Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ophelia Update and Vigilance

Looks like Ophelia will be giving us a pass - literally.

Ophelia, which a few days ago looked ready to hit the Virgin Islands pretty hard, has weakened and veered to the north, just like Maria did a few weeks earlier. Closest pass will be tonight, more than 200 miles north of us. We'll get some rain out of it – maybe as much as a couple of inches, but that's all.

And Philippe, which formed up a couple of days ago off the the coast of Africa, is not a threat to anybody at this point. Every forecast and computer model shows it veering away to the northeast and just sort of fading out in mid-Atlantic.

It's been a busy hurricane season, we're already up to P and it's still September, but so far no big problem. But we can't let down our guard. The season runs through November. Our first year here we got hit by our first hurricane in mid-October. That was Omar, and not only was the storm late, it came out of nowhere, approaching from the south southwest instead of the east.

So we're keeping our eyes open and fingers crossed. Keeps yours crossed for us – fingers, that is. Not eyes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Random Connections on the Island

Some random thoughts:

Tropical Storm Maria was a total bust. Not that I'm complaining, but after you make a bunch of plans, you feel weirdly cheated if you don't get to use them. Maria was storming towards the Antilles, picking up strength. Then two days before it was due here it just sort of stopped and fell apart. Then the remnants sort of meandered away to the northwest, dropping a bunch of rain on the way. We were still getting rain from what had been Maria four days after the storm was supposed to have come and gone.

You'd have thought the circus came to town. The crowds at the opening of the Home Depot was huge, and it didn't slack off at all. The store opened Wednesday and there were more than 1,000 people there. he parking lot was jammed, and even the adjacent lot had been weed-whacked and took lots of overflow parking. We wandered through but didn't even think about buying anything. The lines at the checkout were insane.

And the crowds didn't seem to abate through Sunday. Every time I drove by the place it was full. You have to understand that people have been waiting for this store for more than four years.

Had a pleasant Talk Like a Pirate Day evening at a restaurant that was new to me. Pirates Tavern is at Salt River Marina. Non-intuitively, it's a Mexican restaurant, but the food's great. We were there in the evening and with a storm brewing we sat out on the deck, maybe 20 feet from a row of tied up boats, watching lightning flicker over the hillside that rose above the far side of the marina.

The only problem I can see with Pirates Tavern is that it's located in an inconvenient spot from where we live. No easy way to get there. But it struck me as such a fantastic place to kill a Saturday afternoon – feet up on the railing, watching the boats and enjoying a cold beer – that we're going to try that some weekend soon.

But almost certainly not this weekend. Because another system is moving towards us out in the Atlantic. This one is likely to become Tropical Storm Ophelia within 24 hours. The computer projections disagree wildly about where it's heading, but a couple have it tracking directly over us. Others have it going far south or far north, So it's really way too early to say, but never too early to start preparing.

Maybe we should make a trip to Home Depot!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Here we go again

Now it's Tropical Storm Maria bearing down on the territory. We expect it to arrive about 24 hours from now, early to mid-morning Saturday.

Shouldn't be a hugely devastating storm – winds around 40, 50 mph. But four to eight inches of rain and the grounds already pretty soaked. Some flooding is likely. And, as I think I've mentioned, there's no storm drains.

So when Tori and Max get home from school this afternoon I'll run out to the store and top off supplies. I'll feel better with more batteries in hand, and one of our five-gallon water jugs needs to be refilled.

Then first thing in the morning I'll check all the windows – no loose jalousies – and then we'll just ride it out. Knowing Tori's excitement we'll probably run out and shoot some video, then try to get it posted before the power goes out. Because the power always goes out.

Oh! Apropos of nothing – I got new glasses yesterday. The first new glasses I've had in five years. Wow! Talk about a whole new world! I didn't realize all I wasn't seeing. Tori almost got tired of hearing me say, "Did that always look like that!"

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Leftover Thoughts

Just a couple of leftover thoughts from the recent passage of Tropical Storm Irene two wees ago and Hurricane Kata passing well to the north of us yesterday.

  • The most annoying thing about the power going out is not the darkness – we've got candles and lanterns and flashlights. It's not the TV or even the Internet being out. We gathered around the table and played cards. And we read a lot. It's not being able to flush the toilets.

    No, we don't have Electric Toilets, although that would be a pretty good name for a rock band. But our water comes from the cistern under the house. Rainwater is funneled off the roof and collected in the cistern. It's pumped up into the house by – you guessed it, didn't you – an electric pump. No electricity, no running water.

    Yes, we can fill the toilet tanks manually. We even have gallons of water stored for just that purpose. But when you don't know how long the power will e out, you don't want to waste it until there's a fair amount of waste. After Hurricane Omar in 2008, we were without power for over three days. Using a bucket and rope to pull water from the cistern to flush toilets gets very old.

    Fortunately we were only without power about 12, 14 hours this time. Not so bad.

  • One of my very favorite words learned since I moved here is jalousie. Almost every house on the islands has windows made of those slates that you crank open or closed. Those are called jalousies. And in the hours before Irene fully arrived, I was touring the house to make sure it was all buttoned down. In the bedrooms, I found that both Max's and Kate's beds were damp because rain had been blowing between the slats that hadn't been cranked down as tightly as they should have been.

    Going back downstairs with my arms full of damp bedding, I remonstrated with them, and came up with an even better band name than electric toilet.

    Ladies and Gentlemen! Give it up for .... Loose Jalousie!

  • Finally, we've had our eyes on Katia for days, and are delighted to report she passed more than 300 miles from here yesterday, just like the forecasters predicted. They don't always do that. Irene, for example, was supposed to pass south of here, but in its last day before arrival veered to the north and came almost over the top.

    Katia was well behaved and stayed where she was supposed to. Now the computer models are predicting she'll veer off to the north and fall apart over the north Atlantic without ever making landfall in the states. Good for her.

    We were supposed to get some big swells yesterday, but out at Dorsch Beach the waves were mild as ever. Maybe they were a little bigger on the northside, at Cane Bay, but probably not There's several islands between us and where Katia went, most notably St. Thomas. It may have gotten some big waves on its north side, but I haven't heard.

    Instead we had sunshine and light breezes. Just another day in paradise. The uncertainty of hurricane season is just the price we pay for getting to live here.