My father loves a good winter storm. As soon as one is forecast, he begins tracking its progress with vigour. Almost all conversations with my father in the day(s) and hours leading up to the appearance of those first foreboding flakes begin with a commentary (his) on wind speed and direction. As (his) excitement about the impending blizzard – which has now been blown up in his mind to epic, apocalyptic proportions – grows, so do his heroic efforts to protect his family. As the wind whips round our house, and we sit anxiously awaiting the wrath of the latest nor’wester, my father braves the elements to go to the local corner store and get in the emergency supplies that will see us through the difficult days ahead: a couple of Crispy Crunch bars and a bottle of pop (maybe some lottery scratch tickets, if he is feeling especially optimistic about the chances of survival).
This is of course nothing more than a reflex left over from his own childhood when a storm really did mean that you could be cut off from the outside world for days. It is, however, wholly misplaced now. For one thing, my mother has enough meat in the house at any given time that a whole new species of hybrid animal could be cobbled together from the various bits and pieces in her freezer. Second, my father lives in a town now. With indoor plumbing, central heating and snowplows. Yes, the snow might reach the rooftops, but luckily we can dispel the darkness by flicking a switch.
Having said all of this, some of my father’s enthusiasm for dramatic storms must have rubbed off on me, because I find myself consistently disappointed by the storms we get here in the Netherlands, to the point that I’m treating any announcement of an impending storm as a “boy who cried wolf” scenario and ignoring it entirely.
Last night I turned on the television and it was all over the news. Today would be the day of reckoning. There were orange and red and yellow lines on the map. Storm! the weatherman proclaimed. It’s going to be, like windy! In some places the water might, like, be wavy!
This afternoon I had to go out to get some supplies of my own (wine), so I decided to do some investigative journalism to see what effect this storm was having on life in Middelburg.
They say that animals can sense weather, becoming nervous and jumpy in storms. I tested this theory on my dog, and yes it's true that she does seem to be sitting in a particularly agitated manner.
|I'm freaking terrified.|
But if I was doubtful about the effects of the "storm" at this point, my doubts were soon allayed, when I witnessed the damage that it was already causing across vast swathes of Middelburg.
|All those leaves totally used to be attached to that tree. Clean-up efforts have still not begun here, as the workers face continued danger from more falling leaves.|
Even the tough, weather-hardened men and women who routinely stand outside in all kinds of weather year-round during Middelburg's weekly Thursday market decided the risk was just too great. As I approached the market square they were already packing up their wares and it was only midday.
|I could so be a professional photographer.|
|"Packing up": residents of Middelburg flee on bicycle as market sellers decide the risks are just too great.|
As I rounded the corner into one of the streets leading away from this sad scene, it was clear what had precipitated the market sellers' decision to retreat:
|Get down! Get down! The sky is falling! Storm! Panic! Mayhem!|
Good thing I got some wine in. At least if we lose power there will be at least one thing that will be lit up.