A month ago, I swapped out of my Sunday shift for Saturday. Of course I had no idea then that a hurricane would be forecast to strike our state on Sunday. (My reason for swapping was so I could enter a mile open water swim in Boston Harbor called “Sharkfest.”) I will admit like most in EMS to being somewhat of an action junkie, but instead of being upset that I might be missing out on the hurricane action, now that I am older and have a family to protect, I was quite glad that I could spend the day at home instead of out on the road battling the elements. (Sharkfest was cancelled).
The weather media machine was in full hype for storm Irene, and having witnessed first-hand the damage done by Hurricane Katrina, I have learned to respect weather, regardless of the possibility of any storm turning out to be less than advertised. I dutifully joined others in the grocery stores, buying bottled water, canned goods, charcoal for the grille, and other provisions to tide us over through what we were warned was the possibility of being without power for up to a week. On Friday (while at work on the ambulance) the day before the storm, I even managed to secure batteries, a flashlight, candles, a lighter, and a precious manual can opener – all items I had either forgotten to get or that were sold out from the larger Home Depot stores. Through searching all the little gas station convenience stores, I managed to get what I needed. I then bought 2 bags of ice at the 7-11 right before we were sent in for the day, and thus had my emergency provision list fully completed.
That night I gave the three girls the game plan for the storm. Eat the perishable food first, don’t use the flashlights unless necessary, etc. I had them help me finish the laundry and get all the dishes done so we would be in a good state of preparedness. Their mom was working late that night and since she had to work again the next morning, she had plans if the storm was bad enough to stay at the hospital. Little Zoey got in bed with me and I gave her a heart to heart about what the storm might bring. The howling wind, driving rain, sound of trees crashing. I told her not to be afraid, that I would protect her.
“Daddy, I’m scared,” she said.
“Don’t be, it’ll be all right.”
“I think I’m going to sleep with my sisters.”
So with that, she got up and scurried down the hall.
“You can come back if the storm gets too bad,” I called after her.
I slept through the night, rising with the first sunlight. It was raining hard, but nothing truly torrential. The power was still on. I saw no damage in the yard, no water in our basement, which is usually dry after storms. I had my Diet Coke and watched some of the news. The full brunt of the storm hadn’t quite reached New York yet, still to our south. The next six hours were forecast to be our worst. I was glad to be on guard at home. I didn’t even think how if I hadn’t switched, I’d be out there in the rain, battling to get to patients through flooded streets and downed limbs.
Zoey and I made pancakes and read books while watching the news in the background. There were the traditional shots of weathermen standing in knee deep water with trying to keep their rain hoods on as the wind buffeted them.
By two in the afternoon the rain had stopped and the now Tropical Storm had passed. I put Zoey in the running stroller and Lauren rode her bike alongside us as we ran throughout our local neighborhoods, inspecting the damage. A lot of leaves and small branches down. A low-laying bridge on the golf course over a stream was now underwater. No big deal at all.
For dinner we made meat balls and spaghetti, adding our secret ingredient – whipped cream – to the meat balls. We watched the nightly news and saw all the storms highlights, washed out roads in North Carolina, demolished houses along the Connecticut shore, torrential flooding in Vermont. We also learned scattered lives had been lost and millions were without power. We were grateful we had been spared the worst of it. Zoey fell asleep watching her favorite TV show – King of the Hill (I think this is why she often greets me “Hey Dude!” — and I carried her to her room and set her head on the pillow, and pulled up the covers.
This morning I got up, showered and dressed, turned on my pager and saw the previous night’s pages asking for additional crews to come in and help out a division of ours on the shoreline and later a page for crews to help evacuate a hospital whose generators had failed. Finally there was a page thanking everyone for working so hard during the storm. Making us all proud.
My family still asleep, I walked out the front door into a beautiful late August morning. The air was fresh with ozone. I drove in for my scheduled 12-hour shift.