It was an amazing experience, this first hurricane. Or tropical storm, actually, by the time it got up here to New England. But the winds were strong enough to knock out power to a third of the state of Maine and wash out roads and bridges, isolating the communities near Rangeley Lake - an area we'd visited just Wednesday. The winds turned the placid lake outside our front door into an angry, grey-green monster with whitecaps and actual waves. Tree branches are everywhere.
But there was something thrilling about walking around in that kind of wind! Of having rain fly at you sideways. Of playing Crazy Eights by lantern. It was like a magnitude 4 earthquake - strong enough to get your heart racing, but not enough to tear your house down. Yes, there's damage and destruction in several states and more than a dozen people have died - mostly from falling tree branches. But, as one wag put it, "Like many girls before her, Irene went to NYC, hoping to be as big as she was in Carolina, only to be mocked by the locals." Or as Mainers say, "I guess fall came early."
We've been in Maine the past two weeks on vacation. The plan was to drive south to DC on Saturday and Sunday via I-95. If that sounds familiar, it should. It's the path Hurricane Irene has been following as it travels up the east coast. And so tonight, the first rains from Irene are supposed to reach us here.
I'm a California girl. I know brush fires and mudslides and earthquakes. I don't know hurricanes. What are you supposed to do? First of all, it was impossible to think of venturing out on the road. We were told we could get a) blown off the road, b) washed away by a flash flood, c) felled by a tree or flying debri, or at the very least, d) find ourselves stranded when we run out of gas because all the gas stations are closed or without power.
So here we sit. My neighbors back in DC told me "they knew hurricanes." After all, they were from Mississippi. They promised to bring in the plants and furniture from our screened in balcony. I had visions of aluminium furniture raining down on the annoying neighbors across the way.
Usually, when the President leaves town, you can track his progress by the trio of large helicopters that leave the White House, travel down the Potomac, turn left at the Anacostia, and head out to Andrews Air Force Base.
Yesterday, a pair of much smaller choppers flew right over where I live. That's unusual because the airspace over Washington is off limits to most aircraft. It was also unusual because they left from Ft. McNair, two blocks down the street. And then they were followed by one of the large helicopters associated with the President. I couldn't figure out where he was going. It wasn't on the official schedule.
This morning, the mystery was solved. The President visited Dover, Delaware to meet the aircraft carrying the remains of the Navy Seals killed when their chopper went down in Afghanistan.
Just got the bright pink birth announcement from Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman: Lucy Rayna made her appearance in the world yesterday at a DC hospital (though the announcement insists she's really a Valley girl). 7 pounds, 9 ounces, 20 inches. Mother and baby doing fine. Sisters are curious. "And the father is expected to recover."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid just announced his Democratic Senate picks for the "super" committee. Missing from his list, California's senior US Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Named to the panel: Senate Democratic Conference Secretary Patty Murray of Washington state, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry of Boston.
Kerry has a similar reputation to Feinstein: a Democrat who works well with the other party.