Well, when my coworkers and I bid each other goodnight on Wednesday, we didn’t realize it would be nearly a week before we came back! Although we knew the system was headed our way, we’ve had so many gulf systems impact us this year that it was difficult getting worked up over yet another. We did the library equivalent of battening the hatches (throwing tarps over our bookcases in leak-prone areas) and went our separate ways.
I fully expected Zeta to be nothing but wind and lots of rain, same as the other hurricanes that have come our way this year. The wind picked up before midnight, and we lost electricity roughly around that time. I still remember the wind from Hurricane Ivan, back in 2004, and the ominous constant popping of trees in the pine forests around my grandmother’s house. This time, the wind itself drowned out any sounds of falling timber: it sounded like the sustained rumble of a passing train, and at first I thought it was: where I live, it’s not unusual to hear the trainyard, either from passing freighters or from cars crashing into one another as a train is built. But this roar lasted nearly three hours, with more distinct bursts of wind.
While one of my housemates monitored the storm on their phone, the other pair of us stood watch on the porch in hopes of being forewarned if a tree was about to fall. The wind was exhilarating at first, but with so much stuff flying around we wound up standing just inside the house with our heads peeking out. By three o’clock, the worst in our area was over. Having been surprised by the wind, I was relieved that nothing had fallen on the house or our cars — especially my new one!
From phone calls throughout the night and early the next morning, I realized that I’d been stupidly lucky: many of my relatives had trees on their homes or cars, and at the “family home” (where my grandparents began keeping house and having kids, now one of my aunts lives there), the big shed was wiped out when the massive pecan fell. Everyone was out of power, and a lot of roads were impassible. I therefore kept put that day, reading The Pioneers by David McCullough and cooking up all the breakfast sausage in my fridge to prevent wastage. I avoided using my phone, but late that evening once I’d learned that one highway was clear, I went for a drive there to recharge. I found that one town in Elmore was apparently untouched, with its lights shining bright, so I used that to start checking on people and check in.
Because I still had water and gas, I sat far more comfortably than most who are or were still powerless: my eldest sister, for instance, is reliant on electricity for her well water, and since her county was one of the two hardest hit, she’s been having to fill up jugs of water from other places for daily cooking and cleaning, and use a propane setup to heat them. (I think for Christmas I’ll give her a rain barrel…). On Thursday night, I checked a few stores that stock camping supplies in hopes that they had a fireside percolator: they didn’t, but they might have originally. The camp stoves and propane/butane canisters were all sold out in the three places I checked. I did buy instant coffee for the first time; I found it tolerable when I tried it Friday morning.
My Zeta experience has been relatively mild: no damage to my home, and no serious inconveniences that I wasn’t prepared for already by having a gas cooking setup and canned goods at the ready. I rather enjoyed being able to talk to neighbors on my morning walks, who would otherwise be inside planted in front of televisions and the like, and I spent of the weekend hanging out with powerless friends and enjoying the “eat it before it thaws and ruins” feasts of sausage and the like. Part of me liked the roughing it, seeing the house lit with lamps and watching the stars come out, no longer drowned by the many amber lights of my neighborhood. That said, I was very relieved to come home from a night with friends on Friday night to find lights on….if only for music!