Named Gloria, she turned northwest near the Caribbean islands and headed toward the Bahamas, gaining strength. Reaching the very warm Gulf Stream in that vicinity, she strengthened to a Category four and forecasters put the large coastal area from Georgia to Maine on alert. They were saying Gloria could strike anywhere or even everywhere along the coast. And of course, when Cape Hatteras is viewed on a map, she becomes a likely target since she juts out into the ocean like she is daring a storm to take her on and, of course, frequently they did.
The only saving grace for the Cape are was that the storm had lost some strength on her continued travels with top winds down to about one hundred with a few higher gusts. But nearing the coast, it put the storm surge in gear and with over five inches of rain and a surge of eight to twelve feet, heavy flooding prevailed. Hatteras got it the worst but many beachfront homes up the barrier islands were damaged, there was heavy beach erosion, and sound side flooding finished things off as the storm moved north and all the water pushed in needed a way out of the Pamlico Sound. The saving grace on the Banks was that the storm was picking up forward speed and it hit the shore during low tide.
Now you are probably asking yourself, why does the heading to the story indicate a near miss? Well, it's because on that Friday morning before Hatteras was hit, they were projecting the storm to track right on up the coast with an eye likely even onshore. And that would mean that Hampton Roads, with its heavy population and largely surrounded by water would likely face a disaster. Before the Hatteras interaction it was being called the "Storm of the Century" and no one was going to take chances.
I was living in Hampton but working in Norfolk and as things appeared to be dire, work was closed at eleven in the morning. We covered computers in plastic and shut the place tight and everyone headed home. And as I was sitting still in traffic on the south half of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, I began to wonder if I'd still be sitting there when the storm hit. And, to make things a little bit more edgy, I looked directly at a large waterspout out of the driver's side window which appeared to be headed right at me. Fortunately it dissipated about a half mile away for there certainly was nowhere to go.
Nearly two and one half hours later I made it home. We made preparations as best we could, stored water and brought out non-perishables and were as ready as we could be. But being located not far from the Chesapeake Bay, if it was as bad as some thought, we could be in for trouble. We turned in about ten and listened to the whistling wind and the driving rain and I drifted off to sleep. The next thing I knew it was five in the morning and as I sat up in bed it was eerily quiet.
I went downstairs, opened the front door and was shocked to see there was little wind, just a lot of small branches and leaves all over the yard. Later, as the sun came up, the clouds broke and blue sky was showing. The storm had meandered further east and it was over. But the folks in New England got a doozie with major flooding and power outages. We never even lost the power. experiencing only a few flickering moments.
Here's my real message and it's something we all need to be realistic about. If you live anywhere near a major population center and a big storm is coming, you either need to get out very early or you might find yourself stuck on the bridge. Realistically, sometimes you are just better off hunkering down where you are for being in a car is no place to be in a major storm. And just like the situation discussed yesterday when the Outer Banks roads and bridges close, the same applies directly in a metropolitan area. Make a plan, make sure your family knows what it is and follow it when things go awry. It will save you both anguish and maybe even your life. Here's hoping that the seas remain light for the rest of the summer.