Daze of My Life/Weather YouÕre Ready or Knot

by Kenneth B. Lourie

Sticks and stones (and ÒprojectilesÓ) may break my bones, but names will never hurt me. Oh yeah? Was that childhood taunt from before or after hurricane season and the named storms that made it?

Having now reached the age where IÕve probably forgotten more than I can remember, certainly IÕd like to think that I will not soon forget Isabel, the ninth named storm of the 2003 hurricane season. The Washington metropolitan area had ample warning of her arrival. We were not ill-prepared nor were we ill-advised (PEPCO, BG&E and Dominion Power issues notwithstanding). Maybe we were a bit too hasty with our school, government, public transportation and retail closures, but prudence dictates safety first. Admissions of irresponsibility are nice, but practically speaking, in the aftermath of a weather disaster, what good are they?

So we overreacted and jumped the gun. What else is new? What other choice did we have? Ignore the power and life-altering devastation that Mother Nature can sometimes deliver? Hardly. Perform hurricane-donÕt-bring-any-excessive-wind-and-rain dances? If you feel so inclined. Stock up on batteries, duct tape, flashlights, bottled water, toilet paper and prepared, non-perishable-type foods? Of course!

ItÕs not like we havenÕt lived through those horrible Washington, D.C. winters when the snowfall accumulation can sometimes reach into the inches and the lines of emergency preparers at the supermarket can reach into the feet, thatÕs hundreds of feet, as customers wait ever so impatiently to have their groceries bagged and their fallout sheltersÕ inventory secure.

But Hurricane Isabel didnÕt really present, or shall I say hit, Washingtonians with any new challenges. ItÕs more accurate to say that the storm hit Washingtonians with everything, even the kitchen sink if you werenÕt careful. And what made the effects of it even worse was that the hardest rains and strongest winds arrived at night, in the dark, when hearing - boom, crack, snap, bang, crash and thud - provided our only sense of the damage. It wasnÕt until morning and the light of Friday that we were truly able to access the stormÕs impact. And impact, literally, was how it felt. From downed power lines to uprooted trees to flooded first floors to darkened traffic lights to 1,000-person-long lines for dry ice to 17 fatalities at last count, the region suffered through Òprobably the worst storm in a generation,Ó according to Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner.

Isabel is gone now but...

The cleanup will take weeks, the rebuilding months and the return to normal, years. WeÕll live and learn and know better what to expect the next time a Category 2 hurricane with sustained winds of 105 mph is bearing down on our coastline. It was not fun while it lasted, thatÕs for sure. ThatÕs what IÕll remember, that and using a handsaw to cut up some 100-year-old trees that had fallen across my driveway.

Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.