AUTHOR NOTE: This is posting admittedly late due to technical difficulties. I hope it is still enjoyable. Unfortunately I didn’t take pics of the NYC tornados.
Last week at this time, Hurricane Earl was due to wreak some havoc on the East End of Long Island (among other far easterly locales). It was never supposed to make landfall or affect the area as a Category 1 Hurricane or higher, but according to most of the computer models, Earl was certainly forecasted to cause some major Tropical Storm-level nastiness at the start of an ever-important summer holiday weekend: high winds, storm surge, downed branches, and some sideways rain with a dose of local flooding in low-lying areas—at the very least.
The clouds gathered and Friday morning the skies opened up, letting loose buckets of rain over the course of ten minutes. German-engineered windshield wipers frantically flapped back and forth on luxury SUVs and people on foot and bicycles ran for cover under the inadequate doorways of high-end boutiques. The rain stopped as abruptly as it started. We held our breath, waiting for the Big One to begin in earnest.
Well, maybe not nothing. A little rain. A lot of rough surf and rip tides. Followed by some annoying wind that made sitting on the beach downright uncomfortable if not impossible on Saturday and Sunday.
Considering what was supposed to happen, that’s all pretty good, right?
For some reason, people seemed disappointed that the storm never materialized. Perhaps it was because the collective need for drama was not satisfied. Maybe it was because it felt like we were gypped; we were not given what we had been promised for nearly a week and now we had to figure out what were we going to do with all those batteries and candles. Or maybe it was because we can’t stand it when people (in this case meteorologists, who by the way, are human) are wrong, even if those people are ostensibly trying to predict the future. (What if it was your job to do that every day? Professional gamblers aside, of course.) We’ll accept nothing less than 100% accuracy—be it from hair stylists or doctors.
People probably should’ve been relieved that they didn’t experience any major property damage or extended electricity loss or really suffer in any way shape or form. But instead they seemed more pissed than anything. It was like their favorite TV show had been cancelled and there was nothing else to watch except a marathon of The Real Housewives of New Jersey (which they’d already seen before—twice).
Though I too felt a level of disappointment, I’d venture to say it was for different reasons than my fellow East Enders. Hurricanes happen to figure prominently in my new in-progress novel—as does hurricane-chasing meteorologists—so in some sense, I hit the jackpot as one of my Weather Channel meteorologist buddies, Mike Seidel, happened to be stationed out in Montauk to do live shots pre, during and post (ha!) storm. His proximity meant I could zip east down Route 27 at will to see him and the field producing team in action both on Wednesday and on Friday. (I think I lost ten pounds of water weight sitting in the satellite truck for 45 minutes since the A/C was no match for the blistering heat outside on Wednesday afternoon. But man was I in heaven!)
Having a front row seat at the weather event of the year (much better than front row at Fashion Week, IMHO) was an amazing opportunity, one that I had been hoping to have for the past three summers. Though the waves off Montauk provided a dramatic backdrop, the lack of real honest-to-goodness, wild-and-woolly weather that I could experience first-hand alongside my hurricane chaser and personal meteorological tour guide—all in the name of research, mind you, not a deep-seated death wish—left me forlorn to say the least. I wouldn’t feel the wind whipping at 50 mph or above, nearly knocking me over as they did to Jim Cantore in Hatteras, or getting sand blasted like Stephanie Abrams in Kill Devil Hills. I wouldn’t have to wade through knee-deep floodwaters or retreat to higher ground to avoid the storm surge or ride out the storm sitting in front of a propped up mattress to keep the water from flooding my motel room.
As they say, close but no cigar.
Guess I’ll have to rely on my imagination—and maybe a few more interviews with those who have actually toughed out hurricanes gone by—to get me there.