Monday, June 25, 2012

Life by the River

Living on a coastal river is a very different experience than living on a river in other places.  One thing is that coastal river are often very wide.  The river near where we live is close to two miles wide.

While rain often causes flooding along rivers that are in the hill country or the mountains, if you live on a coastal river that is close to the ocean, the tide can often take care of a lot of problems.

In the summer of 2010 I wrote a piece called How to Enjoy a Coastal River.  Now that I look back at it, I was only beginning to understand the White Oak River when I wrote that post.

It is no joke to say that a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since the summer of 2010.  In September of 2010, we had a freak rain storm in Bluewater Cove, the subdivision where we live.  We got over twenty inches of rain in less than twenty-four hours.

I have seen the Roanoke River where we lived in the mountains have serious flooding with less than half that amount of rain.  Fortunately for us the day we got the twenty-plus inches of rain on the coast, it came just as the tide was reaching its peak.  As soon as the tide turned, the high water at my dock started dropping even as the rain continued.

That the tide could take away all that water left a lasting impression on me.  Still the river had other lessons to teach.  In August of 2011, Hurricane Irene came for a visit.

Irene was an impressive storm, but our area came through in good shape.  Our power was out less than four hours.  The day after Irene came through the area, we went over to Emerald Isle and enjoyed ice cream cones.  I am certainly not belittling the power of hurricanes in saying we managed to survive in "good shape."   Another day things could have been different.

However, hurricanes are not strangers to the area.  People try not to have too many trees close to their homes here.   People in areas that are flood prone have foundations that let waters move through them.  Fortunately our beaches and marshes have not been over developed.  There is plenty of vegetation on Emerald Isle compared to many other coastal areas.

Our geography also helps us a little.  Just a little north and east of us, the Neuse River is much more subject to flooding because there is no land mass to slow the water of Pamlico Sound from blowing into the Neuse when conditions area right.

Even with these advantages life on the river has still been full of surprises.  On May 30, 2012 a very rare event happened.  We were brushed by a tornado.   Before May 30, I had heard that tornadoes normally dissipate as they approach the ocean waters.  It turns our that while it is very rare, we can have tornadoes just like the rare tornado that visited our friends in the mountains by Pulaski, Virginia.  Fortunately both in Pulaski and here in Peletier no one died from the tornadoes.  Our tornado lasted less than a minute.

The lessons of the last few years have taught me to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.  No matter where we live, we all live close to very powerful forces of nature.  Those forces are closer than we care to admit.  We just have to realize that we cannot control mother nature.

In spite of getting a close hand look at the power of nature, I would not trade where we live for any of the many places that we have lived or even the ones that we have visited.  There is incredible scenic beauty here on the coast.  While there are times to be very respectful of the forces that surround us, there are other times when it almost seems that nature opens its arms for us.

The third week in April of 2012 I anchored my kayak in the middle of our river.  Sitting there are the oyster rocks, it was hard to think of a more peaceful place.  Especially one that can so easily renew your appreciation of the world where we live.

It often seems like our world along the Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina is one which has no walls.  There are times that the water, the horizon and the sky seem to merge in a world of blue.

Because our water is so accessible, it is a big part of our life.  The morning of June 25, 2012 on my boat ride down river I saw hardly any ripples.   The same river nine hours later is a mass of white caps and foam.  The morning river ride was a wonderful pleasure.  Yet even I wouldn't challenge the river and its impressive whitecaps later in the day.

Respecting the weather and the water comes naturally when you have seen the awesome power that mother nature can unleash.  That the calm water pictured in the post can have whitecaps on it in the same day is just one of the wonders of being alive.