Aug. 30, 2011 -- I have never fancied myself a storm chaser... until now. Sure, I have covered more than a dozen storms in my life, but Irene is a first.
In the past, I've gone to a city in advance of the storm, stayed up all night as it unleashed its punishing winds and oppressive rains and then stayed around long enough to document the sobering sites of the morning after.
But Irene is unusual in that I went down to the Caribbean to cover the front end of the storm, well before it made its way to the U.S. We wanted to get a sense of what was in store for the East Coast. So we went to the place with the next bull's eye on its back... the Bahamas.
Irene lived up to her expectations. She came ashore as a Category 3 hurricane...with wind gusts in excess of 125 miles per hour. I struggled to keep my balance as we went out to see for ourselves what kind of muscle Irene had up her sleeve.
But fortunately for the Bahamas, the wind was the worst of it. Aside from some downed trees and power outages, I was relieved that there were no deaths to report.
As soon as I came back, my parents joked that I would endure Irene twice. They also questioned why I would pick New York City as the place to hunker down.
My plan was to document the wind speeds from my apartment on the 28th floor. Anything over the 20th floor was supposed to experience 120 mile per hour winds. I woke up several times Saturday night and in the morning (video camera in hand) to see what Irene was up to, but each time she was a whimper and little else. No howling winds. No torrential rains. Just a bad storm (for most of New York City anyway).
I was relieved. I believed the northeast had made it through relatively unscathed. And then I got assigned to go to Vermont, where I still am now.
My heart goes out to the people of Wilmington. There are at least a dozen towns across the state still contending with major flood damage and no electricity, but Wilmington seems to be among the hardest hit.
This is the tail-end of the storm. It was almost at its weakest point by the time it got here. It seems it shouldn't have been this bad. I didn't see anything like this is the Bahamas, when Irene was still a Category 3. Main street looks like a war zone. The roads are washed out and many people's livelihoods seem to have disappeared with the flood waters. And worst yet, we have yet to talk to someone here with flood insurance. It is a sad sight, but the people here are resilient and vow to rebuild.