Another storm hangover

Published 9:07 pm Friday, November 13, 2009

Suffolk seemed eerily quiet Friday morning.

In the cold, misting rain that fell throughout the morning, it was clear that the worst of the storm had passed. Moderate winds still were blowing, and the recently barren trees swayed, but the storm that had held Hampton Roads in its clutches for the better part of three days was beginning to lose its grip.

For me, The Day After always has the feel of New Year’s Day after a party that got out of hand the night before.

There’s the post-adrenal hangover that comes when all the stress and tension — which kept you going through preparation for the storm and then actually bearing up through it — finally has no focus and is released.

There are the sheepish acknowledgements of family, friends and neighbors. Nobody seemed all that concerned when they saw you standing in your yard in the rain at 1 a.m., but what will they be thinking when they see you again in the light of day?

And — like a party that went completely off the rails — for most of us, it is only in the light of the following day that the true destructive potential of a hurricane or nor’easter is revealed.

Upon awakening on Friday morning, I, like nearly everyone in Hampton Roads, stepped outside and into the scene of nature’s midnight debauchery. Pine needles, leaves, twigs and branches littered the yard and the road like the trash left behind by careless, drunken houseguests. Furniture and other yard fixtures had been relocated as if the original accommodations were inadequate for the visitors.

Obviously the water had been left on, and it had flooded whole communities.

Trees were broken, docks and piers were smashed and an entire house was missing from its base in the Nansemond River, leaving nothing but a few pilings protruding from the water. Clearly, this party was out of control. And, as with most such events, the worst of the damage took place long after reasonable people were already in bed, and there’s no one around who’s willing to own up to knowing exactly what happened.

In the wake of such excess, folks find themselves sharing stories about the previous night, though they’re more likely to do so with those who were there with them than those who were not. As with inside jokes between friends, sometimes you just had to be there for things to make sense in retrospect.

Now that the hangover has subsided, it’s time for the cleanup to begin, along with the many solemn promises that “This will never happen again.” Next time, we promise we’ll be better prepared. But everybody knows that promises made in such conditions are soon forgotten.

Sooner or later, there’ll be another roaring loud night, followed by another storm hangover and another quiet assessment of the world the following morning.