Waiting for Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene as Seen from Space

Expedition 28 Crew captures Hurricane Irene from space

Every August, my family rents a condo on the beach in North Carolina. Incidentally, August is also a prime month for hurricanes on the East Coast. In the past few years, they have all dissipated into tropical storms (or something even milder) before hitting the North Carolina coast, but Hurricane Irene threatened to make some waves in August of 2011. Putting up with a few cloudy days while you’re on vacation is no big deal, but a hurricane is a different matter entirely—especially if you’re staying on the beach and have children to worry about.


Living on the Edge

Hurricanes don’t spring up on you the way tornadoes or earthquakes can. The family also had plenty of experience with those quirks of nature the week they visited. A waterspout turned into an onshore tornado one day, a funnel cloud blew through town and out to sea the following week, and an earthquake shook the three-story condo a few days later. So everybody was already a little anxious, and watching the growing storm approach from the eastern Atlantic didn’t seem like such a big deal.  Check out the beach tornado here at North Carolina Waterspout Turned Tornado.

Watching and Waiting

As the storm in the tropics blew closer, the weathermen began to fine-tune their forecasts. They predicted that the storm would make landfall on the North Carolina coast, exactly where my family was staying. The predictions wavered to the east as the storm approached, but the hurricane was still headed our way. We were just biding our time, waiting to find out how strong the hurricane would be and exactly when it might make landfall.

Leaving the Island

Irene Moving up U.S. East Coast [detail]

Satellite photo while Irene was off the Carolinas

The storm was predicted to hit the beach sometime during the early hours Saturday morning. We were hoping Friday would still be a beach day. It wasn’t. The beaches off the coast of North Carolina are all actually barrier islands, which means that there is usually only one way on and off of the beach, and it’s over a bridge. The bridges are shut down in winds greater than 45 miles per hour, so if you don’t leave the island before the storm, there is always a chance you will be stuck there.



The news urged a voluntary evacuation for people staying or living on the beach. There was no way of predicting for sure how strong the storm would be or what speed the wind would reach, but my family decided to evacuate. If the bridge was closed and there was an emergency, medical rescue teams would not be able to reach the island, and the family would not be able to reach a hospital. They were packing up their gear just as the landlord came to board up the windows. They made the right decision.

Weathering the Storm

Of course, the decision they made was to come to my house. I live just inland, where the threat of flooding is much less severe and the winds would be a little tamer, but the hurricane threatened to hit us just the same. We packed 13 people into a 1,200-square-foot house and listened to the wind howl and the rain slam against the window panes. The lights flickered throughout the night, and the air conditioning turned off with every power outage.  Hurricane Irene Slams the East Coast

Luckily, we were armed with flashlights, extra water, and more bread than a diner would need, so when the power went out in the early morning, we weren’t too devastated about it.  Though the predictions on CNN showed we were in for a horrific onslaught, we were so lucky and only had a short time without power and cable, unlike many states up the Eastern seaboard, which were hit much harder.  You just never know what to expect from Mother Nature.

When a hurricane hits, it’s important to consider not only how it might impact or damage your house or accommodations, but also how it might impact your “escape” route. A few healthy adults may be safe riding out the storm wherever they are, but the situation changes when children are involved. No matter how strong you think you are, make sure you put your family’s safety first.

A Wilmington, North Carolina resident Sonia Banfield teaches nursing courses and is a content contributor for education sites. Today, nursing jobs are highly sought after by men and women thrown back into the work force by a down economy. Sonia feels that give back careers such as medical assistant jobs and nurse jobs are even more important during tough times.

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