Sunday, March 9, 2014

Between Hurricane Seasons


A drop behind the ferry
Finally it is March. For this part of the coast, that should mean spring. It is not spring despite the daffodils and crepe myrtle blooming.

With cold freezing rain again this past week, the cars sheathed in ice, Beth's school cancelled classes. Bitter and sharp northerly gale-force winds rocked us to sleep. The air was cloudy with blowing mist, gray and dull under sunless skies.

Raccoon Creek (usually called the Duck Pond) flooded Hodges Street, but The Bean was open for anyone with Neuse Nikes, the white rubber calf-high fishermen's boots ubiquitous to our working waterfront. Inside the warm coffee shop, hot drinks mixed with warm conversation and a view across the cold and lifeless harbor.

Lying in my berth a couple mornings back, listening to the bursts of wind and rocked by the swing of the boat, I thought, "What if? What if our climate has begun a significant and irreversible change? A cataclysmic change? What if the increasing frequency and intensity of storms we have witnessed this year is just the beginning?"


On the plus side of the life ledger, with sea levels rising, living on a boat is fairly ideal. Still, a boat is vulnerable to big storms. We can prepare for hurricanes, pulling the boat out of the water or seeking a sheltered anchorage up one of the many creeks that feed the Neuse. But how should we prepare for a threat as broad as climate change?

When we are accustomed to and familiar with certain cycles, change is disruptive and disorienting (disorientating, if you are British). When sailing open water with no shore in sight, we depend upon the guidance of charts and GPS to know where we are and to see where our destination lies and how long we must travel to reach port. There is no guide for climate, especially when it is a material change to the familiar, no pattern of latitude and longitude on which we can find our position. Climate unfolds in its own way, conserving its mystery until we experience its effect.




Midway between the 2013 and 2014 hurricane seasons is a good time to reflect on last year. Fortunately, the weather prognosticators were badly wrong on the high side, calling for more and more severe hurricane activity than we witnessed. For the first time since 2010, we did not have a local hurricane. 

Nevertheless, we dutifully and diligently studied daily the origins, projected paths and timing of every tropical disturbance identified by NOAA. We followed the reports of the hurricane hunters each time they flew into a storm to take wind and pressure readings. We scoured multiple sources of weather data for anomalies, knowing that one source cannot catch it all. We watched the progress of fronts sweeping across the continent to block or deflect or feed threatening systems.

Last year, none struck us. We never had to seriously evaluate the severity of the risk to determine the best place for the boat and ourselves. But the time will come. There is no year without concern for hurricanes. Until then, we will enjoy the sun any day we can.



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