I’d call this the “calm before the storm,” but it’s not quiet on our block. All day, landscaping crews have been working, filling the air with the near-constant whirr of Weed Whackers and leaf blowers. At first, I thought our neighbors were getting ripped off — seriously, they’re using leaf blowers just hours before a major hurricane hits NYC?? But apparently they are trimming bushes and trees and clearing anything that could block drainage from torrential rains.
We finished our hurricane prep this morning — putting outdoor furniture in the garage, bringing in potted plants, securing the sandbox lid, etc. Over the past couple of days we stocked up on canned food, water, flashlights, batteries, candles, and gas in the car, so we should have all the supplies we need for the coming days. We’re hunkering down at home — we live in NYC’s hurricane evacuation “Zone C,” but we don’t expect to be told to evacuate during this storm. So really all that’s left to do is wait.
Besides the physical preparations, we’ve been trying to mentally prepare N for the coming storm. She knows about radar — we taught her how to read it on the iPad during our summer storms this year. We explained what would happen during the hurricane and tried to be as reassuring as possible. She has been asking lots of questions, like, “Mama, do hurricanes blow down houses?” All her questions have provided us with opportunities to reassure her.
Still, she’s scared. I didn’t realize it until last night when she started acting out at bedtime. She threw a tantrum on the bathroom floor and refused to brush her teeth. Exasperated, I raised my voice with her — until she threw her arms around me, crying, and said, “Mama, I’m scared of the hurricane.”
“Oh, sweetie,” I said and hugged her tight. “What are you scared will happen?”
“Our house will blow down,” she wailed.
“No, our house will not blow down,” I said firmly. Then I tried saying all the normal reassuring parent-things, like “we’re going to be just fine,” and “mommy and daddy will be here all the time.” Nothing worked — she just kept crying.
Then I said, “Did you know that our house is SO excited right now?” She stopped crying and looked at me curiously, so I continued, “Our house is SO excited that it gets to protect us in a hurricane!” I pretended to be our house, saying things like “All right! Come on hurricane! You can’t do anything bad to me!” She started to smile and I could tell she was absorbed by the thought. After that, bedtime went more smoothly.
I have to admit that my nerves are a bit more frayed than usual, given the week our family has had — even prior to Irene’s arrival. Earlier this week G flew to Seattle for a three-day business trip, leaving me with primary responsibility for the girls. That was stressful enough — but while he was away a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck Virginia, and here in NYC, the ground shook beneath our feet.
I was at home in our living room, holding Baby Sis in my arms, when the floor started moving. Our lamps and blinds began to shake; I felt as though I was on standing a boat over rolling waves. My first thought was — the house is coming down! Then I wondered, was there a terrorist explosion that I didn’t hear, but can feel-? I ran outside with Sis in my arms. All of our neighbors were running out of their houses at the same time, asking “What in the heck was that??”
Since the quake, I’ve caught myself several times freezing in place, watching the blinds and wondering “is it happening again??”
We were lucky that the earthquake wasn’t a major event and didn’t seriously injure anyone. Hurricane Irene is a different story — today we heard that the storm has already claimed at least two lives in North Carolina, due to tree branches snapping in high winds.
Here in Brooklyn, we know that Irene will bring high winds and lots of rain, but we don’t really know what her impacts will be. So we’re in wait-and-see mode.
In the past few minutes, the Weed Whackers and leaf blowers have stopped. So now it really is the calm before the storm.