Last month, we took a trip back to the Great Depression and life on Chincoteague Island, with a few little nuggets about my grandfather and how he and his family survived on a tiny little island. If you missed that post, you can read it here: https://www.hhhistory.com/2021/10/great-depression-island-life.html.
We also downsized our population surroundings from 500,000 to 25,000 in a tri-county area. (grins) Now, I'm living in an area more like the Chincoteague Island folks with the small-town atmosphere and much slower pace. It is a definite welcome change. So many friends jokingly told me I'm moving "down to the holler." Well, this little nook is definitely tucked away, and like my Colorado home, protected from a lot of the elements like hurricanes or tornadoes.
Unfortunately, Chincoteague Island isn't protected from hurricanes. This month, we'll cover another occurrence which drastically affects life on the island -- flooding.
THE DELMARVA PENINSULA
A funny story to tell about my family. One year in my early teens, my mother's family held a reunion down on Chincoteague Island. At some point in a conversation, some family members asked me where I lived, and I answered Delaware. One asked me where that was. Being the somewhat passive aggressive and often sarcastic person that I can be, instead of answering, I asked for the name of the peninsula where they lived, and they answered Delmarva. I then asked why it's named that, and they responded it was the name of the electric company giving them power (which was true). Based on what I mentioned above, can you see my eyes rolling at this point? *grins*
I didn't see any other way to make my point without coming right out and asking what states make up the Delmarva Peninsula. So, I did. From some, I received blank looks, from others, I heard Virginia and Maryland for sure. This truly surprised me. Delaware is not only 1 of 3 states making up the peninsula, but it occupies 60% of the land area as well. For someone living on the peninsula to not know where Delaware is, well that's a sad testament of the lack of geographic education across the US.
So many overlook this tiny little state and its significance. And the same goes for the weather patterns which pass over this area. Quite often, hurricanes will take a path up the Eastern coastline, and when they approach the mid-Atlantic area, reports will address Virginia and New Jersey and New York but skip over Delaware and the Delmarva Peninsula. However, record-breaking flooding levels have been reported from this area following destructive hurricanes in history.
With the way the weather patterns run, hurricanes enter from the southeast and collide with fronts coming from the northwest which lead to circular rainfall that stagnates and becomes stationary over the peninsula. Historically speaking, these storms have affected things like ships avoiding the British blockade of the Chesapeake Bay during the Revolutionary War. Smugglers would travel to the mainland via the Chincoteague harbor, then unload their goods and move them further south toward more populated areas. During the late summer, many years would find a good bit of the lower peninsula under water, so transporting goods became a significant challenge, especially with the pathways resembling a marshland than dry ground.
On Chincoteague Island, flooding is a reality the residents face each and every year. I remember visiting more often in my younger years, and if we were there in the later summer, we were rolling up our pant legs and kicking off our shoes and socks to wade in the waters that could rise as much as hip-high. On particularly stormy days or weeks in days gone by, residents of the island kept little boats handy and used them to navigate the streets. Can you imagine that? Getting dressed and hopping in a boat to go to Sunday meeting?
Some might be enamored with the idea of Venice, Italy with its gondolas and waterways throughout the city, but I'm not sure I'd be too fond of living like that every day...or even dealing with that as part of my reality each year. Sure, there's a certain level of "adventure" attached to travel and getting around during the flooding, but as it's been shown more than once, flooding can also come with devastating effects leading to complete destruction of buildings and structures, and many deaths and injuries.
Because of this reality, a lot of the homes and buildings on Chincoteague are built several feet above ground level with a raised foundation and steps leading to the main floor from the ground. Much like beachfront properties along the coastline will raise the homes on pillars and stilt-like poles, following the destruction of homes on the island, rebuilds would modify the foundation to allow for flooding and help prevent future damage at the main floor level.
Having grown up in and around the Chesapeake region, I have seen my fair share of hurricanes, nor'easters, and torrential downpours from storms that lasted for days and sometimes weeks. The most recent visit I made to Chincoteague Island was for Pony Penning Day with a friend and fellow author...and we spent it with soaked shoes and muddy feet. Thankfully, the ponies are used to marshland living, and they take it all in stride. *grins*
Nevertheless, the pouring rains and the location of the peninsula lend to very wet seasons most of the time. While I spent most of this post talking about summer storms, there have also been times when high tides meet winter storms and you have snow on the ground mixed with flooding in the streets. Quite the contrast causing floating ice and frozen sheets of water on the ground!
NOW IT'S YOUR TURN:
* Have you ever been in the path of a hurricane, or had to evacuate as the result of the flooding and damage caused by one?
* Have you ever misjudged flooding while driving a car? What would you do if you encountered flooding while driving a horse and buggy? How does the threat of flooding change from the past compared to modern day?
* Would you still attend Pony Penning Day even in the midst of flooding or torrential downpours? Why or why not?
Leave answers to these questions or any comments on the post below. Next month, I'll do a themed post to wrap up the year and share some Christmas traditions on Chincoteague Island. Come back on the 9th of December to find out more.
BIOaward-winning, best-selling author and speaker who is also an advocate for literacy as an educational consultant with Usborne Books. She loves to share life-changing products and ideas with others to help improve their lives in a variety of ways.