An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

August 29, 2011

Irene visits Terra Neglecta

Just as we were getting used to our daily inundation of smoke from the Dismal Swamp fire, we go and have an earthquake, in Virginia of all places.  Minor by Left Coast standards, but shocking to us nonetheless.  But we had no time to dwell on fractures in the earth's crust, for we had an impending hurricane to deal with.  As my friend Amy suggested, August was our month for Earth, Wind and Fire.  Of the three, the wind portion of that trio had me the most concerned.  Early on in its extensive coverage, Irene was predicted to be a "life changing event" and one that could "reshape the coastline".  As a survivor of Hurricane Hugo, a life changing event for me, I pay attention when phrases like this are used. 

So early in the week I headed to my parent's to help them get ready for the storm.  I was already planning some time off there for one last summer trip of kayaking, beaching and relaxing, but instead it became time spent elevating, stowing and battening.  Like many, we also watched a lot of television trying to determine how bad Irene was going to be, and what needed to be done in case of each possible scenario.  I can't imagine living far from the coast, but one of the prices of that choice is having to deal with these sorts of events.  So you remember what has happened before, do all that you can in preparation for what's to come and hope for the best. 

The morning before I returned to Norfolk I walked to the nearby shore of Metompkin Bay.  It is always beautiful to me, no matter the season, but I really enjoy the late summer when the marsh is at its peak.  At the far side of the bay lies a thin strip of sand and a few dunes which is all that separates the very low lying Eastern Shore from the Atlantic beyond.  I couldn't help wondering what the ocean might bring in two days.


Metompkin Bay (3)


Spartina Patens

Spartina Flowers

Back in Norfolk I busied myself getting my own house in order.  Among other tasks, I cleared the outside of anything that needed protection or that could become a projectile.  When we were done the inside of our house looked as if it had taken a huge breath and inhaled the entire contents of the porch and deck.

After Irene

Cleared for Irene

With a mind toward this blog, I took this shot to show a before photo of the garden.  We have had decent-for-August rains; the garden is looking full right now; I am happy with how it looks and wanted to remember it that way.

Before Irene

Fortunately I did not need to have an "after" photo.  After a day and a half of wind, torrential rains, high tides and being stuck indoors - Irene left us with little damage.  We were very, very fortunate and I am glad the full forecast for this area did not materialize.  Don't get me wrong, we were not unphased. Several people in North Carolina and Virginia lost their lives, some had extensive property damage, and there was great inconveniences all over.  But it could have been so much worse.  All in all, my mind tells me Irene fell short of her older sister Isabel and well below the 2009 nor'easter.

Green Mulch

Still Here

Now that the storm has headed off to Greenland, there seems to be much debate about its media coverage and forecasting.  Our power stayed on through the first half of the storm and we were able to stay updated and connected through the television and computer.  However, I am pissed at CNN and The Weather Channel.  At the height of the storm, when North Carolina and Virginia were under its full effects, these two networks gave you the impression there was a place called Cape Hatteras where hurricanes come ashore and then nothing of import north of it until you get to the Jersey beaches and Manhattan. I am not doubting the need to cover these areas, or the severity of Irene there, but I just wanted a little more balance, a little validation, even a quick shout-out.  I wonder if they have ever heard of a place called Vermont.


  1. You have had an active August. Glad you're all in one piece. It really looks lovely where you're at.

  2. Won't bore you with details but wanted to say I completely understand that sentiment towards the media!!! Also I am happy to hear you had relatively no damage.

  3. So glad you, and especially your parents, fared well.

  4. Hurricanes are studied and tracked from the moment they become a puff of organized clouds near the Equator, and it must be difficult for newscasters to continue to have something to say as the hurricane ambles across the ocean toward land. I stopped listening. All I needed was the animated weather cartoon to show me where the rain was. Everything else was crap.

    I'm glad that the storm treated you so gently, relatively speaking.

  5. We turned off the hyped TV coverage and found one website that was realistic. Glad all is well with your family.

  6. We didn't have damage either except to one section of pasture fence but Vermont sure got hit hard.

    DH had the local news turned on and I was very happy when the satellite went out.

  7. It sounds like you have to do a lot of work to be prepared for a hurricane. I'm glad you didn't get any damage. Your garden is lovely!

    I remember when Hurricane Katrina hit and some friends and relatives in Mississippi were so upset that the news media only focused on New Orleans.

  8. It has been over 30 years since I moved from Maryland. Your photos bring to mind childhood memories and the beauty of the tidewater landscape. Glad to hear you are safe after the storm.

  9. les, i had just heard my husband say the same thing about the weather channel when i read your comment about it on facebook. we all agree on that point. what were they thinking? not to mention the storm affected the entire coast of nc, not just the outer banks! anyway, that aside, i'm glad you didn't need to do any after pictures. your befores are lovely. it's expecially nice seeing a long shot of your garden.

  10. Les, I went through the exact same procedures on my small island in Maine (could show the same photos of an empty deck and a house full of containers and furniture). Luckily, we only got high winds. I feel the same way you do about Irene--it could have been so much worse, life-changing. I said that to a friend of mine who was saying how horrible it was, and she was upset. But I have seen what real hurricanes can do at their worst, and I am thankful we were spared that. Carolyn

  11. Glad you and yours are well. Vermont was a surprise, huh?!
    -- Georgia

  12. Good to see you on the flip side. Watching the flooding of places in NJ tonight! Oy.
    Your updates were most appreciated. thanks.

  13. Wonderful photos Les. We just returned from my parents home in a little town in Vermont. We left Sunday morning just as talk of flash floods began. Our town just celebrated it's 250th Anniversary on Saturday and by Sunday noon, the rampaging flooding stream had eroded the foundation of the Danby Historical Society and the building fell into the roaring stream. They had to finish breaking up the historical 2 story building so it would not dam up under the bridge right in the middle of our little town. What a mess! All the nearby towns had catastrophic flooding. We felt lucky compared to some.

  14. What lovely photos, everything so lush. When you said you had been to Norfolk, I though; wait a minute... I thought this was from the US, the pictures look just like our Norfolk here in the UK!
    Lovely garden and thank goodness Mrs Irene didn't do any mischief to it. Lovely blog. I'll be back!

  15. Thanks so much for the update, Les. I've been worried about how the storm impacted your home, your marsh, and your place of business. So glad to hear that everyone weathered the storm well! And, yes - a big raspberry to the stupid media!

  16. Great news! It's just what we wanted to hear. So glad you came out okay.
    And thanks for the pictures of your impressive garden. Love that red swing.

  17. I'd be wondering how Irene was for you Les, and am so glad it was "merely" wet and inconvenient. Hope that's your quota for major events for the year, Earth Wind and Fire should remain a memory of bad taste clothes and disco music, fashion disaster, not natural disaster! So glad your lovely garden is still lovely.

  18. I'm glad Irene was not as bad as predicted. It can be scary and humbling, waiting for something as unpredictable as nature...

    It's also hard to imagine the violence of a hurricane when you see those serene images of the water.

    I read your comment on my blog about your bicycle saddle. Have you tried a Brooks? They look like torture, and can indeed be a little uncomfortable until broken in, but once they are, you never think about your bum again while riding. I have switched to Brooks B17s or Champion Flyers on all but my racing bike (too heavy for that).

  19. Les, I am glad that you came through your month of Earth, Wind and Fire with little damage. Your calm before the storm pictures are wonderful as always.

  20. So glad you did not have any damage. I too remember Hugo in 1989 I think it was. I was in NC and vividly remember the Army being worried about its equipment so we soldiers had to take it all down-yet stay in the field in tents. That is until the Army brass realized hey! Wait a minute we need to get our soldiers to safety too. Duh. Did you get damage then? On the media coverage it seems it is never balanced. There was quite a controversy about our flooding last year where it did not get any media coverage and it was quite devastating. We can still see the effects. The beach is beautiful with its protective grasses.

  21. Rohrerbot,
    Yes it is lovely here, not always, but usually.

    Details can sometimes be interesting.

    Thanks from me and my parents.

    We were glued, that us until we lost power. The local weather guys were great about telling us which neighborhood had to watch our for tornadoes and microbursts.

    I am glad you survived as well. At one point they were saying Gloucester and Matthews were going to get it bad.

    Yes it is a shame about Vermont. I am sure few saw it coming.

    I remember that imbalance in Katrina coverage.

    I am glad I could bring you back home, if only briefly.

    I will always have visions of what Floyd did to inland areas of NC. In many ways it was worse than typical hurricanes.

    Yes Irene was not a bad hurricane, though try telling that to the people flooded out of there homes. I hope that in the future people will take the warnings seriously.

    Please don't take my last paragraph the wrong way. I am glad NYC did not get it as bad a predicted.

    You are welcome, I hope I will not have to give updates again anytime soon, but things are still brewing.

    I am glad you got out, but sorry for the town. When I think states that are prone to natural disasters, Vermont is, or was, way down the list.

    What little I know of Norfolk in UK is that it is coastal flat and marshy, sounds like my kind of place.

    Thank you so much for your concern, and your raspberry.

    Thank you for thinking about us. We love the red swing too. When we moved in it was pale purple.

    Thank you, and yes may any more disasters be of the fashion variety.

    Thank you for the seat suggestion. I am such a novice to all things bike related and appreciate the recomendation.

    I took those pictures before the storm with the thought in the back of my mind that it could be years before it looked like that again. I am glad that did not come to be.

    I was living on one of the Sea Islands south of Charleston during Hugo, though we had to evacuate. Fortune smiled on me then, as well, as my apartment was mostly undamaged, though a little wet and later funky.


  22. It takes a lot of energy to put away all items which might blow around in an anticipated hurricane. I agree the coverage was not quite balanced. Unfortunate in this day and age. Glad you have weathered all the challenges Mother Nature has thrown your way. Look out for locusts. That may be all that is left.

  23. Glad the hurricane was not as bad as predicted for your area. The media did a poor job, I agree. They covered so much in some places and nothing in others. I really like the image of the windswept grass. Beautiful.

  24. Carolyn @ Carolyn's Shade GardensSeptember 04, 2011 10:08 PM

    Les, It seems like my blog is one of the blogs you visit!?! Carolyn

  25. Layanee,
    Locusts and political primaries.

    I was very pleased with how the grass shot came out as well.

    One would think that after nearly 9" of rain in a day, the swamp fire would be out, but no it is not. In fact today it smelled quite nasty.

    Well yes I do visit your blog.