Hurricanes and The Power of Geeking Out

Geek TattooOther than a few extra pine needles on my car, and a couple of small branches down in my neighbor’s yard (she doesn’t do a good job of trimming in the fall anyway, that’s all that means, she said smugly), Earl seems to have passed us by without stopping in for tea.

Naturally, I am relieved, as I am a person of a nervous disposition, and do not particularly enjoy changes in my routine. Having the power go down, no access to internet or costume dramas on the DVR, would be a sorry inconvenience indeed.

But instead we are faced with a Labor Day weekend that promises to be breathtakingly beautiful, weather-wise, and shockingly well provisioned. I have enough non-perishable food and clean water to be able to entertain for days. If only I had a guest bedroom, I would totally invite you down for the holiday. I hope you know that.

Not that I mind being well provisioned, of course! After all, the hurricane season is still young, and we have a long way to go through the alphabet of named storms before the official end of the season on November 1. This just means that I have fewer supplies to run out for when Gaston regroups, say, or Igor shuffles on by, or Karl, Lisa, or Matthew stop by for cakes.

Of course, Cape Cod has a long and proud history of being stood up by hurricanes. It’s one of the reasons all these fabulously rickety old houses and barns are still standing in our quaint little towns and villages.

In my last post, I reminisced about Hurricane Bob, which actually struck and caused significant damage to the area, despite everyone’s habitually casual attitude towards preparations. Today, I woke up thinking about Gloria, a similarly anticipated Major Hurricane that lingered malevolently in the Atlantic for days as a Category 4 hurricane in 1985 before making a rather pathetic pass at Connecticut, which that fine and proper young lady of a state thoroughly squashed with one icy glare.

I always remember Hurricane Gloria because it was the first time I ever encountered a true Weather Geek — someone who was excited about an impending Hurricane, not because it afforded them an opportunity to make mixed drinks at noon and take a day off from work, but because he had a wide-eyed sense of wonder at The Things That Nature Did.

Naturally, this was my ninth grade Earth Sciences teacher, Mr. Coogan.

He sat on the edge of his desk at the front of the classroom, swinging his legs like a 9-year-old boy, and announced he was dispensing with the lesson plan so that we could talk about Gloria. Since she was, at the time, still bucketing around the water off North Carolina, most of us hadn’t even heard of her yet, and I, for one, assumed something dreadful had happened to some girl I didn’t even know — doubtless one of those mysterious and haughty Yarmouth girls with whom we had just had the misfortune to merge classes when we moved up to the Regional High School across the river. Gloria, huh? Just the sort of name one of those girls would have, I sniffed.

But after a few minutes’ incomprehensible chatter about barometric pressures, and troughs, and radar imagery, I started to gather what he was going on about. (I got distracted back into thinking it was about a wayward teenage girl again for a few minutes with his talk of a well-developed eye but soon recovered.)

Seriously, I had never seen anyone so excited to see a storm at work. I mean, he wanted Gloria to happen on Cape Cod; he wanted to see what happened. It was like his version of a dreamy rock band was coming to town, and he wanted to stop everything and talk about what Simon LeBon was going to wear on stage, and whether John was cuter than Nick (totally).

We must have spent a good week discussing Gloria in class, speculating about the track that she might take, arguing for different forecast models, and wondering at how invisible, mysterious forces like “shear” might have such a direct effect on the course of our own personal histories. And then the plywood went up over the windows downtown, Mom bought gallons of water and extra boxes of elbow pasta, and we all tuned in to the local weather forecast to watch the show.

Of course, it was all for nothing, as Gloria weakened dramatically before hitting our shores, and ninth grade Earth Science soon resumed its regularly scheduled curriculum of rocks, minerals, and volcanoes.

But no, I take it back. It wasn’t all for nothing. I got to see my first weather geek in action (today I go to the ineffable Matt Noyes for all my weather geek needs), and got a taste of what it was like to be enamored of something obscure and technical but also amazing and mysterious, something that affected everyone I knew, and yet something that few people knew any real facts about. I had discovered the joy of the Subject Matter Expert.

This came in mighty handy when the Internet came around.

And I learned a very powerful lesson about how easy it was to get your teacher to go completely off-topic for days, if you could just figure out what it was that got them into this business in the first place, and let them run with it.

4 Thoughts.

  1. Oh My Gosh, Beth!
    You are too funny….I love this post….all the little sniggly bits of it…
    and I’m glad you were all stood up by Earl this time as well!

  2. I am from Florida and I am a weather nerd! So every time a hurricane is out there I am like please, please, please hit us (plus I enjoy the disruption)! Really the only time you have to worry is when they get up around level 5…

  3. I love your blog. I love Cape Cod (esp Chatham). I love Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. I am from CT originally (now live in Syracuse) and I was also a freshman in Highschool. We were out of school for at least a week because our power was out that long! My family and I vacation at the Cape every summer staying in Harwich but we go to Chatham several times during that time… they play in the band gazebo at the park… I love this blog!

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