On the weekend before Isabel, we had to fly to New York City for our usual twice a year medical visits. We were not able to see any of our local News media "Hype" about expectations of Isabel, and the Weather Channel was wishy-washy at best. When we talked to our daughter, Joy, Monday night, she did alert us to buy D batteries in NYC and bring them home if we needed any, because they couldn't find any in local stores. So, Tuesday morning, we paid $10 for four D batteries. We got home late Tuesday night, so we only had the rest of that night and Wednesday to get ready for the storm. It wasn't enough time. We really didn't think that we would get a lot of tide, living as we do on upper Woodland Road, so we were more worried about the trees since the ground was already saturated from so much rain this season. Not much you can do to prepare for trees falling except pray. We did put up the washer and dryer on cinder blocks and stage boarding (which barely saved them).
As Poquoson natives, we didn't consider leaving. Wes was watching the barometer and didn't seem too worried. We go through this every year after all. Wednesday night when the rescue truck drove down Woodland Road with the bullhorn declaring a mandatory evacuation, it gave me the most eerie feeling that I think I have ever had. It was like they were warning us that the enemy was coming in a war. The electricity went off at 10 p.m. Wednesday night, and I remember thinking, "wait a minute" the hurricane isn't coming until tomorrow, why are the lights going out now?" But they came back on shortly, and we continued preparing.
Thursday was not a happy day. The electricity went out even before the storm got a good start. We weathered the storm mainly sitting on our sun porch in the back of the house where we had some daylight. The wind was blowing toward the front of our house, so we felt that we were as safe there as anywhere else. The rest of the house was dark and gloomy where we had boarded up our picture windows and all drapes were drawn, etc. One or the other of us would get up every so often and make the rounds looking out of all of the windows to see what was going on in the front. When the tide started rising higher than usual, Wes brought Holly, his hunting dog, in the garage in a huge kennel crate. Then when the tide started moving into the garage, we moved her into the kitchen. Holly knew something was up, and she was so good. Watching the tide rise from step to step was not a good feeling and when it stopped rising and had not come into the house, we held our breath, wondering if another tide would come and take us out. Thank Heavens, there was not another tide. And when one of our big maple trees uprooted (as we had feared) we watched it go over across the comer of the canal. It didn't hit anything or anybody, so we figured we could deal with that. Getting that tree cut up without at least part of it falling into the canal was one of our biggest challenges, but our son, Donnie, came up with a brilliant strategy, and it worked. We lost a huge part of another maple next to it also, but nothing was hit. That tree now looks real skinny but maybe it will come back out. A huge part of our maple tree in the front yard fell and hit our bedroom windows, but the wind and tide pushed it to the side so it didn't continue to bang against the windows and no damage was done. We planted that tree when our youngest daughter, Jennifer, was born and we really didn't want to lose it. We saw the usual, strange stuff, such as tires floating across the yard, front and back, and wondered where it would end up (mostly in our yard). Wes measured eleven inches in our garage, which got our freezer (full, but floating, how can that do that?), the furnace, and a lot of stuff that we had put up, but the tide knocked the stuff down and it drowned anyway. We were able to talk to our children intermittently until the phone lines went down so we knew they were safe. Our cell phones would not work in Poquoson (for days), and our power was off for 7 1/2 days.
It's strange, but during the cleaning up process, dark came so soon and we would have to stop what we were doing, clean ourselves up by flashlight and go to dinner. Thank Heavens for Artie & Toni's restaurant on Jefferson Ave (our favorite anyway). They didn't lose electricity and we ate a good supper there most nights. We didn't know what we looked like until we got to the restaurant (I started a new "no makeup" trend), then we would come home and go to bed. The dark house caused a depressing feeling because we felt like we needed to keep going, and I didn't get to do much cleaning until after the electricity was back on. Neither of us missed the TV. though later we realized that we never saw any news coverage of the hurricane or aftermath at all. All we have are the news articles from the Daily Press, and now pictures being shared by neighbors and the Poquoson Isabel web site. We had a radio, but could find nothing but music and commercials; we couldn't believe that Hurricane aftermath information was not the priority of the stations. I also remember one night we went to a Kentucky Fried Chicken joint on Jefferson Ave. There was a long line, and people were complaining about the service, then it was announced that they were out of chicken except for wings, and there was even more complaining (and louder). I stayed in line and got our two orders of wings. By then, it was after 7 p.m. and they had locked the doors. Most people took their orders and left, but I asked if we could stay to eat our supper there. Oh boy, we had light and air conditioning! We ate really slow that night and were thankful for the wings.
We started to clean up our mess, with the help of our wonderful children, Donnie, Joy & Jennifer, other family members and friends. We had felt so overwhelmed and devastated, but they helped us keep going, lifted our spirits, and the junk pile in front of the house kept growing, and the tree limbs pulled to the front kept growing to a healthy 40 feet long, 10 feet high pile. My sister and I saved Wesley's fishing tackle, which he said later might not have been a good idea, since I saw just how much he had. I told him that he had better not ever say a word about how many pair of shoes I had or else! We have joked about that on more than one occasion since. He was able to go fishing a few weeks ago and had to go buy fishhooks because he couldn't find his - we found that so funny because he must have a million of them, and it's so good that we can laugh. A lot of Jennifer's treasured possessions had been stored in the garage in cardboard boxes, and she and I spent a whole day going through trying to salvage what we could. We spread out tarps and plastic bags on every floor in the house and separated wet pictures. There were hundreds of them, and not only did we salvage them, but they brought back a lot of wonderful memories. Though sad, it also turned out to be a fun day for us.
One day, about a week and a half after Isabel, we drove down to see Wesley's brother. We had said that we were NOT going to drive around rubber-necking, as we had seen so many others do. But that day, based on what we saw going from Woodland Road to Park Street, we decided to drive on down to Messick's Point. I'm glad we made that trip because it put things in perspective for us. What we saw was a war zone (yes, the enemy had come) with so many people losing everything they owned. And we thought to ourselves, yes, we have it hard. But we can sleep in our bed, and use our bathroom, and our vehicles can be repaired, our ruined essentials can be slowly replaced, and none of our family suffered bodily harm.
We want to thank the linemen that came up from Louisiana to help Poquoson get the electricity back up and running. Their area gets beat up from Hurricanes much more often than ours. I offered them refreshments, and they declined, but said they had ice and drinks if we needed anything. Ice, yes that's another thing we missed. Ice Tea just isn't the same without the "ice" part. I also want to thank whoever made the decision to screen people driving into Poquoson, so that we didn't have to worry about looting, and the rescue/fire company and police. We didn't need you thank Heavens, but we knew you were there for us. When the next big storm heads our way, I think we will batten down the hatches and head for Tennessee.