'Whether' Experts Who Cry Wolf

THE way Hurricane Bob was advertised beforehand, I expected I would be on Channel 7 with VICTIM under my name. But something went awry before the disturbance came ashore down under my kitchen window, and Bob turned out to be locally docile. East and west of us there was damage, some severe, and the moral is that good, clean living and upright conduct have their reward.The seven inches of rain promised by the whether experts ceased at precisely two, and the 100-mile winds cavorted fairly harmlessly at a half gale. People did get on the TV as victims, but none of us from Friendship made it this time. Bob was much better during the preliminaries, while the media was in charge. At least for us. Long before Bob came in by Monhegan Island, the radio told us Governor McKernan had just issued an order that everybody living within one-quarter of a mile of the Maine coast should evacuate immediately, and that the state police would enforce this fiat. This contributed a bit of comic relief at a tight time. Friendship is a lobster-fishing port, and except for a couple of families on the Finntown Road, we all live within that quarter of a mile. With 300-odd lobster boats snug on mooring to ride out the promised hurricane, an edict to leave town had little merit. Let the breeze freshen, and lobstermen look to their craft. Two boats did part their fasts because of Bob, but both were retrieved before they drifted aground. The fishermen have a way of making extra lines for the moorings if there comes a threat of extra wind, and Friendship boats were ready for Bob in that way. The investment in a working boat nowadays is big, and the governor shouldn't expect fishermen to run for the hills and forget their boats. The state police were wise enough not to come to Friendship and throw their weight around. One radio announcer, lingering on the approach of Bob, said the coast of New Hampshire had been declared a disaster area, and interpolated gratuitously, "So what else is new?" Thinking our situation might become the same, I followed the repeated instructions. Storms like to strike on the high and low of the tide, and we were to have a full tide a little after suppertime. So by suppertime I was ready. I'd drawn off jugs of drinking water, since we depend on an electric pump in our own well. My rain barrel at the shop was full from last evening's thunder shower. I checked the kerosene in our standby lamp and put new batteries in the flashlights. I filled the wood box. I went about the dooryard to see that things were secured or under cover. Then I went into the house at 6 p.m. to learn we had lost our power. Since Bob wasn't due for over an hour, I presumed the power company was rehearsing, and I laid a kitchen match beside the lamp. "Let 'er blow!" I thought. "I'm ready for the TV crew after the demolishment." There is a moral in all this. I don't know if other parts of our country have similar situations - perhaps they do about tornadoes and cyclones and floods and other weather vicissitudes. We, at the far upper end of our Atlantic shoreline, have an occasional hurricane, and more often than you would suppose our "meteorologists" (self-styled) cry, Wolf! Wolf! This goes on for quite some time, with a constant clamor that excites. Our hurricanes develop down in what we Mainers called "the islands" back in coasting days, when we had a great fleet of sailing vessels that specialized in trade with the Caribbean. Ships that went to Europe and Chiny Seas, and around the horn to the West and Pacific Coasts, were called "deep water" and "blue water." Smaller schooners (mostly) in the "WI" (West Indies) trade were coasters, and the captain of a coaster was never called a blue-water man. Old-time Mainers knew the islands well and at home had an inner sense that could "smell" a hurricane coming. "Hurricane weather!" one would say to another along in August and September when the air was sultry in a certain way. "Eyeah." Today, a hurricane shapes up and starts north, and the radio begins its tale of woe. For a week, at least, we get all the pessimism that can be wrung out. And we get things like the governor's ill-advised panic-button advice. True, much of this - some of this - is valid and useful, and to the extent this is so there's no quarrel. But...

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