Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lucky, Lucky

That’s me after Hurricane Irene made her way up the east coast and passed through the Berkshires. I’m lucky because Irene had become a tropical storm by the time she reached us. I’m lucky because what Mother Nature unleashed on us was rain and little wind until Irene waved goodbye with enthusiastic gusts. I’m lucky because local authorities prepared for the possibilities of what might happen with Irene’s coming. I’m lucky because iberkshires.com posted throughout the storm to keep us advised of just how bad it was out there and why it was a good thing that I stayed at home. I’m lucky because I live on a hill where the waters ran down and away from my house and didn’t flood my basement or cause anything other than minimal damage in my little part of the world. I’m lucky that while the incessant rain caused landslides – one of which blocked the only exit from the street I live on, by the end of the storm, local public works employees had cleared the mud out of the street. I’m lucky because I still have my home, which is something the residents of the Spruces mobile home park can’t say: Irene flooded the park and the jury is still out on whether any of the homes can be made habitable again and if residents will be able to return.

Part of the Mohawk Trail is closed due to damage caused by Irene: mudslides, washouts, flooding. Roads were closed during the storm due to flooding; basements were flooded causing damage that is still being assessed. Water, water, everywhere. Downed trees left countless people without power. Raging rivers washed away historic covered bridges, roads, homes and crops, and caused billions in property damage.

Among the pictures of Irene’s wrath I carry in my head from news reports, there are pictures of people frolicking (yes, frolicking) on beaches during the onset of the storm, despite the angry tide, when authorities advised them to evacuate the area. And then there are the vehicles plowing through deep water on roadways when their drivers didn’t have sense enough to find another way (or just stay home). I will never forget the video of the car careening down the wild waters of a normally mild-mannered river that had captured and pulled it along (thankfully its driver was not on board when the river grabbed it). And the local flood control chutes – ugly concrete waterways with no apparent purpose in most people’s memories – nearing capacity, water raging through the center of towns, barely contained. Thanks to those ugly concrete chutes built over half a century ago by the Army Corps of Engineers, homes and businesses adjacent to the river were spared its fury. Yes, there was much flooding in low lying areas due to the sheer volume of water, but it would have been so much worse without all that ugly concrete containing the river. In areas where the beautiful, untamed waterways flowed, flood waters covered main streets and businesses, wreaking havoc.

I will remember Irene and how she affected my friends and neighbors while I count my blessings and remember what a powerful force nature is.

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