The yellow flag was flying at the Town Beach when I went out in the early afternoon on Tuesday. The much heralded storm had already been downgraded, the predicted westward shift of its path holding steady.
The hurricanes of my childhood had familiar names, the still gold standard of 1954 was Carol; the one that kept us home the first day of school another year was Donna; and leaping over a string of false starts, Gloria in the mid-eighties. The first two had names of classmates in the broad sense we use out here, the third the youngest sister of an actual in-my-own-grade girl.
I wasn’t, in truth, listening much to news, only reading, and stumbled over Isaias then remembered Hermine a few years back — Hermine, not Hermione, didn’t the storm-namers read Harry Potter? — the storm which really didn’t amount to much but meandered through late August, throwing Labor Day plans into disarray. It made landfall in Florida, drifting over to the Gulf of Mexico, then turned and moved across Georgia, and the Carolinas, to float away from the mid-Atlantic coast where it spent a couple more days out over the water as an “extratropical low” before finally expiring.
Back then I was listening to forecasts, and it was one of several storms the names of which were not sent out with pronunciation guidelines. Hermine, I decided — attributing way too much life force to a weather system — was going to linger until several speakers in a row got her name right.
The H, I, and J series do seem to present particular challenges.
The whole “naming” thing has come to annoy me, with the winter storms, and the alternating gender specific names — why not alternating years?
And how did we get all the way to “I” before I even noticed? Well, there is that Covid thing going on all around us and as Victory Day weekend approaches the urging from upstate is to get outside, enjoy the good weather without qualification, excepting the dreaded social gatherings which seem not to apply to gatherings of strangers in public places.
Earlier this week, there was the usual chatter about Isaias so I looked to my own standard, the New Harbor, and saw basically the same sea of white hulls I’ve been seeing all summer. New sailors, I’ve been told some of them are, buying a boat for domestic travel seeming to be an alternative to more luxurious adventures curtailed by the ever-moving restrictions on movement from country to country and now state to state.
It was a few summers ago, when a rare early season hurricane started the usual hysteria and I felt myself on the edge of being swept into it. Then I met some boaters who calmly told me they were tightening their lines, it was going to be fine, as it was.
As Monday night faded into Tuesday morning it became clear Isaias was not going to dramatically impact Block Island. The track was moving west and by afternoon the screaming red and orange spots on the radar to the east of the system — headed for us — were flying.
I meant to get out before the ever diminishing rain fell, before the wind picked up, and so the flag was only yellow, the swimming caution signal, a throwback to the days when weather flags flew from the high towers at the Coast Guard Station at the cut.
I wasn’t out that long, although a lot of mail can accumulate in a few week’s time, so much it started falling out the back of the box and a disembodied voice asked “don’t you work across the street?” I could have sworn it hadn’t been that long. It took me awhile to sort it out, toss the junk, a good part of it, open envelopes and discard them as well; I later found the stop had registered on my Covid Crusher battery-sucking phone app.
The yellow flag had been replaced by the red do-not-swim banner in the short time I was in town.
It rained a little, then almost as soon as I closed the south facing windows it was pelting, it stopped and the sun shone. The wind did blow, hard, if not for the duration forecast. As day wound down I went to the North End, for no reason other than I had gas and time. There were a very few brush branches down but nothing major.
This morning there were a handful of fallen leaves on the grass in my yard, but in town, it felt more like fall, brown and dry on the sidewalk, a harbinger of fall in early August.