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Storm Tracker 2011—School Break Tsunami Hammers Parents

As I look around the wasteland that used to be my home, I realize: No matter how much you prepare, you’re never really ready.

We knew what was coming—the entire community was bracing for it.

Everyone agreed that losing power was the most dangerous scenario. I mean, the initial impact is expected, but the chaos of the days and weeks that follow…. Well, you just can’t plan for the unknown.

It was all the other moms could talk about at the bus stop. Countdowns and predictions of doom circulated on Facebook. My parents called to make sure we’d stocked up on provisions. They reminded us that if we wanted to, we could all jump on a plane and head west in hopes of minimizing the damage.

But we were resolved. We were going to ride out this storm. We could run, but we couldn’t hide; Hurricane Sonia would make landfall.

So would Hurricane Johnny… and Hurricane Isabella… and Hurricane Malik. Along with millions of others.

Summer Break 2011 would batter parental levies nationwide, and we all knew it. A palpable nervousness hung in the air as the season approached. Everyone was edgy; the usual social niceties became abbreviated and terse. In line at the grocery store, we stole glances into one another’s carts: fretting, judging.

Oh yeah, just buy all the Goldfish crackers, why don’t you … and eight packages of juice boxes? Selfish hoarder.

The aisles of the big box stores swarmed with harried parents searching for discount sunscreen and sidewalk chalk. Fistfights broke out over dwindling supplies of mega-blasting squirt guns. More than one team of paramedics responded to a store manager’s panicked call about a crazy woman curled up on the floor in aisle 12, muttering something about Zoobles.

Fortunately, Dan and I had begun stockpiling early: Fingerpaints? Check; Sandbox toys? Check; Family pass to the Children’s Museum? Check.

But we didn't stop there. Oh, no. We ran comparison analysis on every playground, sprinkler park and pool in the entire metro Pittsburgh area. We triangulated maps pinpointing every French fry and ice cream dispensary within 50 miles. We ran recognizance missions on bookstores, libraries, and craft supply depots. We cataloged video arcades and cross-referenced amusement parks.

We did everything but hammer plywood over the windows.

And yet… I wade through the destruction, picking up a stray sock here and half a Barbie there, stunned mute.

The indomitable motion, the sound and the fury: it had been both awesome and terrifying. We did suffer temporary loss of power a few times, but somehow we made it through alive.

And finally, finally the storm is headed back out to preschool.

Still, I think about the others often—those who were hit by not just one juvenile hurricane, but several. How had they done it? How had they fared?

I can’t even imagine.

But I pray that the damage wasn’t too devastating—that somehow the levies held and that, through some divine mercy, there were enough Popsicles for everyone.

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