Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy 2

The atmosphere in New Haven this morning has shifted from portentous to frankly strange. Nothing much at all is happening, yet. The phone rang well before dawn, and it was dear Uncle Alec—calling from his magnificent longhorn cattle estancia at Fingal on the Mornington Peninsula, to make sure I am all right. He’s now going to bed, as is the rest of Australia. But I am getting up. The newspaper was delivered as usual, as it was on the morning of Hurricane Irene last year. The city also kindly collected the rubbish, an almost heroic gesture in the circumstances. It has evidently been raining all night, though it best resembles just now what the Irish call a “soft,” a fine swirling drizzle, but notably cooler than last evening. Gusts of wind that normally one would regard as empty puff, seem rather more ominous amid all the canceled flights, trains and emergency preparedness measures that have kicked in all the way from the Carolinas to Massachusetts—as well as several hundreds of thousands of poor souls urged to evacuate their neighborhoods. We are told to follow the directions of our local and state government officials. In due course those gusts promise at the very least to complete the work of the fall, in short order. The sugar maples are now almost entirely bare, but like a mad and restless child the wind is tossing their leaves all over the place. The sound of a winter wind is bleak and barren, but the fall adds texture. The small note is a rustle, but the wooded hillside opposite is producing now a rhythmical ebb and surge, uncannily marine in character, which at this stage is almost comforting. From my bedroom window I see the single, wholly contingent wire that droops wearily from the corner of my house all the way across to the far side of Chapel Street and a messy aggregation of fixtures that cling there to an ancient wooden pole. This doubles as the host for a very old street light, but the pole leans alarmingly shy of vertical. The wire is now swinging in the wind from side to side like some malnourished lazybones in his hammock, fodder for any one of a dozen potentially dangerous branches that could easily snap off through the next twenty-four hours, maybe longer. In fact the first of these cracked with the sickening loudness of rotten timber just five minutes ago, mercifully just beyond my northern boundary in the other direction. This first casualty gave up the ghost before whatever battle lies ahead of us has even begun. It is surely significant that well into the second decade of the twenty-first century one faces the almost certain prospect of power loss, probably for days, with an air of complete resignation, due to the hopelessness of our electrical infrastructure. In a land of blizzards and hurricanes and forests, why would any thinking person persist with the nineteenth-century project of stringing little wires from post to post? Reinvent the system, and put them all below ground where they belong.

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