Sunday, August 28, 2011

Capeshots From the Morning After Irene

Well, our household escaped the ravages of Irene relatively unscathed. Many small limbs are down in our yard, and of course the power is out. I think the whole Cape went down at the same time based on the Facebook updates I saw.

We all hunkered down in the basement for the night with the pets and slept fitfully while the winds blew likewise. Daybreak revealed that Irene was still not quite done with us but perhaps had already done her worst.

After a quick survey of the property, my husband and I went about the work of snaking extension cords from the generator to all the necessities, first and foremost the well and coffee pot followed by the refrigerator, toaster oven and miscellaneous chargers. We bought our generator in anticipation of Isabel, and it has proved a worthy investment. We are seriously considering going with a whole house propane generator in the near future. For now, the old Briggs and Stratton is doing a fine job for us.

Once electricity was flowing, hubby, Laika, and I hopped in the truck and took a slow ride around the Cape. We didn't stay out long so as not to be in the way, and I would recommend the same to all.

While we didn't see any terrible devastation, we did find plenty of damage in the form of downed trees. A few were blocking roads or down over power lines, and some were on top of cars and houses. We also saw a good Anne Arundel County and BGE work crew presence setting about the work of clearing roads and piecing our power grid back together. Again, I would stay off the roads as much as possible to give them time and room to work.

I'm no expert, but I'm guessing days rather than hours of outage for many in the Cape. The BGE website is currently reporting 108K Anne Arundel customers without power. We will need to be patient.

Here are some of the pictures I took this AM. Everyone be careful out there and help each other out. Keep those generators away from your houses in well ventilated areas, and be smart with the extension cords. As we approach nightfall, assuming the power is still out, be careful with candles. Irene was destructive enough without adding to it with carbon monoxide poisoning, electrocutions, or fires. Stay safe Capers.

PS. I'm publishing this from my only source of Internet at the moment, my Droid. Apologies for any formatting issues. Couldn't figure out how to add captions. Those porta johns at Lake Claire may already have been bashed prior to Irene.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

Friday, August 26, 2011

Go Time

Every three hours for the past two or three days, I've eagerly pulled up the latest predicted track of hurricane Irene from the National Hurricane Center website. I keep expecting the next update to be the one to verify that we are or are not going to be in the path of the worst of the storm. Each time, it creeps a hair to the east or west, and two consecutive creeps in one direction or the other have me convinced that it's a meaningful trend. I study the slightest tip or wobble of the eye to divine whether we are in for just another rainy day or the apocalypse.

The reality is that the update that tells the real story will be the one that's too late to do anything about. It will be another 12-24 hours at least before we know with certainty if and where Irene will make landfall and how that will impact her path. By that time, it's game over in terms of proper preparation.

So far, we have stocked up on groceries, flashlights, batteries and fuel. The rest of today will be spent stowing loose items in the yard (once I quit blogging...).


Flashlights and Batteries

The boat ramp at Deep Creek had a backup yesterday afternoon, and this morning when we pulled our boat, a steady stream of trailers waited their turn. Local hardware stores are bringing in extra generators. Water bottles are starting to sell out here and there, and I've even heard of a gas station out of gas. A storm shelter has been designated at Annapolis High School. The city is handing out sand bags, and downtown parking garages are offering free parking to residents at risk from rising water. The list of preparations continues to grow.

Much of this may very well not be necessary, but we won't know until it is in fact necessary. Don't let your fear of looking overcautious keep you from taking the basic and easy precautions. The city and state are making every possible resource available, and local businesses are calling in reinforcements with respect to supplies. Better to look a little foolish now than a lot foolish later.

As for the boat we trailered this AM, it's entirely possible that it is more at risk from a falling limb in our driveway than from an unlikely worst-case tidal surge on the lift. We seriously considered leaving it down at the dock. During hurricane Isabel, though, I watched with alarm as my husband lassoed our free floating boat from an invisible pier three feet under water in the pitch power-out-darkness of night to keep it from floating away. It's not something I want to watch again.

So we've placed our bet on the wheel of falling tree and branch roulette with fingers crossed that we chose just the right spot in the driveway for the boat and cars. There is an element of guesstimation at work here, but at this point, we all still have some time to stack the odds in our favor. That time is running out, though, and today is our last best chance to tie up the loose strings.

Everyone be careful and considerate of one another as Irene approaches and in the aftermath. I honestly don't have a clue what is in store for us. If all the preparation turns out to have been unnecessary, we can be nothing but thankful. It's not like all the food I bought will go uneaten. Heck, half of it is eaten already...

PS - You know where I've always really wanted to ride out a wicked storm? Baltimore Light! How cool would it be to view it from right out in the Bay safely enclosed in a solid brick structure that's stood since 1908? I might not have as much faith in the precariously leaning Sharps Island Lighthouse or chicken-legged, wooden Thomas Point, but Baltimore Light - I would buy a ticket for that show. Although I'm not sure I'd utilize that outhouse in a hurricane or otherwise...

Baltimore Light (Daredevil Potty on the Left)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Earthquake in the Cape!

Sooooo, how was THAT for a first day of the 2011 - 2012 school year? I thought the main drama of the day would be choosing my daughter's outfit for her first day of high school or maybe a fight in front of Cape Elementary over the new dropoff rules, but noooo, Mother Nature had to one up every bit of it with, of all things, an EARTHQUAKE.

And not an altogether insignificant earthquake, even by West Coast standards. This rumbly tumbler was a solid 5.8 on the Richter scale centered in Virginia, and it was felt all along the I-95 corridor from Georgia to New England and then some. Now that's something you don't experience every day, even this girl who grew up an hour from San Francisco. Here's the "shake map" of the event showing who felt what in our area:

I actually didn't feel the earthquake because I was on the road coming into the Cape, but my husband sent me a text from Angler's where he was picking up some fishing supplies. My son (who had not started school yet) served as textographer and read, "Did you just feel that earthquake?" to which my son transcribed, "No, but there are lots of Capers standing out in front of their houses with cell phones in hand looking really confused." Maybe that's not so out of the ordinary, but in large numbers, it was notable.

When I arrived home, my neighbor gave me the play by play of the quake. A quick tour of my house revealed evidence that we had, in fact, experienced an earthquake. These pictures of the "destruction" in my house tell the tale (with captions in case you can't make out the full scope of the devastation):

Crooked Picture

Crooked Picture

Tipsy Barbie

Toppled Book

Deodorant Strewn Off the Shelf

Unhung Mirror Knocked Over

Crooked Map of Annapolis - Kind of Apropos

OK, it wasn't the great quake of 1906, but it truly did shake things up on our typically steady peninsula. My husband's good friend who stopped by Graul's on his way to our place to buy chicken for their fishing outing arrived at the grocery store to find it closed with aisles full of boxes. In an attempt to buy another fishing prerequisite, beer, he learned from the folks at Bella's that they had miraculously only lost four bottles of bourbon (ouch) and a half dozen or so other miscellaneous bottles of booze. ("100 bottles of beer on the wall, 100 bottles of beer, earthquake them around, shake them down, 99 bottles of beer on the wall...").

In the end, it was a lot of excitement with only a very little damage for us in the Cape - a little more so for our fragile historic downtown Annapolis. Even so, it was disconcerting that cell phone communication was immediately compromised due to the high level of airwave traffic, and the roads were jammed with an equally high level of roadway traffic. Parents delayed in that traffic could neither get home to their kids nor make calls to check on them. The Anne Arundel Public School website was not up to the barrage of visits, either. Thankfully, our good Cape neighbors did their part to round up the stray kiddies until their parents could get home safely.

Here's a funny picture from a blog called Boring Pittsburgh:

WTF? Pretty Much Sums It Up

Still, all of this strikes a little fear in my heart for a truly catastrophic disaster. This serves as a good wakeup call for us to spend a little more time on those emergency cards that the schools send home. It's worth seriously thinking through how our kids should get home when we can't get to them and talking to them about what to do until we arrive. As for my household, one small measure we have taken is to install a cipher lock on one of our doors. It's provided some peace of mind knowing the kids don't rely on an easily misplaced key to get in the house.

Where cell phones were unreliable yesterday either for calls or texts, I have to say, Twitter and Facebook never lost a step. Information was flying over social media at the speed of disaster. I knew instantly via Facebook that the quake had been felt by friends and family as far south as South Carolina and as far north as Connecticut. I also learned pretty quickly that my kids were safe at school and that area schools had been evacuated but would dismiss at the usual time. This information has to be taken with a grain of salt and filtered sometimes to get to the facts, but it's an invaluable tool in fast moving situations, especially when mobile phones and websites aren't up to such heavy use.

Following the earthquake, a couple of friends on Facebook posted this article from about the West Coast's reaction to our "quaint" earthquake. It's very funny and makes two good points. First, while the earthquake was not catastrophic by any stretch, neither was it trivial in a location that is not conditioned to this sort of threat. I think all things considered, our levels of alert and concern were warranted.

The day-after assessment is revealing that our area did not escape unscathed. The Washington Monument sustained a crack (I will NOT be superstitious and view that as an omen...), and the Washington Cathedral lost some finials from its spires. Downtown Annapolis also saw some damage to older structures. It remains to seen what other underlying harm might have been done.

Second, I think West Coasters can't fully appreciate the immediate and intense fear that accompanies every boom, bang, and bump that those of us on the East Coast feel or hear following 9-11, particularly in the DC to NY corridor. To a person, it's the first thought that leaps to mind when things shake, rattle or rumble. While the whole country was wounded that day in 2001, I think those of us closest to it geographically experienced a particular level of trauma that is still all too fresh.

DC does not have skyscrapers, but there are plenty of buildings tall enough to have given people a real fright from the swaying and shaking triggered by the quake. Then we had the sight of people running out of federal buildings in fear that brought back vivid and fraught memories of a day that fundamentally changed those of us who watched the horror of 9-11 unfold from just down the road. I think with that as a backdrop, our reactions were justified.

So, that should be enough natural disaster excitement for one week, right? Who gets nailed with an earthquake and say, a hurricane, that close together? Well, hopefully Irene will keep turning to the right like she has with each new update of her track and leave this already shaken part of the country alone. The trend for her eventual path so far has been slowly but steadily eastward. Let's hope that continues.

Still, the track is much too close for comfort, and everyone should be thinking ahead to the possibility of very heavy rain and tropical storm force winds later in the weekend. The winds in particular can mean very high water (or very low water) depending on what part of the storm impacts the Bay. Be prepared to secure your boats or take them out of the water if necessary, and stow away any loose articles in your yards. Have your generators tuned up and get some gas to power them. Heavy rain and wind could mean power outages in the Cape and surrounding area. While we can be forgiven for our lack of earthquake preparedness, there is no excuse for not being ready to deal with a hurricane given the lead time and our wealth of experience here on the East Coast. The devil we know...

Wishing everyone a calmer day and week ahead. Thanks to everyone who did their part to keep our kids and neighbors safe yesterday. When the ground shakes, Capers rock more than ever!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Claire With an e, Please...

'But if you call me Anne, please call me Anne spelled with an e.'
'What difference does it make how it's spelled?' asked Marilla with another rusty smile as she picked up the teapot.
'Oh, it makes such a difference. It looks so much nicer. When you hear a name pronounced can't you always see it in your mind, just as if it was printed out? I can; and A-N-N looks dreadful, but A-N-N-E looks so much more distinguished.'
Many of you Capers had opportunity to drive past the new sign this side of the Route 50 overpass directing travelers into our fine community. I'm sure whoever decided it was needed had the best of intentions, but something went a little wrong between intent and execution (isn't that often the case?). Even though we are the largest community on the Broadneck Peninsula - one of the largest in Annapolis - the powers that be still managed to get our name wrong. Instead of being directed into Cape St. Claire, the new sign was spelled Cape St. Clair - simply "dreadful".

Capers very quickly noted the problem and posted some wry comments on the I Live in Cape St. Claire Facebook page. The names and faces have been deleted to protect the innocent (or smartassy :)...

  •  I can't believe those darned teenagers stole it already! :-)
    Yesterday at 8:18am · 
  • Damn budget cuts!!!
    Yesterday at 9:07am ·
  • Its the economy, you're right. Good thing they got the debt ceiling raised!
    Yesterday at 9:32am · 
  • i just noticed that too, maybe one of our residents can help with a can of paint? LOL
    Yesterday at 10:15am · 
  • Maybe someone can track down FTH for us since they have no problem writing on all of our other signs.
    Yesterday at 10:59am · 
  • ‎...but he doesn't have an "e" either :)
    Yesterday at 11:13am · 
  • What is the location of the sign? I will conact the SHA.
    22 hours ago ·
  • We don't need no stinkin' "e".
    22 hours ago ·
  •  is that a new sign???
    21 hours ago ·
  •  It's new, its right after you cross over 50 on the overpass. When you're heading towards Cape (from WaWa) it's on the right.
    18 hours ago · 
  •  It's not like we spell Claire in some funky unusual local way!! I guess the sign company doesn't use spell check before they paint those puppies.
    18 hours ago ·
  • I think it's due to the economy ...... they had to make budget cuts and the E drew the short straw ;-)
    17 hours ago ·
  • I just saw it. I think there is a new one up over head too. Near old mill bottom.
    17 hours ago ·
  • What, exactly, was wrong with the old signs that they had to replace them?
    17 hours ago · 

The misspelling of a name can trigger something visceral in us. As my all-time favorite heroine Anne Shirley of Green Gables fame so aptly explains in the above excerpt, our names are more than just the way they sound. We also identify strongly with the way they are spelled. When we think of a person's name, the spelling is integral to our association with that person, and when someone gets the spelling of our names wrong, we are quick to correct them and rarely let it lie.

My daughter Kathryn is burdened with a name that has myriad traditional spelling possibilities, not to mention the dozens of nickname variations. My son Henry is in safer territory unless he travels to France where they spell it with a silly i and say it like a donkey's bray, or Germany where Heinrich sounds like a throat being cleared during a bad cold. My husband Mark largely avoids spelling concerns with his simple four-letter name. The alternative Marc is pretty uncommon, although he was plagued for years with credit card statements that came addressed to him as Martha - an old mixup stemming from the switching of his name with his mother's.

As for me, I have seen my name spelled all manner of ways over the years, all of which I have found unsettling. The spellings are fine in and of themselves. They simply are not me. I am Christy, short for Christina (and only my Dad calls me THAT) - not Kristy, Kristie, Cristy, Cristi, Christie, Christi or Krysti. I was particularly flipped out to receive a certificate at work one time with the name Tina printed on it. Tina? I just don't identify as a Tina in any way. I used a Sharpie to add the Chris on the front end.

Anyway, Cape residents were justifiably taken aback to see the all important e in Claire dropped from the name of our beloved community. While I'm sure no harm was meant by it, the impression is that we were somehow not significant enough for the typo to have caught ANYONE'S attention before being mounted on the side of the highway for everyone to see. It doesn't even look right, does it? Anne Shirley would deem it "the most tragical thing that has ever happened...".

Well, I'm happy to report that the error has been remedied before it could result in a full blown identity crisis for our neighborhood or general confusion for outsiders. Kudos to the State Highway Administration for hustling to correct their mistake. The new e is slightly lower than the rest of the lettering, and it is a little squished, but the casual observer would not notice anything amiss. It's certainly better than Sharpie. I don't know if this is the permanent fix, but it will suffice to quell our initial indignation.

By the way, does anyone know if this is a new sign? Is it a replacement for an old one? I can't recall seeing one before, but my powers of observation are not the sharpest. I do kind of like it now that the e is in its rightful place. As I said, I'm sure the intent was sincere despite the glaring error. While I somehow doubt the Highway Administration lost any sleep over all this (other than the poor schmucks who had to slap up the missing e in the wee hours of the night), they can take solace in Anne's redeeming words that I always keep close to my heart, "Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it."

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Paddle Board Fever

I've been watching with interest the past summer or two as stand up paddle boards have become increasingly popular in our area. They appear to be a case of kayak meets surfboard. If you read the Broadneck Patch article about the race on the Magothy and Deep Creek this past weekend, you can see what they look like in action - at least in cruising action. Some models can also double as surfboards, which is a different activity, altogether - extreme paddle boarding.

The first ones I noticed caught my eye as a novelty when I saw the odd one or two glide past on Deep Creek. I judged the people on them to be a little showy or exhibitionist. It's all out on display standing atop a board in a creek or harbor instead of tucked away inside a kayak or offshore in a wetsuit on a surfboard. I wasn't all that intrigued or impressed initially.

Well, this past weekend, as paddle boarder after paddle boarder pushed up and back down Deep Creek as part of an organized race, I took a bit more notice. This was clearly more than a mere novelty to these folks, and I began to see the appeal of paddling across the top of the water on foot in terms of perspective and comfort level. I have always felt a little low and constricted in kayaks, but these enthusiasts atop the paddle boards were making use of every part of their bodies to stay balanced and move forward. It was like surfing without the threat of being crushed beneath crashing waves or eaten by sharks.

I wasn't the only one who was intrigued. On Sunday evening, my husband asked if I would like to go take a look at paddle boards with him. He also was curious and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I'm not sure if marketing was one of the goals of the race organizers, but it clearly was effective either way.

So we drove over to East of Maui to do some research and try to learn a little bit about the sport of paddle boarding. After a twenty minute in-store tutorial by one of the owners, we determined that our best bet was to rent a board and see how we liked it before making an investment in one of our own. There are myriad board options available, and we were not even certain if we had the balance to stand upright on one.

We strapped an 11-foot beginner model to the roof of our Explorer (feeling very cool to have something even close to surfboard looking on top of our vehicle), drove home, and deposited it in Deep Creek for a trial run. I was not at all sure how easy or difficult this was going to be. The guy at the shop had given us a slew of pointers. They even offer classes, but I felt pretty sure this was something we could figure out on our own.

Well, we spent the better part of the afternoon taking turns paddling out in gradually longer distances. The "idiot proof" beginner model was surprisingly easy to balance as long as you kept moving - kind of like riding a bike. Like I suspected, I enjoyed being upright and having a better view than down low in a kayak.

Overall, we agreed that we really liked paddle boarding. The boards are lighter and more manageable than kayaks in terms of getting them in and out, and it really is fun being upright - standing on water. I found that my feet would tend to go a little numb after a while on the board - I think because I was trying so hard to balance properly. A little repositioning seemed to take care of it as I became more acclimated.

We managed to make our way up and down the length of Deep Creek between the two of us without falling in. I had a couple of dodgy moments up at the top of the creek trying to turn around in a narrow, shallow channel, but I even figured out how to reverse on a paddle board to get me out of a tight spot. It wasn't pretty, but nobody could see me up there but the birds and the frogs. My husband, who ventured out into the Magothy, said it was pretty challenging to stay upright in even a little bit of chop, and a boat wake almost dumped him.

While I was at the head of Deep Creek, I came across some really lovely flowers that I hadn't seen before - looked like white and pink hibiscus. I don't know if they are desirable or not in that habitat, but they were really eye catching. I found myself wishing I had my camera with me.

Later in the day just past sunset, I made a second paddle board trip up the creek (with a paddle, mind you), but this time, I threw caution to the wind and took a camera with me. The water was significantly higher by this hour, so the channels were a bit more navigable.

I was disappointed to find that the flowers had closed up for the night, but I still got some pretty shots of the head of the creek. I also took some video of the birds fluttering in the reeds. The sound was amazing, but the video doesn't quite capture the full effect. I felt a little guilty for disrupting their settled evening reverie. I fear Deep Creek will be even more disrupted by the ominous sounds of bulldozers that I could hear and just see through the thinned out trees on the south bank of the creek.

As I turned back down the creek and headed for home, I could see lightning strikes from a thunderstorm in the distance to the northeast. This is where I almost went in the drink in my enthusiasm to capture the lightning on camera while not dropping my paddle (in which case I WOULD have been up the creek without a paddle).

If I waited to take the shot when the lightning struck, I would miss it. So I just started randomly taking pictures (thank goodness for digital photography), and managed to catch a strike on one of them. Then I used the part of my brain God gave me (as opposed to the worthless Homer Simpson part that would have just kept clicking randomly to catch one lightning strike in twenty shots) and switched to video mode to capture some more of the show.

Here are the shots and video I came home with:

Front of my board

Closed white flowers at head of Deep Creek

Flowers in the grasses

Closed pink flower

These were even lovelier earlier when they were open

Pretty side channel where I got stuck

Looking East

View back up the creek

View down the creek

Sunset through the trees in Arnold

Pretty clouds at sunset

Reflection of the sunset in the water (not algae!)

Even Homer Simpson gets the shot sometimes

It's nothing short of miraculous that my camera did not end up at the bottom of Deep Creek. Heck, it's miraculous that I didn't end up at the bottom of Deep Creek. While I DO recommend paddle boarding, I do NOT recommend paddle board photography unless you have a waterproof case for your camera. I was truly tempting fate, and it was only a matter of time before I and the camera took a swim (deadly for the camera and potentially hazardous to my health with the bacteria levels recently measured in the Magothy).

We're still debating whether to go all in and purchase a board. We agreed we need to do more homework and get a better feel for how much we would use one. I certainly don't anticipate competing in a race anytime soon. I'm thinking it would be more fun to sit on shore with a water balloon canon and try to knock the paddlers off as they pass by. Now THAT'S some serious sport! (do I have to actually say that I'm just kidding and that I don't condone that behavior?)...