05 Mar 2018

Nantucket’s Stormy Weather

Photo Courtesy of Joshua Bradford Gray @joshuabradfordgray
In her 1933 debut of “Stormy Weather,” Ethal Waters must certainly have stirred the crowd at The Cotton Club with her haunting rendition of the now legendary song. She laments she “doesn’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky” and further concludes “life is bare; gloom and misery everywhere.” Nantucket takes its turn vacillating between sunny, stunning island paradise and good old fashioned stormy weather. This past weekend was no exception.
Wednesday and Thursday were some of the most breathtakingly beautiful days of the winter. The famed Nantucket azure blue sky sans a single cloud, was upstaged only by the shimmering light dancing across the calm harbor water. The air was crisp, the birds were singing and even the daffodils were so excited they popped their heads up all over the island to enjoy the show. “The calm before the storm” is a real thing folks and we all were keenly aware of the looming forecast. We were in for a whopper…and Riley proved to be full of show and blow.
As the rain slid in sideways and the winds howled obstinately for 48 hours, often gusting up to 90 mph, the good people of Nantucket did what they do best. They endured. With sandbags in place where needed and the hatch’s all battened down, we went to work, went to the Stop and Shop in an attempt to snag the last loaf of bread or gallon of milk and in some cases even ventured out to dinner. If we have to be subjected to 48 hours of hurricane force winds and driving rain we may as well do it together and the bar at Fusaro’s provided the perfect “safe harbor” to ride out Riley on Friday night.
The Nor’easter was enthusiastically referred to by local meteorologists as a “Bomb Cyclone.” There is some shock factor in weather terminology, but the “experts” forget that the salty folks who have been here for a few generations are unfazed by big words and ominous forecasts. It’s not our first rodeo…or Nor’east wave ride as it were. The wind indeed did blow, relentlessly and aggressively at times. The rain came down, the power flickered (and even died briefly in a few spotty locations), the flood waters filled streets along the harbor and some trees came toppling down. But when the winds subsided and the rain ceased, we were all still here and the Grey Lady got busy dusting herself off and preparing to grace us with a little sunshine once again.
The song “Stormy Weather” is referred to as a torch song, which is a sentimental love song where typically the singer is lamenting an unrequited or lost love. The storms that predictably visit Nantucket each year are like a torch song. They make us sentimental and reflective…reminded of how many generations of island denizens have experienced her varying personalities and weather patterns. We sometimes are forced to lament what we’ve lost as erosion or flooding wreak havoc. But more often than not, stormy days on Nantucket provide an opportunity to remember and appreciate the perseverance, beauty and rugged strength of our island and her people.
Shellie Dunlap
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