Close Call at the Beach
This time of year my wife B and I often take a trip to Cape Cod. We love it there — the seafood restaurants, the lobsters and clam chowder, the quaint towns along the shore, even the broad New England accents.
One problem: fall comes early to Massachusetts. The days are brisk; the nights are chilly; the Atlantic waters . . . well, the north Atlantic waters never get very warm. New Englanders think 68-degree water is warm.
So instead, this year we decided to head to South Carolina. Of course we have grandchildren there. We usually spend February in Charleston for that very reason. But now we decided: let’s go when it’s still warm out, when we can go to the beach and actually swim in the water. I looked it up. The surf temperature in September hovers around 80 degrees.
So we booked ten days at the end of September. It was only after we made the booking — non-refundable of course — that we realized September is the height of the hurricane season. And thanks at least in part to global warming, hurricanes are getting more and more violent.
I spent all of August and early September glued to the hurricane forecasts. Thankfully, this season has brought a relatively quiet hurricane season in the Atlantic.
So we got here and checked into our airbnb one block off the beach. The very first day found us down on the sand, basking in the sun and frolicking in the waves. The water was beautiful!
Then we heard about Fiona, lashing Puerto Rico and headed . . . our way? No, we were lucky. It was turning east, toward Bermuda, and then up north to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
But we were warned that the hurricane would affect our coastline, sending 6 and 7 foot waves crashing onto the shore and bringing dangerous rip currents to the beaches.
By Wednesday the surf seemed rougher than normal. Small craft warnings went up. On Thursday and Friday we had bright sunny skies, temperatures in 70s and 80s, but those big, powerful waves came rolling in. They were big enough that they broke well before they got to shore — sometimes gathering up again into smaller but still powerful waves and breaking again onto the sand. The undertow was strong enough to knock us off our feet if we weren’t prepared.
The surfers were still out. But we stayed close to shore, not challenging the waves, but content to dip into the swells as they tumbled over us and washed up to the beach.
I feel bad for the Puerto Ricans, still recovering from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in 2017, who bore the brunt of this hurricane. Puerto Rico lost power, suffered from devastating floods and significant wind damage. But we here on the East Coast have been spared.
Now I hear that there’s a tropical depression forming in the Caribbean. It could be named a hurricane in a few days and possibly track up through Florida and the East Coast.
We’re scheduled to be in South Carolina until Friday, Sept. 30. I hope we stay lucky.
Here’s what the breakers looked like from our beach on Friday afternoon (taken with my phone) . . .