By the middle of the day last Wednesday the forecast for the storm promised for Thursday had become so threatening that we started telling ferry travelers that we probably wouldn’t be able to run at all the next day. For the first half dozen trips it was news to the folks that we informed. After that more than half of the drivers we warned said that they had already heard. Apparently, word gets around quickly in a tightly knit community.

I called the grammar school to say that even if we were able to brave a trip at daybreak taking the school bus to Chappy, it might get stuck over here all day. And if by a miracle we were able to get the kids over to town for school they might not get back home until the following day. I was pretty popular with my three granddaughters for getting them a day off from school even though they are actually happy to go. As it turned out, schools across the Island were closed because of the foul weather anyway.

Thursday dawned very cold and very windy. We were able to squeak out two trips to get the fuel truck over and back for a household that was in dire need. The wind was out of the northeast and increasing. The water level in the harbor at the time of the morning low tide was above that of a normal high tide. According to the tide chart, the early afternoon high tide was predicted to be astronomically high. My weather guy said to expect the flood tide to crest two feet above that.

I stayed in the ferry house to keep an eye on the ferryboat bouncing around in the slip and to be on hand in case of an emergency. Most storms cause overly high tides and seeing the foot of Daggett street flooded is not remarkable. However, on that Thursday morning, the flooding was already at the usual storm level three hours before high tide. An hour before high tide, sea water began seeping up through the floor boards of the ferry house. In a short time, it was four inches deep and I found out that my boots leak at that depth. The water was only a tad above freezing temperature, which is twenty eight degrees for salt water. The wind gusts increased alarmingly and the water rose up onto the street rapidly. The wind blew steadily at 40 miles per hour and gusted often over 60 mph. I called the Dukes County Communications Center to let them know that we would be running for life or death emergencies only.

With time on my hands I decided to address my very cold wet feet. I drained the water from my boots, wrung out my socks, applied several toe warmer pads to each foot and put my boots back on. All while balanced precariously on the only piece of furniture in the ferry house, a rocky chair. Knowing that if an emergency arose that I may be forced out into water two feet deep I made hip waders by stepping into big trash bags and taping them at my ankles, knees and thighs. Pretty creative of me. But be forewarned if you try this. It only takes a tiny pin hole to let in a tiny bit of icy cold water to dampen your pride at your cleverness.

After an hour of surging up and down a few inches, the water seemed to be steadily receding. I had already made sure that everything in the ferry house that could be damaged by salt was up off of the floor by at least a foot. That was easy enough to do for the small objects. The heavy portable generators are a different story but they are on wheels with the electrical parts about six inches above the floor. With the water level falling I was confident that I didn’t need to worry about them.

Well, of course, that confidence was shattered when suddenly the flood waters started to come back. I scrambled to get the generators above the rising water. The water got to a depth of nine inches above the floor before finally ever so slowly dropping. That’s not the highest that it’s ever been during the past three quarters of a century, but it’s the highest that I’ve seen it from inside the ferry house.

I empathize with people who live in flood zones. All you can do is get out of the way. If you can’t get away horizontally, vertically is your only other choice.

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