Too bad opal can’t be a color on the storm-warning spectrum.
An opal is a stone known for reflecting a range of hue, red, orange, green and blue, and it once was thought to be bad luck.
We would have thought that once, in October 1995, when Hurricane Opal arrived overnight as a tropical storm.
I remember it well, because I was living in a duplex off 17th Avenue north of Lakebottom Park, and I stayed up as the storm blew through.
Right before it hit, I drove downtown to the newspaper, thinking a late crew would monitor the damage.
But that was in the days of print only, and when I got to the office, only a city editor and a copy editor remained, on deadline, and they immediately left. So I screwed around for a while and then headed home.
Big oak down
I was going north on 17th when I saw a car stopped ahead, with a pivoting spotlight aimed at a huge tree. Not up into the canopy, but straight ahead into it, as the canopy lay across the avenue.
So I circled around, and realized that in just the few minutes I was downtown, Opal had dropped old trees all over the neighborhood.
One big fat one fell right between two houses, a space barely wide enough to accommodate it. Other homeowners were less fortunate. For them, Opal was bad luck.
Unfortunate also was my writing a column the day before joking about people raiding the grocery store for bottled water, as if the waterlines were going to break.
By the time the column came out in print, the roots of some trees Opal smacked down had uprooted water lines as well.
Now comes Irma, the “Monster Storm,” they call it on TV news, where certified weather-alert meteorologists say it could be comparable to Opal, when it gets here overnight, with wind gusts of more than 50 mph, and 3 to 5 inches of rain loosening tree roots.
If so, then we know what that means: Downed trees and power outages.
I don’t know about the water supply, but I know water can be stored without Viking-raiding the discount club for plastic-wrapped pallets of gallon jugs.
Tapwater is fine, in an emergency, and it can be stored in old bottles and jars and bathtubs, unless residents plan to cower in their bathtubs while trees crash outside.
Speaking of planning, I’m going over the storm checklist now:
- Because the power may go out, recharge laptops and wireless devices now, lest you be rendered both powerless and incommunicado.
- Make sure all the flashlights have fresh batteries, get out the matches or Bic lighter, and place candles where they won’t set anything else afire.
- Collect all the lawn furniture and other loose objects the wind might pick up and throw through windows, and consider trimming limbs likely to bang against the house.
- Inside, like in the kitchen and bathroom, set out anything likely to be needed overnight, to preclude searching for it in the dark.
Some folks suggest moving automobiles away from trees, like to a garage or an open field, but I’m not going there. (“I moved my car across the street like that newspaper guy said, and the creek over there flooded and swept it away.”)
I still keep a battery-powered radio, but this is not 1995, and most folks will get their news on social media — as long as they have wireless service and battery power.
I use radio to save my computer battery, and to avoid the distractions of going online. The radio just gives me the news. It doesn’t try to interact with me on Facebook. And I can still hear it while I’m lying under a mattress in the bathtub.
That’s better than going outside, because another thing to remember, when the storm hits, is to stay home, lock up and lie low.
Don’t go for a drive, like I did. That’s just stupid.