Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Reflections on the Frankenstorm and the Perfect Storm

It was a Thursday night in 1991 and I was living in Marblehead. I stopped at a friend's house on the way home from work and she said, “You live right on the water, don't you? Are you going to evacuate?” I didn't know what she was talking about – I had been at work all day and hadn't heard the news – a big storm was headed our way. I stayed in the house that night and it shook so hard that water sloshed out of the toilets and, by morning, our dock was gone and there was a 35 foot cabin cruiser on the lawn. Two days later I was in a restaurant in Gloucester when I heard a man say, “They say the Andrea Gail is missing.” It was a time I never forgot.

I had been through bad storms while living in Texas. I remember one that left the weeping willow trees in the courtyard of our apartment in the swimming pool and another when the hurricane barreled right through downtown leaving shattered glass hip deep in the streets and beds hanging out of the windows of the Sheraton. I do not like storms and am always nervous when one is on the way.

For the last few days I've received lots of emails a calls from friends in other places asking how we in Gloucester fared through Sandy. I tell them we are fine. There was not much to complain about but the pictures of other parts of the country make me sick to my stomach. How do people recover? I know that New Orleans recovered and Houston recovered but when I look at these photos I just want to cry. Maybe because I have recently been working on my Halcyon Beach stories the one below affected me very deeply – an amusement park roller coaster washed out to sea.
 An amusement park roller coaster taken by the storm.
 In West Virginia, Sandy created three feet of snow.
 On Lake Erie, waves battered a lighthouse
 Much of Atlantic City has been washed away
 Too late to call a cab in Hoboken
One of the saddest loses, the HMS Bounty sinks to the bottom of the sea taking her captain with her

Good Harbor Beach at high tide. The bridge held.

Eastern Point Light in Gloucester
All that remains

I just do not have words to express my shock and grief and sadness. New York. NEW YORK! How can this happen to New York? All these pictures do is remind me – like I need reminding – of how small we are in the face of the natural world and yet how large we can be in helping one another. Some meteorologists say that violent storms are becoming the new normal. As the polar ice caps melt and the seas warm and rise our shores will recede and storms like Sandy will increase. The one thing I keep thinking over and over is, “We've got to take care of our planet. Even if climate change is inevitable what is wrong with doing everything possible to protect our planet?”

Last week I was sitting at my desk writing when the whole house began to shake and the windows rattled strong enough to make the wind chimes ring. It was an earthquake that measured 4.0 on the Ricter scale. 

A few days later on a cold, brilliant day, the sky was filled with rainbows – Sun Dogs (above) on either side of the sun and a Circumzenithal Arc (below) – nature at its most beautiful. 

I have no words of wisdom here – only humble wonder at the world in which we live. We need to take care of it. We need to realize we are dependent on it for our continued existence. We need to understand this before it is too late.

Thanks for reading.


  1. It seems trivial in light of everything else that happened, but the loss of the Bounty makes me very sad. That 16 people died with her makes it even worse. I read that she was heading for safer waters as fast as she could but she should never have even been to sea with that storm approaching. There was plenty of warning. It all seems like such tragic stupidity.

  2. I agree, Peter, about how sad it is but, to set the record straight only 2 people died - the captain and 1 crew member. The Coast Guard rescued 14 of them. They were headed east in the hopes of getting to the far side of the storm but didn't make it.


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