Monday, September 1, 2008

Calm Before The Storm

I remember quite clearly the day I first saw the ocean. I was thirty years old with two children. My husband (at the time) and I had long planned a trip to the beach and saved all year for it. We chose Dauphin Island, Alabama only because I had a friend from my work who went there every year and her suggestions made me feel comfortable going there.

I got out of the car and walked in the direction of the roar of the Gulf and stopped dead in my tracks when I saw it. I was so overwhelmed by the majesty that God that created for all of us to enjoy that I fell to my knees where I was and cried. I will never forget that day nor that feeling.
I have seen the ocean countless times since then, lived very near it several times, but continue to visit Dauphin Island with some regularity ever since then. It has become "where I go" . I am blessed and you will read much more about that island in many future posts.

My schedule at work permitted me to plan a long weekend there for Labor Day this year, regardless of the weather predictions that Hurricane Gustav had formed and was heading with some degree of certainty to the Gulf coast. The thing about hurricanes is that they are often likely to change course, build strength, weaken, or any number of other things that can drastically change predictions when they are made a week or so in advance, so on with my plans. My friend Bev who manages the rentals for Dauphin Island Real Estate called to make sure I was aware of Gustav and to give me the option of not coming with a return of my monies. The deposit on the condo had been paid and I WAS going.

Excitement was high! I drove down Friday morning and it was an uneventful trip, thank goodness. Friday night a friend and I went to a familiar place and had dinner outside on a decking overlooking a small harbor at Fowl River. Tired and full, off to bed.
Saturday morning brought bright sunshine and lots of heat and humidity. I had never felt the humidity so strong and with the air almost still, it hung around. Off to the beach, my blessed beach. Wow, the Gulf was calmer than I have ever seen it. NO waves and the water was as warm as a bath. The calm before the storm. I was able to walk out a very long way. I was so far out I turned around and came back thinking I might walk farther than I could swim back :)

My patio off the condo was on ground floor this time very near the pool. Upon returning from the beach I took a yummy book and cool glass of white zin outside to read for a bit. My senses were pummeled with sound, the sounds of babies crying, children laughing, mothers calling to their children. Oh, life is good.

David Graves, who manages the condo association, came by and asked when I was leaving and said the Island had issued a voluntary evacuation. I know I looked at him like he was crazy. Um, no, I don't plan to leave until Monday.

Saturday night was dress-up night for a new-to-me restaurant in Mobile 30 minutes away, Pillars. Of course I checked it out online before making reservations and the menu was exquisite. Duck, rack of lamb, sushi, etc. I could hardly wait! Upon arrival at Pillars the parking lot was jammed with no option for valet parking. Hmm, this is not good. We created a place to park and made our way to the entrance. This is not good. Turns out they had double-booked a class reunion AND a huge wedding reception! Okay, they find our reservation and take us to a very small private dining area with 3 or 4 other couples in it. We couldn't hear ourselves think. It was almost too dark to read the menu so ordered what our server suggested. Grouper and a filet. Yum, I have never eaten better food ! BUT, the noise level was incredible. Needing to leave the atmosphere we declined a dessert but probably WILL try it again someday. Needless to say, we will ask if there are special events scheduled simultaneously before we do it again!

Back to the condo and off to sleep.

Sunday morning brought with it wind and noise. The sounds of plywood being cut and hurricane shutters going up. I drove around the Island and took pictures. Upon my return Bev called again and said we needed to leave. This time it was a mandatory evacuation. David came by and wanted to get the shutters up. Okay, okay, I will go. But I don't want to.

Packed everything up, started the dishwasher but decided not to start the washer in the event they couldn't get back there for a while to move laundry to the dryer. I took more pictures on the way out. The strangest thing, I think, was that there were NO boats anywhere. They had moved them all during the night. Either out to a safe harbor or out of the water, depending on size, I guess. The travel trailer park was void of trailers. Never seen these things before and it scared me, I think.

I stopped in at the Real Estate office to drop off my keys and found my friend and her husband boarding up the windows at the strip mall where the office is. Working hard and fast, I knew if I didn't go then, I would only be in the way of the islanders who were staying and working feverishly to ready themselves for the storm.
Thirty minutes up the road and onto I-65. Yikes, I didn't know all of Mobile had been ordered to evacuate as well! Bumper to bumper to bumper. An hour and a half more than usual, I finally made it to Montgomery. Whew! Huge signs at every exit offering shelter and fuel. I left with a full tank of gas, but was ready for more by the time I reached Birmingham but could not get over to get off the interstate. When I reached the split that goes to Atlanta, thankfully about half of the traffic veered in that direction and I was able to get off at Prattville for gas.
Traffic was heavy but moved in an orderly fashion the remainder of the way home. Getting home late last night, I was tired but thankful and prayerful for all those I had left in Dauphin Island and of course, all those folks along the Gulf Coast in harms' way.
This morning I see the familiar face of Anderson Cooper and the landfall of Gustav and am so thankful. Thankful that the storm was downgraded to a Category 2, thankful for those who got out and thankful for the path of the storm that spared so many lives.


Bunny Cates said...

sorry the 'cane ruined your trip. but glad you are home!

Sherrie (RCMama) said...

Your blog is beautiful! What a trip! Thank goodness you got out safely!

Lynn said...

Glad you got to enjoy a little bit of your trip before the hurricane forced you out.

Great job on the new blog header Bunny, it is beautiful! Thanks for using some of my goodies.

O2BNGdHope said...

Found your site through Bunny's site. You tell such a good story that I was really getting into the "I'm not leaving" mentality when they gave you the boot anyway! Darn! LOL! I love storms but I think a Hurricane might just be too much for me. Loved your story so much I'm sure I'll be back to visit again. Beautiful header!