It all ended with a cold slice of thin, salty pizza on Sunday night…
Giuseppe’s was the only place we found open Sunday after Irene had passed. Sal only had pizza - no pasta, soup, salad, etc, or anything else from his hundred item menu. I think the reason was that he was the only person there, and making pizza was enough work for one person. Anyone else who worked there probably had not yet returned from where ever they may have evacuated to, or they were just plain exhausted from the whole weekend and figured they’d just stay home. I wouldn’t be one to blame them. Pizza was fine with me.
I had left a small suburb of Philadelphia earlier in the day, detouring around swelling creeks and flooded roads on my way home. There had been reports of nine, ten, and even thirteen inches of rain in south western New Jersey, and the water was collecting in low areas and filling streams and ponds and any other place where it could run down hill to. Parking lots, fields, yards, orchards….anywhere it could go.
I had never been through a hurricane before, and had never been told to evacuate. Evacuation wasn’t politely suggested – it was Mandatory. The first call was from the Cape May County Emergency Management Office on Thursday evening telling us we needed to evacuate within 48 hours. Then the Township called with the same message. On Friday the Township called again. Finally, the Electric Company called to say that we would most likely not have electrical power during the storm, or the week thereafter. I had never been told that I must leave my home before. It’s an uneasy feeling. We don’t have a house full of “things”, and don’t care too much about “things”, so losing stuff wasn’t a thought. Uneasiness was about leaving the animals.
We don’t have a trailer. And one cannot just pack a goat, two ducks, three cats, twenty-four chickens, six bee hives, and three horses along with water, feed, hay, litter, and supplies into the back seat of a Subaru. And even if it could be done, who would want or be able to take us all in. Can you imagine checking us in at the Best Western? Do you think that the Super Eight would leave the light on? Or just imagine bringing them all to my mother –in –law’s….. “bring those chickens right in, put the goat in the guest room, the ducks in the bath, and the horses can stay in my room. Let the cats roam the house and put the bees in the dining room for now. I have guest towels out if any of them need a shower! Dinner will be ready at six!” There’s no legal or illegal drug that could ever make that happen…
It was raining Thursday since the afternoon. A front was passing through. In the rain Allen, Kath and I began preparations. We started putting away everything outside that could be hurled by a wind, packing everything in the garage. Chairs, pool nets, the hammock, our farm signs, garbage cans, wind chimes, garbage cans, and all the kinds of things that don’t look like a lot or that go un noticed scattered around the yard, but then become a huge mountain when gathered up in one place that caused us to gasp. When we finished with the yard, Kath and I headed to the stable.
That’s where the work really was. If we had to leave the animals, then we needed to make a safe fortress for them.
In the rain, I cut up plywood to cover all the windows. It wasn’t a smart thing to run a skill saw out in the rain, but choice is not always there. We covered every window. Kath held a flashlight while I hammered in the cloudy wet darkness. We took off all the outside stall doors so that they wouldn’t swing in the wind and hurt any of the horses, and also so they wouldn’t swing shut and trap them inside. We wanted to make sure the horses could be free to go in and out as their instinct led them. We set out extra 25 gallon buckets so that, even with rain, there would be plenty of fresh water. I took a shovel and out in the paddocks I cleared out the drainage ways.
Then we turned to the tack room – this is where we decided to put Snoops. Since a goat will at least try to eat anything once, everything had to be taken out and moved to the house. Saddles, bridles, blankets, flysheets, supplies, buckets, bug spray, garden stuff, all the feed, and so on and so on. We filled the bed of the truck and put it all in the family room. And the mountain made us gasp…
The rain stopped about 9:00 so Allen and I headed to the hay farm where we buy our hay. Mr. Bixby would wait for us and help us load. We figured we’d better stock up a bit in case we couldn’t get back there after the storm for whatever might happen. As we went south to the hay farm, there was an unbroken stream of traffic heading north. People were evacuating. This really was real….it was sinking in.
I spent Friday morning at work helping with the preparations there. When evacuation orders for Somers Point were announced, we hurried before we’d be forced to close.
I returned to the farm Friday afternoon – backed up in the traffic behind thousands of persons leaving their homes. A twenty minute drive took over an hour. Along the way, convenience stores, grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, drug stores, hardware stores, etc, were closed. Some of these businesses I had never seen closed – these convenience stores, restaurants, and gas stations stay open even on Christmas Day. It was sunny and about 78 degrees – a perfect day. And more than 36 hours before the storm was forecast to hit. That feeling of uneasiness swelled.
There was not much else to do to prep Friday. I let the horses out in the pasture and took Snoop with me out to check the garden. I didn’t let the chickens free range though, ‘cause I would need to put them in the coop later.
I didn’t really have a plan for the bees. Obviously they can’t be moved inside. The best I could think of was to stack bricks and concrete blocks on their covers so they didn’t blow open. I thought of strapping the supers together but figured that if the wind did push them over, they’d still separate. I’d just have to hope for the best.
The ducks…well ducks can handle the elements – we put food and water in their duck house and left the door open so they could use their instincts about going in or out.
That night we took Snoop out to the tack room. She settled right in. We figured that being able to hear the horses would be calming to her, and I believe she knew she was not alone. We closed the chickens in their roosting shed with plenty of food and water. We’d done all we could do.
Allen and I left that morning with the three cats, heading out for a suburb of Philadelphia to stay with Kath’s niece. Kath stayed back, gave each horse and Snoop a full bale of hay, and left for the hospital where she was required to work and stay until the hurricane was past. We were all hoping to be back within 36 hours.
And we were.
Mr. Bixby, who rode out the storm, stopped and checked the farm very early Sunday morning and called saying the horses were in the pasture and all was quiet. Kath was released from work about noon and found everyone ok. There was a bit of flooding in the back part of our property, and the garden plants had been shredded by driving rains. A few branches were scattered around. But all the animals and bees were safe. And they all seemed calm and happy. The bees were active and flying in with pollen.
The worst of the storm occurred inland where flooding caused damage in some areas. It seemed that we had the expanding eye over us for such a while that our rain total was only four and a half inches, rather than ten to thirteen. The winds had gusted, but hadn’t been sustained.
It seemed a lot for practically nothing that could have been something… we were lucky.
Sal's pizza was fine with me.