Hurricane is Coming
By Sam Low
The Vineyard Gazette, September 16, 2003
morning at ten - the air is vapid and the sea is flat off the
Steamboat Pier in Oak Bluffs. It's hot and muggy. It feels like
something has sucked the energy from the atmosphere. Something
big. I'm aware of Isabel, of course, having followed its festering
ball of wind on the internet for the past week. She's tracking
toward us - a category five storm - with winds of 160 miles
an hour. So the weather on Sunday feels full of threat. My skiff,
at the pier in Harthaven, seems vulnerable. The trees around
my house now appear immense and powerful in their latent energy.
If they fall, well
A hurricane is coming and that awareness
first memory of the Vineyard is the 1944 hurricane when many
relatives came to our house, deep in the woods, for refuge.
I was two years old. I remember that hurricane because my parents
gave me a flashlight for amusement. I shined it on the faces
of our guests and was amazed at the emotion there - the first
time I saw adults display fear.
1954, when I was twelve, it was hurricane Carol. My father and
his friends set anchors deep in the muck of our harbor and trailed
ropes to their boats to hold them off the piers. All lines were
doubled. Everything that moved was stored indoors. Preparations
continued even as the storm spread its deadly fingers across
the island. The men worked on docks now covered with water and
gusts tugged at their southwesters. Here's my most vivid memory.
My father and I are carrying a Burt skiff to shelter, upside
down. Suddenly a gust plucks the boat from our hands and hurls
it across the road - some forty feet.
1960, Donna Called. My grandparent's house faced the beach.
We watched the approaching storm from a glassed in porch that
began to shiver in the mounting wind. We retreated and closed
the doors to the porch, pushing the dining room table against
them. Minutes later the porch was disassembled into its component
parts and scattered across the lawn.
one of these storms, we found an uncle's boat impaled on a piling
at its pier. The tide had risen six feet and the anchor line
keeping it off the pier had snapped. It was a deep but not a
mortal wound. I think Erford Burt dealt with it.
hurricane is a grand expression of nature's primal force and
it focuses us on a latent drama all around, heretofore hidden.
The skins of our homes now seem fragile. The ocean contains
a veiled threat. The beach seems tender and insubstantial. The
songbirds in the bushes - what will become of them? We welcome
this drama with dread. Anticipating a hurricane puts us in our
place in nature's scheme and that may be the only thing about
a hurricane that we can welcome.