Sunday, January 6, 2013

How the Ocean Trapped Me

This year for the holiday, my family decided it would be best to rent a beach house in order to accommodate everyone with their own bedroom -- such is the way of everyone being an adult and picky. It was a good idea. It was my idea. And we quickly zeroed in on Dauphin Island as the perfect destination. Not only that, but we narrowed our search down even further to a house at the far western tip of that island where nothing but shrubs and grass grow and all is sand and water.

(I'm not being dramatic. That's all totally serious and true.)

Background: Dauphin Island is a barrier island off the coast of Mobile, Alabama. It's not too far from our home in Gulfport, Mississippi, nor is it very large. As islands go, it's barely there (6 square miles!), but it's historically significant as being a few hundred yards from Admiral Farragut when he spoke the words, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" during the battle of Mobile Bay in the Civil War.

Well, renting houses online is an exciting thing. Websites and photos give you a general idea of the place you're about to spend quality time in, but you can never really know what it'll be like until you're pulling your car onto a sand-and-pebble driveway in front of a up-on-stilts-house while the ocean laps at the shore just feet away. There's just no real substitute for stepping out onto damp sand and looking South to the Gulf of Mexico, then North to Mobile bay - both close enough to splash. No real way to prepare for what it might mean should a storm roll in while you're living in this up-on-stilts-house on an island with one road down the center...

As you've probably guessed, this is exactly what happened. On Christmas day, winter storm Euclid tore across the country and in the south, he called to the seas. "Rise up! Rise up!" He cried. "Higher! Louder! Steal that driveway! SHAKE THAT HOUSE!"

It was insane. The house shook every time the waves crashed against the stilts (a-ha! this is why they're on stilts!), which might have been lulling had I not been wondering just how deep those stilts were buried in the earth. I hoped they were all in the bedrock, but suspected not. By 10:00pm, the ocean had swallowed the bottom step leading to the driveway, turning the sand to muck, and the waves were nearing the road.

That's about when we stopped looking. We were in it for the long haul no matter how high the seas got. The tornado warnings kept going, but houses on stilts HAVE NO BASEMENTS. So we decided to get some sleep, and hope for the best.

Obviously, I'm still here, but the next morning was...interesting. I've captured some of the aftermath for you...

Thanks to the realtor, we had enough warning to move our cars across the street, otherwise, my trusty vehicle might still be in Alabama...or on its way to Costa Rica.

We were stuck for two days and just as the water receded enough to get our cars back in the driveway, another storm rolled in and it started all over again.

Hope your holiday was a little less eventful and ten times more safe than mine.

(All that said, I would totally stay in a up-on-stilts-house again. May or June.)

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