Hurricane Irene was only a tropical storm by the time she reached Rhode Island. She was very noisy, however; she fairly howled around the windows for a couple of hours on Sunday. We tried to ignore her; we watched television a bit (we were lucky to keep our electricity; a lot of people in the area lost theirs), and then I read and napped for a couple of hours.
(I think disasters make me physically ill. I was queasy on the day of the earthquake a few days earlier; now, with Irene roaring and trumpeting around the house, I felt achy and tired. As a kid, I loved storms. Now I just wanted this to be over.)
By four o'clock or so the rain and wind had (mostly) stopped. Partner suggested a walk, and I was only too avid to get out of the house. The skies were cloudy but bright, and there was a fresh cool breeze blowing. Everything felt different. Masses of leaves had been torn down from the trees; small branches and twigs lay everywhere in the streets and on the sidewalks and lawns. We didn't walk far before we found our first downed tree: a big sycamore. (Why do they have such shallow roots? Are they chumps, for god's sake?)
Most of the damage was obvious, once we looked more closely: rotting branches, badly-pruned trees, isolated trees in unprotected areas. We did come across a small area on Blackstone Boulevard that might have experienced a microburst: two or three large trees torn out of the ground and a lot of downed branches in a very small area. I was sorry to see some of the big tulip poplars on the Boulevard had lost lots of their upper branches, and the wind had brought down whole handfuls of their graceful-looking flower buds. (Liriodendron tulipifera, the tulip poplar, is the most amazing tree: everything about it is remarkably beautiful, from its manner of growth to its flowers to its big mitten-shaped leaves. I hate seeing these trees damaged. But then, I have a weakness for beautiful things. I see a miserable little dogwood missing a couple of branches, and I sneer: Who cares?)
Lots of wires were down. We saw a cop driving lazily through the neighborhood; every so often he'd stop and take photos of a downed wire or an especially large downed branch or tree.
By this time everyone was out walking. This, of course, despite the fact that we'd been warned repeatedly by TV personalities not to go out walking, that there were still dangers everywhere, weakened branches waiting to fall on our heads, treetrunks waiting to collapse right on top of us . . .
Example: Partner's sister, up in Massachusetts, was out walking the dog on the day of the storm. She was bathrooming it under her neighbor's tree (get that?) when she heard the trunk creaking. Time to go, she thought. Half an hour later, safe at home, she heard a creak and a crash, and ran to the window to see that tree fall on top of the neighbor's house and both of his cars.
Example: A Brown shuttle driver told me that he'd been driving past the small park on South Main Street at eight o'clock on the morning after the storm, and had seen only a few branches down. He made his forty-five minute loop, and came back around . . . And a huge tree had in the meantime split in half and fallen all the way across South Main, blocking almost the entire road. Get that? Sixteen hours after the storm was over.
But the weather that followed the storm was fresh and almost cool, and there was dew on the grass that next morning.