Insights from Henri

Posted 8/26/21

"It's really calmed down. I'm going to take Ollie out for a walk," Carol announced. She was right. The sun was trying to come out, the day was brightening. "It could be the eye of the storm," I cautioned. "I knew you would say that," she answered. She

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Insights from Henri


“It’s really calmed down. I’m going to take Ollie out for a walk,” Carol announced.

She was right. The sun was trying to come out, the day was brightening.

“It could be the eye of the storm,” I cautioned.

“I knew you would say that,” she answered. She and Ollie were ready to get out.

Thankfully, Henri was out of breath.

It didn’t start off that way. In preparation, we cleaned the porch furniture of cushions and removed the glass top tables Saturday. When Henri came knocking Sunday morning, everything seemed to be secure until a plastic bin skittered across the porch like a freight train and took flight. I wondered what would be next – the plastic chairs I’d stacked, turned on their side and wedged in a corner? Or might it be the gear I’d stripped from the boat Friday night?

The wind was out of the East and on a rising tide waves battered the seawall. The wind sent the spray across the lawn, which was looking more like a beach.

We’ve been through this before with Gloria, Irene, Sandy and other storms. We’ve been fortunate. Sandy brought the worst of the surges. The wind was out of the southwest, so we didn’t have the waves. The waters came within ten feet of the porch steps and retreated.

This time, I feared it could be different. Forecasters said Henri was planning a prolonged visit. He’d be slow moving and we’d be feeling the effects for upwards of 25 hours with the possibility of a second surge. TV reporters and camera crews staged at the Fox Point hurricane barrier added to the anxiety with reports that this was one of those rare times the barriers have closed. That left us on the other side of the barriers with the prospect that with no place to go, the water would even be higher.

That was one way of looking at Henri, imagining the worst of what he could deliver and letting that consume your thoughts.

Carol took a proactive approach, prayer and telling Henri to go away.

We know now Henri didn’t deliver much of a punch, although he provided for nonstop TV reports showing swirling yellow, green and red blobs, the surf breaking on beaches, downed trees and blurred scenes where the cameraman or woman wiped rain from the lens. Actually, that enhanced the feel of what it was like.

About noon, when according to reports we were soon going to get the worst of it, I decided it was time to check out Henri for myself. I headed south on Shawomet Avenue where in previous storms Department of Public Works front-end loaders were used to evacuate people from their flooded homes. There were a few puddles but nothing like the knee-deep water of Superstorm Sandy.

As Mayor Frank Picozzi announced Friday, Conimicut Point Park was closed, as were Oakland Beach, Rocky Point and City Park. That’s never stopped thrill seekers. The Conimicut boat ramp on Shawomet Avenue was packed. Some people watched the choppy bay from their cars, but most ventured out on the beach. It was windy, but manageable. Spectators’ hats went flying, their clothes flapped and a few kids spread their arms as if they might take off. The rain stopped. There were already signs the worst was over.

At the Oakland Beach boat ramp, I found an even more adventuresome group. My immediate impression was that men dressed in wetsuits and wearing inflatable life jackets were attempting to haul a sunken boat from Warwick Cove. Rather, they were preparing to launch jet skis. Chris Lewis, who was sitting on his jet ski, told me the group of six would be heading for Jamestown Bridge to catch the big waves. In five minutes they were ready, roaring into the mouth of the cove and jumping each other’s wake in a display of hyper charged testosterone.

Indeed, this was another way to look at Henri – a rare opportunity for some extreme wave riding.

I was reminded of Hurricane Bob when police arrived at the house advising us to leave. As the case Sunday, the wind was out of the northeast and waves were pounding the seawall. The cops wanted to know how many of us were home.

We should leave, they told us.

They looked out at the bay to see my son Ted fly by on his wind surfer.

The police yelled for him to come in until they realized the wind was whipping their words away.

The cops left. We stayed. Ted was exhilarated by his ride.

This time he stayed at home in Saunderstown, clearing fallen branches and hoping the power stayed on, which it did.

What is the right approach at times like this?

I admire the risk-takers who see opportunity where others are fearful.

Fear can be powerful and should be listened to. But if left to control, there would be few risk takers and, as Carol points out, nor would we discover the power of prayer.

insights, Henri


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