about years gone by when folks didn’t know hurricanes were coming. Were there signs? Our sea captain friend, Rob, said, as he sat out on our pizer, that the clouds are different when a hurricane approaches, so they would know a large storm was coming.
The power went out at 1 with winds still predicted at 100 mph. I must confess I slept through most of the hurricane.
This morning (Friday) we knew that we all fared well. Sure, we have no power and that will take days to fix with all the poles down, and there are trees down everywhere; lovely old fig trees full of figs that will never ripen, cedar trees down on fences exposing the rich redness in the wood, and gardens that have been ripped to shreds.
But everyone on the island is accounted for. Neighbors are out helping each other by cutting down trees and broken tree limbs.
The Fourth of July celebrations have passed us by this year; yet the island spirit is one of strength and community, and isn’t that is what our country was founded on? Happy Fourth of July from my island out to sea.
LOU ANN HOMAN-SAYLOR lives in Angola at the White Picket Gardens where you can find her gardening or writing late into the night under the light of her frayed scarlet lamp. She is a storyteller, teacher, writer, actress and a collector of front porch stories.