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All About Irene

August 30th, 2011 by Beth Colt

View from the second floor of the Inn, looking toward Juniper Point in the rainiest part of the storm.

Sunday is already a bit of a blur for me.  Mix exhaustion with adrenaline and too much caffeine and you get a solid forget-me drug.  I know I made it to the Inn to help with breakfast and there was a large crowd there enjoying the meal after several successful weddings (yes, we had guests with us attending THREE different Woods Hole affairs).

It was rainy, grey, still so very hot the air thick like in a movie but everything seemed normal — hot coffee flowing, baked goods fresh from the oven, halogen cutting the flat grey from outside.    Then the electricity flickered and died.  Wow, everyone could use a little makeup in the light of those camping lanterns.

By late morning, the wind was really howling, screaming into Woods Hole’s Great Harbor and the tide was high, lapping at the tops of the docks.  The Martha’s Vineyard ferries were bobbing visibly on the piers outside our windows.  Salt spray was washing over the building, covering the plants whipping in the 40-50 MPH winds.

Inside, many went back to bed, lulled to sleep by the roar of the winds and the dark light.  A group from one of the weddings gathered to watch a ten-month old baby crawl across the king size bed.  Little Susannah was adorable but I bet if the TV had been on with weather news, that would never have happened.  Someone broke out the Jenga and played a few distracted rounds before moving back to the hot tea and cookies.  Even the Sunday New York Times held little appeal — it was yesterday’s news and we were in the middle of the story of the week.  There really was nothing to do but wait it out.

By mid afternoon, it seemed to be tapering a bit.  It never hit the intensity of my memory of Hurricane Bob where the scream of the wind put your teeth on edge and the curvature of the glass windows threatened to bring the storm inside.  It didn’t rain a lot, which is a blessing as I watched roof tile whip past me to the street half the morning.  For us, several hundred miles from the eye, Irene was downgraded to a “tropical storm” and she was an entertaining but well-behaved actress, like a burlesque dancer from the roaring 1920’s (Irene) compared to a stripper on the “Sopranos.” (a stripper named Bob?  I guess on the Sopranos…)

I wandered out in the car.   The surf on Nobska Beach was intense, really churning in a way that we never see in Vineyard Sound (protected from the prevailing winds by Martha’s Vineyard.)  There was this bright yellow foam whipping off the top of the waves and oozing over the road in strips.  I heard that Surf Drive was impassable, covered with drifts of sand and seawater.  When I ventured from the car I felt small and vulnerable, the sound of the wind an overwhelming roar, and I struggled to keep my balance.

Crazy people frolic in the dangerous surf of Irene.

On the way home, I saw a power line bucking and sparking by the Sands of Time.  I later heard that when NStar tried to put our grid back online there was an explosion in a local house, burning it to the ground.  Terrible.  I hurried home, made a light dinner and collapsed.

Then it was just over.  A gorgeous day today, sunny and cool, the taste of fall in the air.  Except for the downed branches and the unusual smell of fresh green crushed leaves, you would never know there had been a storm.  The ducks were out on their favorite little dock, the only difference that a summer’s worth of duck poop was miraculously gone, fresh scrubbed, as if it was made new by some magic cobblers in the night.    I marveled at the small brown birds – so resilient! Where did they hide in all that wind?

Up way too early, I conquered the Inn’s generator system, managing to make warmish showers, hot coffee and freshly baked croissants with one plug and five gallons of gas.  I have to admit, I was pretty impressed with myself as mechanical tasks are amongst my most dreaded, and generally least successful.  Charlene took the sheets into Falmouth (can you say laundromat?) and Amanda and I cleaned rooms with brooms, dustpans and rags.  By three pm, we were still without power but miraculously ready to check in new guests.  We even managed a new batch of cookies.

When NStar showed up on the pole right outside the front door of the Inn I knew we were close.  Power was restored about 5.30 pm, my trusty generator put away for another day.  Irene was relatively sweet to us.  We we ready for worse, but so lucky we only got her simple side.  Our hearts go out to others out there not so lucky. We know first hand how scary it can be.  Now I hear there is a new tropical depression brewing out there…so we take our experience from this one and we wait for another battle.   Next time, less florescent camping lanterns and more battery operated candles!  I am gonna need that forgiving faux flicker to weather the next one.

3 Responses to “All About Irene” Comments are currently closed.

  1. Sam Smalley says:

    We’re glad you all are okay and no damaged. Hopefully we’ll get up there. We had a few limbs down during our tropical storm Lee and no water problems affected us. Hopefully Katia will veer off as today’s predictions!

    Take care,

    Sam & Marsha Smalley

    • Thanks Sam and Marsha –these storms are so tough! We got lucky in this one, just grazed us, but the preparations are just the same. Thanks for your kind words and I hope we all miss the path of the future ones. best — Beth

  2. So glad everything was ok for you and your guests! We took a trip down to the hole to go to pie in the sky, knowing they had a generator and knowing they’d be open from the last hurricane we had come through (2008?) and sure enough, warm fresh baked cookies awaited!

    We walked/blew down to the waterside park across from MBL and watched the water at garbage beach threaten to spill over the top of the sea wall that is usually about 9 feet higher than the water! What a crazy day.

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