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Hurricane Ike hits … the Midwest?

Cincinnati is used to cranky Mother Nature. Every other year or so, tornadoes whip through, tear neighborhoods from brick to board, and then leave as if nothing ever happened. It rarely makes the national news because media will only descend into the wake of an F4 or F5 tornado. F3’s aren’t as interesting, I suppose they figure, except they’re just as likely to flatten your house as an F5. They just do it less efficiently.

We don’t, as a rule — being waaaay inland and all — have to worry about hurricanes. Only their sloppy seconds: whenever a Gulf Coast hurricane hits the shore, you book it in your Blackberry that a helluva lot of rain will be arriving 2 to 3 days later, and life goes on.

So, Ike hit Galveston (poor Galveston. After Rita, Katrina and Ike, I think I’d relocate if I lived on the Gulf), and by Sunday (Sept 14), we were bracing for the rain. Everyone was predicting rain. Not that the meteorologists are ever, you know, right, but, they were all saying, rain rain rain. Usually, when they’re all in agreement, they at least come close.

Hoo, boy, were they wrong. All wrong. I spent early Sunday afternoon planting a fall crop of arugula (the seeds for which I bought from Cassandra Farms at the Anderson Township Farmer’s Market, my favorite place to spend Saturday mornings). I did take all the pots down from the deck railing, because along with the rain, they were predicting high winds. (Note that “high winds” in Cincinnati usually top out at 50mph gusts. Enough to give you a bad hair day and blow the cover off your grill. Not enough to trigger the impulse to break out the Red Cross emergency preparedness kit.)

Anyway, I planted and watered, thinking to myself all the while, hm, it’s cloudy, but it doesn’t look like rain (hence the watering). And then I went in to take a nap.

Well, long story short (too late, eh?), by the time I woke up, all hell had broken loose. When all was said and done, some 4 hours later, 700,000 people in the Greater Cincinnati area (that’s about 90% of the population, excluding outlying areas still considered part of Cincinnati) were without electricity. Roads were closed. Wires draped over everything. Trees split in the most imaginative ways. (One tree on my street was split to the ground down its very center, with its branches splayed out around the spikey stump of a trunk, in a perfect circle, like a dried sunflower.) We clocked 84 mph gusts in some locations. But not one lick of rain. Crazy.

Not complaining here, though. I had a few power surges, but did not lose electricity. My parents and one brother went without for 2 days. The nearby Target store ran on generators for 5 days (but remained open). It’s Day 7 and there are still 85,000 customers without power. I sustained no appreciable property damage. Lost a branch from one of the apple trees; lost some apples (but an amazing number clung stubbornly to their stems, the little champs. Fall apple pie is still on the menu…). A couple of heirloom tomatoes lost some branches. One’s cage is bent over at a 45 degree angle so that the plant’s tops are brushing the ground. That’s about it. “Lucky” is the only word that comes to mind. So many people have it much, much worse.

Sweet Pea Currant takes a windblown bow.
My 15 foot tall Sweet Pea Currant tomato plant takes a windblown bow.

Neighbor's tree sustained some damage.  And they just moved in, too.
Neighbor’s tree sustained some damage. And they just moved in, too.

Tree on church property behind me loses some branches.  Those big leaves somehow blew right through my huge evergreen tree barrier.
Tree on church property behind me loses some branches. Those big leaves somehow blew right through my huge evergreen tree barrier into my yard.

Big elephant ear leaves blasted right through the living fence of my evergreen trees.
Big elephant ear leaves from the tree next door in my yard.