Our 20 years in Heathsville provided abundant personal exposure to coastal storms. The storms themselves are fun and thrilling, so long as you tie everything down beforehand and stay away from falling trees, high water, windows, and downed electrical wires.

Isabel's trackHurricane Isabel thrashed the eastern US from Cape Hatteras to Lake Erie for two days in September 2003. During the day on September 18 at our sheltered hurricane hole on the Coan River, the sky clouded up, the wind rose, the power flickered and went out--normal hurricane stuff, nothing to be concerned about.

The storm's windiest quadrant bellowed over Heathsville throughout the night. I spent the evening reading by battery-powered lamplight, listening to the wind, and checking the display on the wireless wind gauge whenever the blow achieved a certain roar. Tree limbs thumped onto the ground when the wind speed reached 45 knots, but the gusts never exceeded 55 knots. Ho hum. The ceiling over a popout window on the east side of the house leaked the way it always did in a heavy southeast blow, in spite of Ted's repeated efforts to seal it. I put a bucket out to catch the drips and joined Ted upstairs (snoring already in progress). Although I was aware we would face a mess in the morning, I slept well, knowing nothing could be done about it anyway.

Normal high tide at the Coan River HousePost-hurricane tideThe morning was cloudy and drippy when we peeked out the kitchen window. The river, shown at left during a normal high tide at high tide, had flooded the pier deck (right), but hadn't been high enough to float the dock lines off the pilings.