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What roar is that?--'tis the rain that breaks
In torrents away from the airy lakes,
Heavily poured on the shuddering ground,
And shedding a nameless horror round.
William Cullen Bryant, 1854
SANDY'S STATISTICS (as of this writing) are positively ghoulish: at least 55 people dead on the East Coast; 7.6 million without power; maximum sustained winds of 90 mph on landfall at Atlantic City, N.J.; a 14-foot storm surge in New York; 13.88 inches of rain in Wildwood, N.J.; 18 inches of snow in Davis, W.Va.; 80 to 100 homes burned in Queens, N.Y.; 15,000 flights canceled; one tall ship lost at sea.
The 1,000-mile-wide behemoth spun furiously over the eastern U.S., combining with Arctic air to produce a swirl of clouds beautiful only from space. To the earthbound, Sandy was a mucky gray mass of water and wind, an intruder no one could thwart, an unwelcome Frankenstorm, predictably horrific.
Those of us in the Fredericksburg region were fortunate, for the most part. Though furious, this was no Isabel. Some folks lost power for a time. The Rappahannock still rages (please, take some of that silt downstream!). Flood-prone Colonial Beach took a hit, as did Remington. Roads were closed from downed trees, mostly in Fauquier and Westmoreland counties. But after 36 hours, 5 inches of rain, and 43 mph winds, Sandy was on her way.
Others were not so blessed. Over on Virginia's Eastern Shore, the tiny island of Chincoteague was cut off when swelling tides flooded the 5-mile causeway connecting it to the mainland. The 3,500 or so residents were told to "shelter in place" as a watery mantle covered their island up to 3 feet deep. Northward, Sandy damaged Ocean City, Md.'s iconic pier and carved new beach fronts in old beach towns all the way up the coast.
The storm closed Washington and flooded Wall Street, forcing both the political and financial powers-that-be to take a break. It emptied streets and darkened skylines, shut down subways and vacated offices, and reminded humans once again that our destinies are not ours alone to determine.
Swirling clouds and colliding weather fronts have a lot to do with tomorrow, and the next day and the next. We are but small beings along for the ride on a blue-green planet, hoping for the best and helping when we can.
And now we bid good riddance to a storm called Sandy. Next Halloween, may all the terrors that knock on our doors be 3 feet tall and carry plastic jack-o'-lanterns.