Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010

Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010
Photo by R.E. Berg-Andersson

Friday, October 26, 2012

Waiting for Sandy

Hurricane Sandy, or what the media call "Frankenstorm," is a few days away from hitting somewhere along the Midatlantic. There is a good chance it will strike the Jersey shore, but even if it is not a direct hit we will all be feeling the effects.

October 2011 snowstorm
Didn't we go through this around now, last year? Why yes, we did. Only last time we had a freak snowstorm that hit the leafy trees, pulled them down and disrupted power for a while.

This year the expected cold front won't make it here in time but the moon will be full and the tides would be higher than normal anyway. With the expected very high winds pushing high water there could be severe flooding along the coast, and that includes the tip of lower Manhattan.

Here in my part of New Jersey, my husband, with his scientific way of thinking, has been buying nonperishable groceries, restocking the battery case, refilling the flashlights. This morning I held the ladder as he climbed to the lower roof gutters to pull out debris.

At the same time, here is how many of those in my area were getting ready. They were blowing leaves to the curb.

I have lived in the suburbs for nearly two decades and I still can't understand this lawn lust, this need to water excessively, cut to literally within an inch of the grass's life and blow every last thing off to the street, heedless of whether it impedes a person's or a car's ability to travel down said street.

For me, it is a USELESS and WASTEFUL activity to blow several weeks's worth of leaves to the curb just ahead of a hurricane or tropical storm.

Best-case scenario - the leaves blow back on the homeowner's lawn, forcing him or her to do the job all over again, or pay someone else to do it all over again.

Worst-case scenario - the rivers expected will be blocked from going down the drains, creating ponds in the middle of the street. Already-treacherous travel will worsen. Water may even back up into homes.

The noise from the leaf blower-fans, which are much more power than the electric-powered blower I use only as a last resort, is deafening. As I sit in my home office, making plans for what to do to keep working and living should we lose power, the sound is as loud and as annoying as a continual car alarm or a siren.

Even as these lawn services or homeowners finish, the breeze brings down another handful of leaves. But hey, you've just paid for several big guys to do 10 minutes of work to give you 14 seconds of spiffy green lawn. Hurrah, I guess you're better than me.

I can barely see the grass in my backyard for all the elm, oak and maple leaves but there is no way I am going to go out when more leaves - and perhaps some tree limbs - come down in the storm. There are more important things.

These people will probably also freak out because they can't watch their flat-screen tvs, use their fancy big ovens and may lose what's in their fancy refrigerators.

Barnegat jetty. Will it be enough to protect the coast from Sandy?
Some do plan. There's my neighbor with the big gas-powered generator. Last year he ran his continually. It made a lot of noise and stunk of gasoline but at least he kept his refrigerator and other appliances going.

As these "freak" storms become more common, as even more of those who deny there is anything called global warning start wondering about all these extremes - too much rain, too much wind, too much heat, no snow, too much cold - we've been having, I am going to have to plan to buy a generator, too, for the next storm.

Even in my modest home, if I don't have power, I don't work, and if I don't work, I don't earn money. That is, literally and figuratively, the bottom line.

But at least I do not live near the water. All those people who built homes on barrier islands and those other people who tore down low-lying bungalows to put up high-profile behemoth beach houses should be ashamed of themselves. But they aren't. The builders got their permits and are long gone, and the homeowners will rebuild.

I don't want to wish this storm on anyone, especially anyone on the Delmarva, where I expect to be traveling in a few weeks, but I hope Sandy's blow isn't as hard in New Jersey as I fear it will be.