Monday, August 29, 2011

Irene in Maine

Hurricane Irene has passed, dropping devastating floods in Vermont and parts of upstate New York; She only brushed against midcoast Maine. People here were prepared for tropical storm force winds and a downpour. By Friday, six or eight lobster boats had steamed at high tide into the Mill Pond, a quiet pool beyond a small inlet at the very most inland point of the bay. Normally the Mill Pond is known mainly for its clam flats, and the lobstermen beached their boats at high tide and presumably walked away through the marsh grass.

We decided to keep our two boats, a lobster boat and a fourteen foot sailboat, on their moorings. We brought the canoe up under the deck, hid the swim ladder under a small rowboat turned upside down and lashed down on the dock, and carriedin all the chairs from the terrace.

Saturday night it rained hard, and the wind rose, forming whitecaps on the bay. Sunday morning broke foggy but not raining. The wind roared in from the east, a most unusual direction. A large island protects us to the east, but the short still built up a chop. Over the course of the day, the wind slowly mounted as it veered from east to southeast to south.

Still no rain fell. High tide arrived at 10 pm. It was a moon tide, already the highest tide of the month; and on top of that came the two-foot remnant of the storm surge and the driving wind. Waves broke at the edge of the lawn. Spray flew over the top of the pier. The ramp leading down from the stone pier to the float, which varies between about a ten percent grade and a forty percent grade as the tide rises and falls, was now almost flat. In the middle of the ramp, a juvenile herring gull huddled against the wind, looking at us, too exhausted to fly away as we approached. Another hovered about six feet off the dock, unmoving in mid air, like an aerodynamic airplane hull passing standard in a wind tunnel.

The night passed, and the tide fell. Today dawned as bright and glittering as only a late summer day on the coast can be. A short chop and a long swell still agitated the water, while driftwood and rafts of rockweed littered the surface. Nobody seemed to be out lobstering. One of our floats and one of our moorings had shifted several feet downwind, and the lawn was covered with oak leaves--no birch, pine, maple, or beech leaves, only oak leaves.

Irene is gone, but if predictions of climate change are right, as the ocean warms, we will have more extreme weather events, as unexpected as a hurricane in Vermont. Fifty years from now, the ocean may lap the edges of the lawn at every high tide, and the trees that now line the shore may well have washed away, not just here, but all over the world. It's a sobering thought.

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