Hurricane Irene, aka Tropical Storm Irene by the time it reached Maine, caused substantial damage in some parts of the state and widespread inconvenience, even though no reported deaths.
Still, there is a bright side to this latest affront. For one thing, it brought people together in sharing thoughts on preparations for the onslaught. We compared notes on how to stock up on water, keep refrigerators as cold as possible to save the contents from spoiling and do without electricity if that failed. We watched NASA reports and joined in continuous discussions on whether to put up shutters and in some areas whether to evacuate.
Irene also provided a test of protective measures to make sure they could work properly against a really big hurricane like the one in 1938.
That storm, which had no name, came without warning on Sept. 21. It roared through New England, killing 600 people, washing out 100 bridges, destroying 9,000 homes, and cutting electric power from seven-eighths of New England homes.
When Irene came, was a half-full bathtub enough water, or should it have been brim full? Did the bathtub stopper fit tightly or did it let all the water run out as sometimes happened this time? Were shutters ready and in good shape? Were flashlights fitted with new batteries, with more batteries on hand? Were cellphones, electric shavers and other appliances with rechargeable batteries freshly charged? Any failures showed the need for better preparations for the next storm.
Beyond all that, Irene gave us all a welcome change of subject. We suddenly were talking about the storm instead of Afghanistan, Iraq, the national debt and whether Gov. Paul LePage was doing a good or lousy job. Rather than fighting back against various military and political enemies, real or perceived, we all had to face up to a common threat with no one to blame for it but Mother Nature.
Taking it all together, Irene did have its good side, and Mainers seem to have dealt with it in good spirit.
But it should be added that, for those still lacking electric power, tempers can run short and people may get a bit stir-crazy. As an antidote, get out and enjoy the clear late summer skies and dry air we’re blessed with this week after the storm’s exit.