Jul 21, 2014

Beach 2014: Thursday with Hurricane Arthur

Thursday was arguably the most exciting day of any of our beach trips in the 11 years we've been taking them as a large family group.

We'd gone to bed the night before knowing that the day would be spent indoors, mainly glued to the TV and the windows. Many in the house were awakened at 5 a.m. on Thursday to the sound of the heavy rocking chairs on the upper decks of the house bumping up against the exterior walls, as the rain and wind had already started.

One by one, we made our way downstairs to start the long day. As expected, after breakfast, most congregated around the TV to keep an eye on the latest storm news.

Our rental house was about 35 miles south of Wilmington, N.C., so although we weren't going to get the brunt of the storm, we were certainly going to feel some of it.

In start contrast to the previous days, looking out the windows to the sea, visibility was really low.

Rain was coming down at a steady pace, the waves were really picking up, and the beach was deserted all morning. Around lunchtime, one decidedly crazy surfer came out.

Right after we finished lunch, there was a small break in the rain, and the kids begged to go out and see and hear the waves up close. BEGGED. The waves were absolutely huge, and they were fascinated by them, so several of the adults volunteered agreed to take them down to see them.

I know it's really hard to tell, but perhaps it's easier to tell with the adults standing out there. These waves were REALLY HUGE. Like between 11 and 14 feet tall. None of us had ever seen anything like it.

And the SPRAY! The spray from the wind every time a wave crashed was just beyond belief.

I think the kids would've stayed out there all day if we had let them. I mean, it really was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing -- hopefully.

For whatever reason, the kids staying in the rental house nextdoor to us decided to go against all conventional wisdom and get IN the water during the storm.

I think that was their grandmother in the white shirt, there, who went out and tried to yell some sense into them. Crazy kids.

Of course, not long after that, Gary asked me to go outside and try to get "some representative photographs of the waves," because he didn't feel like his iPhone was up to the job. (Gary's an attorney, so yeah, he probably did use that phrasing. But ironically. He's hilarious.)

By this point in the day, it was raining cats and dogs, and the wind was howling. It was NOT PRETTY OUT THERE. So I grabbed a cardboard box top from the Costco grocery shopping trip to protect my camera from the elements, and I headed out.

(Gary must've been secretly plotting, because I think he took this picture of me once I got outside.)

The waves had come all the way up to the dunes, and the puddles were so deep that my pants got wet up to my knees.

Also, it was like it was high tide on speed. The surf was closer to the dunes than it had ever been before, which looked really strange to begin with.

There were some other people out there who were just getting whipped around by the wind and rain, and I was just kind of wondering, "Is this your thing, or what?" I mean, I wanted to get my pictures as quickly as I could and get back in the house and change my now sopping-wet clothes.

But these people were just kind of wandering around. It was strange.

Anyway, I got back to the task at hand. The ocean looked like a washing machine. There was so much FROTH everywhere.

Angry sky, froth and loud, crashing waves.

At times it looked and sounded like you were at the base of some huge waterfall somewhere.

Again, the spray that would come off the tops of the waves was just magnificent.

They rolled in one after another, never pausing, never stopping.

I so wanted something to fly into the picture for scale so that you could get a sense of the height of some of the bigger waves, but no luck.

You're just going to have to trust me on their size, I guess ... massive.

Looking up the beach, the water was just overtaking it.

Down the beach, it was the same story.

After being outside for only about five or six minutes, I high-tailed it back inside to get warm and dry. I was soaked to the bone and had to change clothes immediately.

Even just looking out the kitchen windows again, the waves remained impressive.

As it got later in the afternoon, the waves calmed down a little, but it was still dangerous. The police were patrolling the beach to make sure no one got in the water. However, two intrepid surfers got in, and of course we were all glued to the windows, watching.

 See them out there?

Actually, this is probably my one and only chance to show you how tall these waves actually were -- even toward the tail-end of the storm! See that little blip of spray coming off the top of that wave there, just to the right of the center? That's one of the surfers trying -- and failing -- to catch that wave. I'm telling you guys ... those waves were BIG.

As the storm finally made its way north, we had a pretty clear-cut sign that it was on its way out. The clouds were moving, and the line of rain was moving with it.

Around 7:30 that night, after supper, the house was excruciatingly loud. The 13 children had a major case of cabin fever, so Grayson and I took our four outside to explore a little bit. It was gorgeous, no two ways about it.

The sea had receded back to its more natural spot, but it had left behind some chilly tidal pools that the kids loved.

We walked, talked and looked for seashells for about 30 minutes.

After we went back inside, Patsy, Bill, Debbie, Gerry, Tiff and Gary started up a card game.

I'm not sure Gary ever really got the rules, even after two hours of play. I know I didn't.

But I think it was a nice way to unwind after a very long day. Of course, it wasn't nearly as long for us as it was for so many others, both in North Carolina and in states farther north that fared far worse than we. We didn't even have bad flooding on Ocean Isle, but a little farther north, in Nags Head, N.C., they did:

My prayers continue for those communities and families who were affected by Arthur.

More to come soon on our last day at the beach.

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