As a rule, we feel kind of protected here in South Jersey. No tornadoes raking houses into splinters and all that, no mudslides, no wildfires, no avalanches, no earthquakes. But the truth is, storms happen at intervals, even here. I’ve been through a bunch in my lifetime, and none of them had to do with climate change. Just weather being its usual irascible and wildly unpredictable self.
My first hurricane was Donna, back when hurricanes all had girl names. 1960. She snapped off trees, big ones, and tore away the power lines. We had to flee like refugees to grandparent homes where they also had murdered trees but retained electricity.
My next hurricane, some years later, was at sea, technically irrelevant here as I experienced it in the South Atlantic onboard an ocean liner which just barely survived. Her name was Beulah. The ship, when she finally reached harbor in New York, was a battered and rusted wreck. Want to experience a hurricane up close? Watch 30 foot waves toss an ocean liner around like a cork for eight hours, sitting on the floor while glass breaks and grand pianos moonwalk across a ballroom.
There was also Floyd, a weak sister of a hurricane who was mostly rain and pushed over trees by making the ground soggy. I remember strolling through the village of Greenwich during the eye and thinking Donna would have laughed at Floyd. Then there was Sandy, who butchered the shore but mostly gave us, you guessed it, rain.
Thing is, there’s more than one kind of storm. They don’t name the ones that come in the winter. Those they just give dates — the Blizzard of ’87 or suchlike — and your only documentation is anecdotal.
I remember living in Philly in the 80s, and there was so much snow one year that whole rows of cars disappeared, and the few navigable streets were just narrow tunnels between snow banks.
Back in Jersey in the 90s, there was a freak ice storm that locked my MR2 in the driveway for two weeks, turned my Harley into a lovely ice sculpture, and took out the electricity for a week because ice kills power with a thousand tiny breaks in the lines, not a single downed electrical station. We camped in the living room, feeding wood into a small fireplace and eating cold food from cans.
A few years back we had a derecho, a dry hurricane that deprived us of electricity for five days. I sent my wife north and stayed with the dogs because somebody had to. First time I really believed I might die because of a storm. Temperatures were in the high nineties, the dogs were catatonic, and so, I concede, was I.
Storms happen. They happen all the time, even in what seem like the magically protected places. You can dream up conspiracy theories all you want, but the truth is, it’s just life on earth. It’s not change. It’s the rule. As the French say, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”