This Side Up

Just another storm

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You know we’re getting used to this.

So, the forecast was for a powerful nor’easter with high winds, lots of rain and ending with an inch to two inches of wet snow. That apparently didn’t trouble too many. After all this is New England and, as we know, the weather can change rapidly. That’s part of living here.

My son Ted, who loves wind surfing and paddle boarding in the waves, is our weather expert. We checked with him before firming up plans to drive to upstate New York to visit relatives. He’d been watching the storm and knew it would be bringing some serious waves. His read was that it was more of a coastal storm and we would likely find conditions improve as we drove west.

Even with the first hints of the storm Thursday there was little buzz about the hurricane-force winds and heavy rains to come our way. Had the forecast been for snow, the reaction would have certainly been different. There would have been lines at the supermarkets and a palpable level of anxiety. There would have been talk of school cancellations, parking bans and most definitely advisories from municipal and state leaders to stay off the highways and hunker down.

But no, there was none of that. Wind and rain, well, we can deal with that.

Of course, we did deal with it, but the storm was more than what we imagined.

I got a clue to what was to come Friday morning. The bay was heaving with steep, choppy waves that smashed against the seawall, sending spray flying toward the house. The wind whipped around the window casings creating a mournful howl that set us on edge. Ollie was only comfortable in his dog crate. This wasn’t looking good and only carried the potent of getting worse with a rising tide.

I got out the foul weather gear and boots. Beyond the neighborhood the effects of the storm were less pronounced. Trees swayed. Rain beat on the windshield. West Shore Road had plenty of traffic. School buses completed their routes. The Friday routine was playing out.

The Toll Gate educational complex lost power when limbs brought down wires on Commonwealth Avenue. It was a localized issue. The question was how long might it take to restore power and whether to reroute buses after they completed elementary school routes to send the Toll Gate kids home. No one would think that by that afternoon 150,000 National Grid customers would lose power or that most of Warwick would be in the dark.

I was one of those assuming that everything was under control.

I headed for a late morning meeting at URI that was expected to run until about 4 that afternoon.

The ride gave me a sampling of the worsening conditions. Winds buffeted the car, but traffic on Route 4 proceeded at a pace as if it was a sunny June weekend and in a rush to get to the beach.

By 2:30 p.m. those at the meeting were getting word what was happening beyond the flickering lights at Alumni Hall. A tractor-trailer had capsized on the Pell Bridge. The bridge was closed. There were reports of downed trees blocking highways and increased power outages. Now there were nervous looks. The chairman suggested some of us might want to leave early.

I joined the exodus after talking with Carol and learning we had lost power. I was surprised to discover traffic both ways on Route 4 – perhaps moving somewhat more cautiously in the stiffening wind, although just as purposely. I chose to get off at East Greenwich and assess conditions. I detoured around a downed tree on Division Street, but other than that found the going relatively easy.

I checked in with folks in upstate New York. They already had 16 inches of snow and were expecting 30. We wouldn’t be driving there.

At home we got the coal stove going. Carol got out the candles. She warned me not to open the fridge, not even to get out ice cream. Oh what sacrifices.

The phone still worked. We got a call from Mayor Scott Avedisian, as did thousands of others. Carol called National Grid, as he advised, just to be certain they knew the neighborhood was without power.

Was this what we expected? No. Will it go down as one of the most sustained storms in memory, as some of those at National Grid think? Probably not?

Rather, it seems we’re growing accused to climate change.

So, what’s Mother Nature going to dish up next? It could be more snow as soon as tomorrow.

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