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Hudson's Corner: Trying to relax before Hurricane Sandy

Sunday morning, I drove to Meadowbrook to swim some final outdoor laps before Hurricane Sandy arrived. On the way over, it was obvious a storm was approaching.

Orange cones and sandbags were stationed at the little bridge to Whole Foods in Mount Washington. Heavy equipment, used on the Falls Road repair project for what seems like years, was parked under the Kelly Avenue Bridge. The lot by the little church was full as congregants prayed inside. The U.S. Postal Service seemed to show a lot of faith by leaving its mail trucks in the post office lot. Often before storms, the trucks are parked up on the bridge.

A machine and outdoor electric cords sat on the sidewalk leading into Meadowbrook, where televisions blared weather forecasts and the exercise room and indoor pool were full. In the outdoor pool, 10 people took advantage of the warm water, 77.4 degrees, made possible by two new heaters that supplement two mammoth ones on the roof.

Dried leaves accumulated at the south corners of the pool. As the breeze picked up, more floated onto the water's surface. No sun shone, so the "On Golden Pond" effect experienced recently was gone. Triangular lane flags flapped and confirmed that winds definitely were coming from the north.

The air temperature had dropped, so pulling off my sweat shirt took me a few minutes. Diving into warm water brought the same relief as stepping into a warm bathtub. I stroked away in lane 8 by the side of the pool, where jets pump warm water and make that lane extra warm. It also accumulated more leaves on Sunday, so halfway through my laps I switched lanes then fell into a rhythm that eased muscles stiffened by Saturday's extensive Sandy preparations.

With plenty of chance to prepare for Sandy, my husband and I had done everything we knew to protect the house and keep water outside. He cleaned gutters by leaning out third floor windows with his spoon-on-bamboo-pole contraption. I climbed the ladder and cleaned small gutters on the front porch. We carried sheets of plywood to angle over the foundation in vulnerable areas.

Particularly problematic is the area in front, where a new water line enters the house. Ever since it was installed, the basement has taken on water in heavy rain. Besides the plastic bubble over the outdoor spigot, plywood and a weighted bucket to capture overflow from a porch gutter missing its end cap, we added two bags of topsoil to increase the slope. We then spread two tarps and weighted them to the ground with plant-filled containers, bricks and a heavy rabbit sculpture. The idea behind these Rube Goldberg measures was to prevent as much water as possible from running inside via the soil around the water line.

Other measures were taken elsewhere. Along the driveway, which was cut into the property in the 1920's and eliminated much ground needed for runoff, we nailed the plastic bubbles into old shutters that do not have louvers and placed them over the basement window wells.

On the third floor, my husband taped up, with multi-purpose duct tape, two brick windowsills, which have been waterproofed but seem to leak water into the sun porch in heavy rain. We carried buckets to the sun porch too, just in case.

At the back of the house, we tilted more sheets of plywood against the house to push water away from the foundation. We moved everything that might blow around into the garage: watering cans, the top of the sundial, a lightweight birdbath and the trash cans.

No wonder I was stiff by Sunday and needed a swim. I also needed to clear my imagination of worst-case scenarios hyped by the media and to relax a bit before Sandy's reality began.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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