Storm on Dune Road

Storm on Dune Road Molly, who is a golden retriever, and I were spending a lazy day in the sun, splashing about in the shallows of Moriches Bay in West Hampton. We were quite near our bungalow at the Bee Hive – eight cottages sitting close to the water off Long Island’s Dune Road. At that particular moment, the sun was still out, but gray-purple clouds were approaching from the north, just starting to eclipse the sun. A light drizzle began to fall. Nothing dramatic, but some instinct told me it was time to go inside. In fact, my very bones alerted me that the approaching storm somehow felt different – it was moving very fast and the sky was getting too dark, too quickly. So Molly and I high-tailed it back to Bee Hive Number Seven, making it in the door just seconds before the drizzle became a downpour. Then the fury of nature fell upon our humble little bungalow, which was just feet from the shallow water’s edge. The phone rang. It was my friend Jeff. “How are you doing, buddy?” he asked from his Manhattan locale. “Jeff!” I said, a little out of breath. “I would love to talk to you, but there is an incredible storm hitting me right now.” In fact, the storm was presenting a display of nature’s violence more spectacular than any I have experienced since. Jeff, a long-time resident of Amagansett, told me to batten down the hatches – and that’s what I proceeded to do, phone in hand and my buddy at my ear. I went immediately to the door at the porch side of the bungalow, switching the phone from my right to my left so I could raise the glass window over the storm-door screen. Just as I got there, a mighty gust knocked the phone right out of my hand and me up off my feet. In fact, the wind hurled me so far back that I bounced up against the inflatable bed that was fully 15 feet from where I’d been standing a fraction of a second before. I picked up the phone. “Jeff. Jeff! Are you still there?” An umbrella and the contents of a recently full picnic basket lay strewn about the room. “I’m still here. What happened?” “I just got thrown across the room. This is an amazing storm,” I said. “It’s unbelievable. I have to go – I’m battening down the hatches!” I hung up and struggled to my feet. The storm door was flapping around and the screen was bent in half, the aluminum frame cracked at the midsection by the same gust that had knocked me back. Confirmed. This was no ordinary storm. In fact, you could easily call it a tornado. I ran about the cottage raising the glass windows in front of the screens as thunder exploded and lightning bolts advanced across the bay, in direct line with our tiny bungalow at the Bee Hive on Dune Road. The wind howled and the small house shook. The rain and wind bore down on us. It was scary. I finally managed to get all the windows closed just as what looked like might be the full force of the mighty storm really began to batter us. I wondered aloud to Molly: how much will this tiny old cottage take? I mean, built hell for stout during World War II and all, but still. A tornado. Scary. I cleared some fogged glass and glimpsed our usually sleepy bay transforming before my eyes, whipping itself into a frenzy powered by three- to four-foot swells. Moored and once-moored pleasure boats and jet skies bobbed wildly, tugging at ropes or simply flying. Every man’s sleek watercraft was a rag doll at the mercy of bullying forces all around. Horizontal and vertical shafts of electricity tore through the sky, and I finally retreated from the window.  “Molly! Did you see that? My God, what a storm!” I looked over at Molly, who looked back at me. “What’s  the big deal?” her whole look told me, loud and clear. Somehow, I was reassured. A little. Soon enough, the wind passed and the bay settled. It really couldn’t have lasted long. But what a … show. Sheer lightning alone, in those few minutes we were treated to the most spectacular display of nature’s fireworks over the bay that one might ever see in a lifetime – and never wish to repeat. Molly meandered almost immediately out onto the deck, telling me the danger had passed. I took a little longer to get calm. I let a few hours go by; then around ten o’clock, hours after the storm had passed, I went to get a sandwich in the quaint downtown of West Hampton Village. When I described my harrowing  experience, the waitress told me that tornadoes had touched down from Moriches Bay all the way to East Quogue. I told her about being hurled 15 feet. She told me that this had been the most violent storm she had ever seen pass through West Hampton, in all of her years. I told her that I was right on the beach in my small cottage at the Bee Hive when it occurred, and that the strangest thing of all was not so much the fury and power of the storm, but something else I’d witnessed. During the heaviest of the onslaught, I noticed birds still flying, calmly circling the waters above the shallows. They did not roost anywhere, or otherwise seek shelter. They let the winds carry them. I also mentioned how calm my dog had remained, throughout. The waitress said I was very observant. I ate my (delicious) sandwich, and we were both silent for a bit.  I was contemplating how incredibly tough birds and dogs are, taking Mother Nature’s fury in stride, while  a human being like me panicked. “So much for human superiority,” I uttered.   “Right you are,” she smiled, refilling my coffee cup.