DENNIS — One September afternoon in 1938, with the wind howling and the rain thick, my father told us to go in the dining room and stay there.
Putting on his rain gear, he then told my mother he had to go up to the field and see to the dozens of free-range turkeys he was raising for sale at Thanksgiving. It is the only time I ever saw fear on my mother’s face. Then the look was gone, and she shooed us into the dining room.
Either before or after these events, an enormous poplar tree fell on our porch and living room, but we were as safe as possible in the room at the center of the house. Other trees went down, fire trucks screamed past, and the power went out. We had no idea, there in our Amherst house, that we were in the midst of a hurricane that would prove historic.
Last week on Aug. 19, we marked the 30th anniversary of Hurricane Bob, right on the same Dennis beach where we had spent that storm in various states of fright and awe. My vote at the time was to leave for safer places while the bridges were still open, but I was powerless in a wave of “stay” votes — and in a very short time, we were all powerless — no lights, no hot water, no cooking.
We clustered in the big room facing the bay, watched a roof fly off to the east of us and laughed when an upended plastic pool sped by on the beach. The flying trash can seemed a little more dangerous.
We had a lull while the eye went over us, then the world whirled again. And when it was over, we looked out the back windows to find that many trees had toppled. We had escaped a surge of water because it was low tide, but our sandy road was flooded.
When the roads cleared, we found a motel on the south shore with its lights on and rented a room for $25 so we could all shower and feel better about sharing space. Over a hot breakfast in that same lucky neighborhood, it was agreed that the mom was possibly right. We should have left when the leaving was good.
The meteorologists had a pretty good handle on that hurricane at least a day before it arrived. Now they start projecting routes for big storms when circles first form over the warmth of the Caribbean waters. And the experts never agree, so huge populations are on tenterhooks for a week or more while the Euro, American, CLP5, etc., models roll across the TV screen, and we learn terms like the “cone of uncertainty” — which certainly makes thousands quite uncertain.
Meanwhile, Henri shifts gears with abandon, moving west one hour, east the next. Will he decide to land at Montauk on the eastern tip of Long Island, near our daughter’s home in southeastern Connecticut, or blow out to sea? As we look over the waving dune grasses to the same beach we were on 30 years ago and marvel at an occasional errant patch of blue sky, we can only wait and see.
This time, the moon is full, the Saturday night tide swooped high on the beach and will do it again while Henri and his accompanying wind and rain pass by. Before that, wary of losing power, this column will be sent to the newspaper. Imaginative readers may write their own ends to the story.