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anne_mikolay_120Before Hurricane Irene floats into the history books and savvy merchandisers begin manufacturing “I Survived Irene” t-shirts, reflection is in order. What have I learned from the worst hurricane the Northeast has seen since Hurricane Gloria in 1985?

My first “hurricane lesson” became apparent the day before Hurricane Irene hit. There was a preternatural silence outside; no birds were chirping, no squirrels were playing, no wildlife was active. My dogs, however, began trembling as they do prior to a thunderstorm. Clearly, animals possess a keen survival instinct and can sense danger when we can't.

Hurricane Irene illustrated the highly individualized reactions we have to a perceived threat. Days before Irene hit, people crowded the grocery stores in preparation. Call them Type-A personalities, but these folks (the same ones who flock to supermarkets for provisions when an inch of snow is predicted) weren't taking chances. Watching these shoppers scurry about as though the storm would hit at any moment was my first real hint that Hurricane Irene might be something to truly worry about.

While Type-A personalities prepare early for the worst, the slackers among us don't; thus, the last minute raid on batteries, water, eggs, milk. Hours before the storm was scheduled to hit our area, cars lined up at the pumps for gas, and the news reported hoards of people waiting to purchase generators at local home supply stores. Our definition of danger is as varied as our reaction to it. While I stayed indoors during the storm and immediately afterward, a CN8 news report showed a family of adventurers (with small children and a baby) watching the surge at Atlantic Highlands marina. Lesson here? You can't force people to heed warnings; some people are just plain stupid.

When my power went out, I instantly thought of the food that would go bad in my refrigerator. I prayed for electricity to be restored. Thankfully, our power outage lasted mere minutes. From this, I learn that people, myself included, will pray for all sorts of things that might seem trivial in the face of the true trials of life. I also learned to be thankful for daily luxuries, a new way to view my refrigerator, my stove, my lights.

I learned that God is powerful, indeed, and adversity will not deter those who would worship Him. Despite the absence of lighting, noon day mass at Mary Mother of God Church was well attended.

On a more practical note, I learned you can never have too many flashlights or batteries. I learned to fill the bathtub with water during a hurricane in case water pressure drops and the toilets can't be flushed without added water. I learned how to knock a tree limb off the patio room roof using a broom. I learned sometimes the meteorologists get it right.

Most importantly, Hurricane Irene taught me to appreciate ordinary days and to pray for more of them.