A quick thought about hurricanes. But not the fun kind from New Orleans...

As we've been preparing for the impending "extreme and extraordinary threat" of Hurricane Irene here on Long Island, it made me start to think about my family living here 50, 100, 200 years ago. We've known about Irene for about a week now, how big it it, how dangerous it is, how this could be our first serious hit up here since Gloria in 1986 (which I remember was both frightening because of the flooding and toppling trees and fun because my cousins who lived on the water came to stay with us) or even worse than that. All the coastal areas are being evacuated. Even where I live, with my house on a canal and the bay right down the street, we're on standby to evacuate to higher ground.

But I wonder about what it must have been like before satellites and Doppler, before up-to-the-minute radio news and up-to-the-second social media updates. When nobody knew a storm, a dangerous possibly lethal storm, was brewing, not until the clouds rolled in and the rain and wind picked up, probably not until it was too late. My family has lived here for 350 years, right on the water, fishing and oystering and making their living from the water. Granted, nor'easters are more common than hurricanes, which don't hit us here as much as the mid-Atlantic states, but even our nor'easters get pretty scary. As lifelong baymen, could they read the signs in the water and wind and air and wildlife and know something bad was on its way? I hope so, but even if they knew, I'm pretty sure they didn't have hurricane shelters back then, either!

But we're all here to wonder about it, so they must have toughed it out somehow.