A former teacher and adventurous mother of two boys, I love days off school: “Snow Days,” “Ice Days,” “Cold Days,” even “Fog Delays.” Growing up in Indiana and living in Ohio, I never guessed we’d play hooky due to “Hurricane Days.” The hammering Ohio took on Sunday, September 14th, and has been recovering from since (as well as Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania—all five have declared a State of Emergency) has gone largely unreported in the national press. Here in Ohio, we’ve been passed over by Ike and the media and didn’t even get a drop of rain to mitigate the drought.
I was scheduled to photograph the Girls Volleyball Team from my son’s Dublin Jerome High School and my graphics guru husband would produce their poster. We’d meet at a local “beach” (read “exclusive country club’s large pond with white sand spread along one edge”) Sunday evening. By 1 p.m. it was so windy that I checked the hourly forecast online and discovered by 6 p.m. the wind was predicted to be 36 mph. Since the girls wouldn’t look good with their long hair whipping around and I didn’t want sand embedded in my digital Nikon, I canceled the shoot. There was a high wind alert, but no one suspected what we were in for.
When our power went out at 3 p.m., my son Andrew and I were both using computers. I lost the capability to finish my e-mail (though my valiant MacBook kept running on its battery) and Andrew lost an AP Biology lab report he hadn’t saved (NB: save after every paragraph) when the desktop PC in our office shut down. My husband Steve happily continued reading his Sunday Dispatch near the kitchen bay window and German Shepherd Sasha cried indignantly while the smoke alarms beeped repeatedly as the power died.
We gathered at the kitchen table uneasily listening to large honey locust pods hitting the roof, windows, and deck, as they were ripped untimely from the overhanging tree. High school sophomore Andrew quietly referenced his dislike of high winds, put in earphones, and turned on his i-pod to tune out the squall. When Andrew was three, a high metal scaffold used to repair our brick chimney crashed down on the deck, breaking one of the bay windows while Andrew was sitting at the table with his back to the window. Our windswept acreage has enabled Andrew to conquer most of his residual fear of high winds since then. His discomfort should have registered as an indicator of the storm’s severity.
Slightly stressed, I suggested Steve and Andrew play a game and I’d make chocolate chip cookie dough (have stress = eat chocolate). Andrew chose Stocks & Bonds, an oldie goldie from his father’s family. The turtle sandbox lid blew across the yard, lodging itself under our fence. Rinsing a measuring cup and gazing out the sink window at a favorite redbud, I said, “We’ll be lucky not to lose a tree.” Seconds later, the redbud snapped and blew halfway across the side yard. This lovely tree was planted 16 years ago when we built our contemporary ranch and had thrived at the southeast corner of the house safe from Plain City’s prevailing northwest winds.
The downspout on the east-facing wall with the sink window was ripped away from the gutter and from two brackets attaching it to the brick. Incredibly, tiny hummingbirds kept fighting their way to the sink window feeder despite what we later learned were 78 mph winds. We were in the midst of a Category I Hurricane in central Ohio.
Feeling it unwise to venture out, we watched a hanging hummingbird feeder on the deck blow down and break. Because our large garage door was open when the power went out and is a pain to reset, leaves, twigs, pods, and other debris piled up under Steve’s car and on the ramp into the house. Safe and snug inside, we feasted on cookie dough (a family tradition but not recommended due to uncooked eggs). Steve whupped Andrew twice at Stocks & Bonds, Andrew redeemed himself with one win and, as the light faded, I joined in Flinch, a four-generation favorite from my side of the family.
Between games, I surveyed our yard from windows facing each direction. Unbelievably, the redbud appeared to be the only tree down. When we purchased this five-acre farm field, there was nothing on it but weeds. Not one single tree or shrub. The builder supplied foundation plantings, including the redbud, and we hired labor from local nurseries periodically, but Dad and I planted most of the trees ourselves. Because my manual labor and my husband’s hard-earned money provided these trees, we cherish each of our 135 trees and 95 shrubs individually. Concluding my assessment by peering out the half-round window in the master bath, I beheld two doves huddled together on the mulch sheltered at the west end of the house. In all our years of wildlife watching, I’ve never seen birds battened down on the ground during a storm. I understood the comfort they felt near each other and returned to the kitchen to be near my men.
Before daylight failed, we assembled Andrew’s lunch for Monday: peanut butter & honey sandwich, thermos of apple juice, banana, and secret compartment snack (miniature Reese’s peanut butter cup or York mint hidden in the outer pocket of his insulated lunch bag). I set out brass candlesticks and glass polar bear votive candleholders in addition to a more prosaic flashlight. We bet how long Andrew could read from the phone book by the light of the window. Steve guessed 7:30 p.m., I estimated 7:45 p.m., and Andrew bet on 8:15 p.m. By 8 o’clock, sharp-eyed Andrew could still read the smallest line, so we conceded victory to him.
Since our digital landline was out, I called our older son James at his Indiana college on my cell phone, but had to leave a message. I fed Sasha and put on heavy wellies to protect my feet from debris in the dark as I took her out last thing. By 9 p.m., the frightening roar had subsided to a mere whisper. It might have been a normal night in our quiet country suburb but for the strident scream of the sirens and the pods, leaves, and branches littering the yard. I retrieved the turtle sandbox lid and weighted it down with a piece of firewood. An environmentalist, I appreciated the absence of light pollution emanating from two McMansions in the new development behind us: the “Lincoln Memorial” didn’t have its upturned lights showcasing the home southwest of us, and the obnoxious 24-hour security lights on the four-car garage of the monstrosity west of us were replaced by a subdued glow from two windows.
Steve set a battery-operated travel alarm for 5:50 a.m. since school had not been called off when we went to bed. As we drifted to sleep, my sister Sylvia called from Indianapolis to confirm we were OK and to report the power was out at our folks’ home where she’s living while renovating a house cater-corner to them.
The beep of the smoke alarms, signaling power was back on, woke me at 1:40 a.m. I padded round the house, turned off a light we missed in the half-bath, restarted the dryer, closed the garage door, and asked Steve to see about Andrew’s homework. Luckily, Word recovered the document, and while he had the computer up, Steve discovered Dublin City Schools were closed. Since Andrew asked me to let him know if school was canceled, I woke him up to tell him he could sleep in. It would be our first “Hurricane Day.”
Coming in Part 2: How James’ classmates deal with Ike at Earlham College, Mom’s Red Sox emergency, niece Elizabeth’s Hanover College closes for a week, friend Stephanie drives through flock of “flying squirrels,” Fred & Kathy’s outdoor square dance speakers are blown away, and Tractor Supply checks out customers Megan & Terry with ease despite power outage.