If you’re a crossword puzzle person, you probably know that word. If not, here’s the definition:
“To make into an island; to set apart from others; to isolate.”
Yep…that was us all right. Hurricane Matthew “enisled” us.
We made the decision on Friday morning. Took a straw vote with our neighbors and, in hurricane-speak, decided to ”ride it out.” We knew we wouldn’t be flooded…at least by the river. The bluff’s too high and there’s too much space between it and us. All the other elements were variable and subject to change.
But, at least, the go/no-go conversation was over. We collectively decided to go against the mandated evacuation order and sit tight.
At some point during our final preparations on Friday, we came across a long-lost, little blue battery-driven radio. We pulled it out and loaded it up “just in case.” We also, “just in case,” prepared a safe zone, in a deep closet under the stairs which we were pretty sure could withstand just about anything. Put some wine in there, a few comfy pillows, took silly pictures and assumed we wouldn’t need it. Also hung up a sign in the safe room with my old school motto. It reads: “Function in Disaster; Finish in Style.”
On Friday afternoon, it looked like there would be high winds but nothing we hadn’t seen before. So we congratulated ourselves. We would be safe here on the May. Enjoyed our wine, had pleasant dinners. Watched a bit of the political mess on Friday evening and went to sleep.
At 11:30 pm Matthew arrived in earnest. By 1:30 am we’d retreated to our safe zone, huddled with the radios and seriously starting to question our decision. We were in text mode with the next-door neighbors. None of us voiced our fear but it was palpable. The information coming to us was not encouraging.
Around 2:30 am the power went out. And all we had was noise and darkness. Loud, unrelenting, banging, howling noises. Except for the rain, pounding on the tin chimney flashings, we didn’t know what the noises were. Thunder? Trees falling on the house? Shutters being torn off? Docks being ripped away? Windows exploding? Transformers blowing? Who knew? We didn’t.
Our trusty NOAA radio, guaranteed to withstand all inclement weather, went out. So-long storm updates.
Then cell service died. Bye-bye neighbors.
The little blue radio was our last hope. And then, even IT quit.
Four, seemingly endless, hours of fear and blackness. Not knowing.
But then the dawn came and we realized this old house and our neighbor’s house were standing; the docks were still attached; even our little boat was at the ready. Big trees were down and Mother Nature had vigorously pruned many limbs and much of the Spanish Moss but we were okay.
For almost three days, we had no power. No cell service. Electrical lines were down. And live. No newspapers, obviously. There were food issues, or more appropriately put, issues of no food. We were trapped by large downed trees. There was no contact with the outside world. We were isolated, set apart, enisled.
(Personal confession of naiveté and ignorance here: I don’t know exactly where my brain was but those obvious consequences of “riding it out” weren’t part of my plan.)
Of this writing, of course, things have changed. For the better.
All around us, residents have returned and the stories are just beginning. Many are hard to hear and read about.
Our son’s house is by-and-large destroyed. They have their hands full.
My cousin’s son, Hayes, refers to this time as the “Aftermatthew.” The tough time. For so many people.
Upon reflection, I think we’d make the same decision. But I’m not absolutely, completely, totally, sure about that.
A brief caveat: This is a birds-eye view of the storm. It’s not intended to be comprehensive or reflective of the many efforts, by so many people, to restore our communities.