Tuesday, October 30, 2012

We Got Lucky: Sandy Recap & Photos

 [Just up the road from us in Mirlo Beach.]

October 1st was when we last saw each other. Justin stayed in Buxton to work on our house this month. I was originially supposed to go home today or yesterday. It looks like I'll be able to go home later this week by ferry, depending on access and road conditions.

Tracking Sandy has been a learning experience. My first inkling of what was to come was an off-hand comment from one of my friends, "There's a hurricane headed toward the Outer Banks." Which I shared with Justin. He was not concerned, so I was not concerned. Until a day or two later when he sent me a panicked text that he was going to get hit by a hurricane. I didn't think it was that big of a deal, after all I've been through a lot of things. And my other friends seemed nonchalant when they mentioned it.

Justin initially planned to evacuate and I'd meet him somewhere after I finished working. He was concerned that if I left too late there'd be too much water and I wouldn't be able to get out. But as the days passed, it appeared that Sandy would miss us. So he decided to stay and wanted me to come to Buxton to stay with him.

I was too scared to go to the Outer Banks. The road floods even in heavy rain and I drive a low level car. Twice this summer I was caught in high water on that road. I wasn't taking chances. I stayed with friends.

As the storm progressed and I read more and more on hurricanes, I became quite aware of our vulnerable state living on the coast in the possible path of a hurricane. Though the forecasters may have predicted that we'd be spared, you never know until it has passed.

I figured out where to go for weather news: Wunderground. They had the best tracking and up-to-date information. As well, the city websites, especially Virginia Beach & Hatteras Island provided frequent updates and information for citizens. 

From the high point in a large house where I sat with my friend Rob (an optometrist who I met on a humanitarian trip to India in 2005) and his wife Iris, I watched as Hatteras took the initial blow from the hurricane, bracing, strong, with heads high in calmness. They've been hit over and over and know how to keep going. Justin's cousin lives with her three kids in a house in Hatteras, which appeared that it'd take on water the first day. They waded across the street to an aunt's house and waited out the storm. Justin said matter-of-factly, "We'll just have to squeegee her house, bleach the floors, and haul the furniture on the lawn."  He's done it before.

The Outer Banks was not in the direct path. Yet nearly the entire place was severely damaged, a combination of high tide, a full moon, and the timing and force of Sandy. Our friends and family suffered damage and the road was ripped up in several places. A temporary bridge built last year after Hurricane Irene withstood the hurricane but may be damaged.

Remarkably, our house stayed dry as a bone, and from the videos Justin was posting of our house, you wouldn't know that we were even having a hurricane. He put them up for my benefit, so I wouldn't worry. His house has not once taken on water since 1937. It's still hard to believe, but after this, I believe it. And I understand. Also remarkable was that he retained power and cell phone coverage the entire time. Which made it much easier on both of us. (Remarkably, his cousin's house also stayed dry.)

Virginia Beach had localised flooding, in lower areas, as well as a large portion of Norfolk. One island was completely submerged in at least three feet of water. It was serious. But nothing like the upper east coast.

At my Rob and Iris' house, they had the news on continuously. Yet I had no idea what was really going on. Even from right where Sandy was coming inland, watching the news didn't help much. There's so much sensationalism that it's hard to know what is going on and what to expect. They repeat stories without giving useful information. It's as good as having no information at all. Without the internet city and state websites and contact with locals on the ground, I would have had no idea what was going on.

I am relieved it's over. But it was a great learning experience.

The waves persisted after the storm.
 Our new backyard lake.
Mirlo Beach (I think).
 Highway 12. The road to Buxton from Virginia Beach.
 More highway 12.

A few photos from Highway 12 which is the road I take home to Buxton and the Outer Banks: (from the NCDOT, if you click on the photos, they will take you to their stream.) Hurricane Sandy - Pea Island Hurricane Sandy Hurricane Sandy - Pea Island Hurricane Sandy - Temporary Bridge on NC12 Flooding on N.C. 12 on Pea Island in Dare County

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Watching Hurricane Sandy

Virginia Beach is opening shelters starting tomorrow morning. Maybe it means nothing. Maybe it means something.

Locals are nonchalant, going about their normal activities, stocking up on water. Justin is at home on Buxton, waiting it out. For once it seems that Hatteras Island is the safe haven. Apparently normally Virginia Beach is evacuated north, but not this time.

Justin said everyone there is acting like it's another day. Which is good and fine especially if you are well versed in ocean weather. For someone like me, it's a different story. I researched the city, trying to determine if I was in a flood zone. I downloaded evacuation routes and figured where I would go if we had to leave.

I put my car in the Westin's parking garage and plan to leave it there to ride out the storm. I had some very old friends who I met in India offer to have me stay with them and I'm taking them up on it- they're stopping by later tonight for me on their way home. It may be overcautious but I always tell my patients piece of mind is serious- don't apologize for needing it. So I am not going to apologize either. Maybe it will be nothing. But with my supreme ignorance in the situation and of the east coast, I'd rather stay with friends and worry less.

Most storms I've been told are nothing. But then there's that rare Katrina or Irene, or Grace, acts of devastation. As long as the hurricane is still swirling, we don't know what will happen. That's the part that's actually scary. And this storm is moving really slow, which causes more problems.

The extreme east coast weather makes me so homesick for the benign northwest, where drizzles reigned and 10mph gusts were considered wind.

I'll keep you posted. I plan to hang out in Chesapeake, VA for the next two days. It's higher ground than here and comes with great company, my surrogate parents. ;)

(21:33 Justin just wrote and said the ocean was over the road.)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hurricanes, real and imagined

If you click on this link you can see the storm patterns:  Hurricane Sandy.

Which unsurprisingly makes me wonder why we're living on Hatteras Island, 40 miles into the ocean, known as the graveyard of the Atlantic, where ships went down left and right in the past. And where the hurricanes hit ground more than anywhere else on the eastern seaboard aside from Florida.

Justin texted me last night about the storm, sounding scared. He said, " Nor'easterner storm. Roads might get washed out." I didn't quite understand, saying that I had continuing education scheduled for Monday morning and I could leave after that but wasn't planning to return to leave until Tuesday, and I could meet him after that. Wherever he ended up (Greenville? Raleigh?). He said, "You might not be able to leave if you wait too long."

Apparently Virginia Beach gets hit hard too. Maybe those "Hurricane Evacuation Route" signs are up for a reason. I saw them when I first moved to town. They did not comfort me.

Overnight I dreamed nightmares. Mostly of patients and past employers. I woke up early and exhausted.

This last week I scheduled tightly, trying to see everyone and finish as many things as I could before having no place to stay in Virginia Beach. Truthfully, I've enjoyed this month of band practice Mondays, meetings with old friends, thrift stores and a 5k race at the art museum.

I don't understand hurricanes. I understand snowstorms and wind and floods and drizzling rain. I've seen one tornado despite hundreds and hundreds of warnings growing up.

Hatteras had a devastating hurricane last fall which created a new inlet and and left the lower half of Hatteras Island cut off from the upper half. A ferry had to take them across until a new tiny bridge was constructed.

I checked the radar at work and wondered why we were living on an island. There's only 4,000 year round residents on the whole island and from Buxton it's at least an hour drive on a skinny sandbar to get to the mainland. That is if the road doesn't wash out.

On Facebook today, Hatteras Island residents were complaining over and over about the need for a better road. How the government had been mistreating them by making them put up with the inferior quality of road construction.

I wondered, why do they stay. Why not move inland?

The population in Buxton is almost 100% white. The poverty level is much higher than the rest of the state of North Carolina. There are no jobs. To receive proper medical care, they have to drive 1-3 hours away.

All this to live on a sandbar. Where you dig in the backyard and a foot down there's water.

I wonder how much the ocean has to rise before we are under water?

We can only watch and wait and see.

It is not comforting.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I park every day next to to the orange VW

 The house is coming along.
Some "upcycled" steps that Justin found at the dump. Our dump is a combo recycling center and a lot of people on the island make their houses and things out of scavenged materials. Our steps needed to be replaced. This was a perfect find.
Justin & Crew are still painting the house, and have been working crazy hard. I'll be in Virginia Beach for another week and then back. Five more days of work, one day of continuing education and one day of rest... Next month I'll work four days in Virginia Beach and that's enough for the rest of the year.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

I went to work in Virginia Beach so the boys painted our house

I started working on the outside of our house but ended up getting a fill-in job in Virginia Beach for the month of October so I hung up my painter suit and wasn't sure how we were going to get it all done. I've painted several houses and was really excited to work on this one... ours together! Shortly after I headed north, Justin talked his brother and our neighbor Dave (a fun character) to come over and help get the place in order. All three of them have been working their pants off for at least two weeks. Here are some of the updates:

Backyard construction zone. Well, cleaning up stuff anyway. This is a little old but it's cute.
This here photo is to show you the nasty green that we were getting rid of. There were actually THREE different shades of equally hideous green on the trim of the house. (We postulated they were all "oops" paint- so damn ugly!)

I will tell you the top side of this side of the house did not need any prep-- all the paint had fallen off already. It was previously red.
 Makeshift scaffolding. (Justin says "redneck scaffolding".)
 Crazee Dave (that's how he likes to spell it) in flip flops on said scaffolding!
We painted the porch roof a beautiful olive green. Get away nasty green! This is Dave. He said to Justin, "Every board I paint, I just think, 'I hope Sara likes this'" Oh man they are funny!
 More porch.
So the main color-- just a few shades lighter than my mini cooper. Also matches our tea kettle which of course I picked out. However I did not suggest that we paint the house this color, Justin did. But you know that I was in full agreement! It is pretty happy and beautiful. And I think no one will miss seeing our little beach cottage on the side of the back road.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Moonlight & Art (Hampton Roads)

 [these are the streets by my house]
 [i love the muted colors of night]

This month, I've been in Virginia Beach, a self-imposed exile to make some money and have a little alone time before I return home to just the two of us. Our roommate Ed is moving out by November 1st, and we'll have the house to ourselves. This means I'll be getting my own room (aka personal creative space), to keep my sanity, and the two of us can work on our life together. We'll be down to just one dog, Bailey, and zero cats. Amen. Amen. I'm not religious but that makes me feel quite thankful. I'm still a little allergic to cats.

I've been working six day weeks, which is definitely not enough free time to have a life. But this is temporary, so no worries. Late at night, while I talk to Justin or my family, I walk the neighborhood streets. This area is safe, and the dimly-lit streets often shimmer with rain as the cool air beckons me to continue my walk.

I'm really enjoying fall.

Since returning to Hampton Roads, I've started up again temporarily with the community band, explaining my gypsy situation to them. They're so sweet. The first night I returned, the conductor said, "Sara Schultz is back from Carolina!" Very welcoming.

With space and time alone again, I've been dabbling in art, mostly colored pastels but a little oil paints. I've got a couple other creative pursuits in the wings which are not yet to be revealed. Good news abounds, and I look forward to this winter and dark nights under the covers.

[driving around Hampton roads today in my self-repaired hat]
 [a rendition of a farm we drove by in PA at the Mother Earth News Fair]
 [this is the orange VW from the Walmart Parking lot]

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The People of Walmart

"You know that orange VW van in the parking lot?" I asked my assistant, Felecia.

"Yeah, is that yours? I saw it and thought maybe it was yours and you were sleeping in the parking lot!" She was laughing.

I'm filling in at Walmart. Every day I park next to the VW van because it makes me happy. She'd seen my actual car too, with the magnets on the side for Justin's advertising business. 

It doesn't take long for the staff to figure out I'm a gypsy.

I dress up like a doctor. In corduroy skirts, sweaters and smart boots. I don't go as far as applying make up. But I wash my face and pull my hair back.

After a month and a half away from the clinic, I'm fresh and unburdened. Patient care comes naturally and I know I'm really making connections because my patients are open with me, and we're all laughing by the end.

The truth is I hate Walmart. I'm morally opposed to the place. When I returned to the states, my sister Molly used to ask me if it was ok if we went there. And it was. After four years overseas, I'd begun to understand why people liked shopping there. Everything under one roof, open 24 hours a day in some locations.

But I've gone back to my old ways, and I've personally banned the place due to their employment practices and their impact on the local community. I'm not sure how I feel about working alongside the optical shop there. But it's on a temporary basis and I need to keep my skills up to successfully pass the NC boards.

I decided that I wouldn't shop in Walmart the entire time I worked there. Then upgraded my challenge to not even set foot inside. And finally encompassed the whole shopping area surrounding the store (which includes any store you could ever dream of within about a ten block radius) to say that I am not going to buy anything except groceries.

Patients want to know what I'm doing there. When I tell them I live in the Outer Banks and just work when I want, it's met with usually acknowledgement of a good choice but sadness that I won't be there next time. The patients of Walmart are actually about half insured. Mostly black. Lots on Medicaid.  Only a few unemployed. Hard-working, basic people.

One woman who was about sixty with grey long hair and a heavily lined narrow face, asked me what I liked to read. I told her, "sustainability stuff, gardening, modern fiction, memoir." She kind of whispered, "Like Mother Earth News?" And when I nodded. "Are you a Hippie?"

I shrugged, "Maybe."

Then, "I took LSD!"

I didn't know what to say to that. Uhh thanks for sharing? I'm not that kind of hippie. But anyway. That's my patients. They spill everything.

Mostly I like the regular people who I see. I've yet to be mistreated by a patient, something which happened regularly by the retired military, ex-officer, NATO crowd.

My assistant is a sweet smart 25 year old from New Jersey. We keep the office peppy and it's actually even fun to be at work. Even if it's a Walmart. And I'm doing six days a week. It's only for a month, and then I'll be back to the Boonies of the Outer Banks for a while.