A mighty wind: “Hurricane” Noel swipes Cape Cod

Technically hurricane season ends on October 31, but last weekend saw one sneak up the coast and brush the Cape and Islands with an afternoon and evening of good weather drama. Two days without electricity wasn’t a ton of fun, but we were lucky and spared any significant house or tree damage.

On Saturday Cousin Pete, me, my wife and my son, piled into his burly 4-WD Landcruiser and bombed up Route 6 to Wellfleet for a quick lunch (dozen Wellfleet oysters and the fried clams at the Bookstore Café), and a peek at the surf at Cahoon Hollow.

First rule of storm viewing: do it in somebody else’s vehicle. A few minutes parked in a beachside parking lot in a 50 mph wind will frost the windshield with microscopic sand scratches as thoroughly as an incandescent lightbulb and scour the paint job down to the sheet metal. I stepped out of the car at Cahoon Hollow, supposedly armed against the elements in a Grunden pullover and cheesy Sou’wester hat. Instant mistake – mouth filled up with grit, face was exfoliated in seconds. Back into the car, covered with sand. So much for storm viewing.

We checked out the fish pier in Chatham. There were at least six big satellite trucks from the Weather Channel and the local news stations parked in the lee, their storm watchers doing stand-ups on the pier with the heaving fishing boats behind them. Too much rain to see much further than 200 yards out, so we finished the storm tour with a trip to Chatham light, where there was a full traffic jam of gawkers like us trying to get a view of the maelstrom. I’ve never seen this before, but there it was: two red flags with black squares flapping furiously from the flagpole, the Coast Guard signal for hurricane warning, an ominous indicator I don’t hope to see again.

The ride back to Cotuit was very dangerous as the winds started to gust into the 60s and traffic on Route 6 became more stupid than usual (storms make people look at the storm and not the road). We rolled into Cotuit and immediately realized a) the electricity was out and b) Cousin Pete had some tree damage. I helped him haul his generator out of the basement, brought over some food, and whiled away the dark evening in one of the few lit houses in the village. Sunday dawned beautiful – brisk autumn skies – but as the day wore on and evening approached with daylight savings time, it looked like another dark evening at home. We grabbed dinner in Hyannis, thought of a movie, but in the end returned to read by candlelight until 9 when we retired like a family of 19th century farmers.

Lights returned at 9 am, laptops recharged, internet connectivity was restored by three. All is well with the world and the air is filled with the sound of chainsaws.