Neither rain, nor wind, nor cold . . . 10/26/09

What is the deal with Fridays in October this year on the island?  Beginning October 2 with our Girls Night Out in a gale, every Friday this month has had outrageous weather!  And this past Friday was no exception.

I mentioned last week that we (Jill, Diane and I) were going to hear Don Piper and Jennifer O’Neill speak to the Win-Some Women’s Retreat at the Grand on Saturday morning.  When I left the condo to walk down to the Grand, it was raining, cold, and the wind almost knocked me off my feet.  I had on a turtleneck long-sleeved top, a sweater, a zip-up fleece jacket, and my rain jacket/hood.  Over the hood I put my earmuffs (to hold the hood on my head).  Then rain gloves.  Everything was protected except my jeans from mid-thigh down (where the rain jacket ended).  They were soaked by the time I got where I was going.  Jill and Diane were already there, having biked up – they were totally dry because THEY HAVE RAIN PANTS!  Believe me, I have an L.L. Bean catalog all marked with rain gear I want for Christmas this year. 

We made our way upstairs to the conference room where the speakers were presenting.  There were a thousand women already there, and we found three seats in the back of the room on the far left side.  It didn’t matter – there were huge screens set up around the room, so even if you couldn’t see the speaker directly, you still had a close-up view.

We had our schedules wrong, and we had missed Jennifer O’Neill, but Don Piper (90 Minutes in Heaven) was fabulous.  His story is one of the most inspiring and miraculous I have ever heard, and I will be reading his book when we get home.  It is always amazing what God can do, but when you hear up close and personal a true miracle story, it  is an awesome experience.  And to have that “miracle” – who was pronounced dead at the scene of an accident, stayed dead for an hour and a half, had two limbs severed, was impaled on the steering wheel,  and had serious head injuries – stand in front of you on a stage walking and talking, with both his own arms and legs attached and working just fine – well, it just  makes your heart soar.

Win-Some Women waiting to go into luncheon.  This same group had to make it off the island in the storm.

Win-Some Women waiting to go into their luncheon. All of these ladies had to get from the Grand to the ferry docks and off the island in the stormy weather.

After Piper’s presentation, all the Win-Some Women were going to a luncheon.  We weren’t attending that, and Diane had to leave to get to work.  Carleton’s Tea Store at the Grand was selling box lunches which included cups of soup, so Jill and I picked up a couple of those and went up to the Cupola to eat and watch the – by then – serious storm that had moved in.  You know how I love to watch bad weather, and although this one lacked thunder and lightning altogether, it was big on rain and wind.  To experience that in a room four flights up, surrounded by windows, was totally awesome, and I loved every minute.  It also gave us a birds-eye view of what was taking place below us.  

You can see the waves breaking into Round Island.

Waves kicked up from the high winds crash into Round Island on Friday.

Same here - waves, rain, and wind.
Same here – waves, rain, and wind.  That’s the Gatehouse in the left foreground and the school in the right foreground.
Occasionally there would be a person or two walk up the hill (or down).

Occasionally there would be a person or two walk up the hill (or down).

Even with the rain curtains down, the taxis were pretty wet on the insides - but much better than no protection at all.

Even with the rain curtains down, the taxis were pretty wet on the insides - but much better than no protection at all.

The driest way to get from Point A to Point B that day was in one of the Grand's omnibuses, which you can barely make out in the photo.  They are fully enclosed.

The driest way to get from Point A to Point B that day was in one of the Grand's omnibuses, which you can barely make out in the photo. They are fully enclosed.

 

If you look closely, you can see the waves crashing over the breakwater beyong the marina.

If you look closely, you can see the waves crashing over the breakwater beyond the marina.

 
While we were sitting up there watching nature at its wildest, the logistical nightmare unfolding on the island was at full throttle.  There were a thousand women trying to get off the island after their luncheon ended.  There were around 500 people trying to get on the island for the ballroom dancing weekend at the Grand, beginning Friday evening.  Reports began to trickle up to the Cupola, and by 2 p.m. the word came that both Star and Shepler ferry lines had stopped crossing.  Winds were reported as 26 mph sustained, with 40 mph gusts.  I should mention here that Arnold is the only ferry line with the big catamarans (“cats”) that can handle really rough water.  We heard that one Arnold catamaran, full of passengers coming to the island, was stranded in the Straits, with a Coast Guard boat alongside as backup if they couldn’t get started again (they did-about 2 hours later).  There was also a little matter of a ballroom dancing floor coming over on a cargo ferry that was no longer running.  It had been taken apart and was now coming piece by piece on passenger ferries.  (At the end of this post, before the “NOTE”, I’ve posted a short video clip someone on one ferry took of another ferry crossing to the island.  I believe it was the Huron, the Arnold Line cargo ferry, they photographed.)
 
THEN Arnold stopped running their ferries either way to Mackinaw City. 

The passage from Mackinaw City to the island is a lot further and in more open water than the passage from St. Ignace to the island.  Therefore, in weather like we were having, it was just safer to cancel the ferries to Mac City.  So the Arnold cats were carrying people off the island to St. Ignace.  Which was fine if you had come to the island from St. Ignace.  If not, you were arriving where your car was not.  So shuttles were carrying people across the Mackinac Bridge to their cars in Mac City.  There was another concern that the bridge would be closed, but that never happened.

Add to all of that the logistics of getting 1,000 women to the ferry docks from the Grand and 500 people from the ferry docks to the Grand.  Taxi service has already been cut because it is so late in the season, but the taxis were hauling as many people each trip as they possibly could, and the Grand horse-drawn omnibuses were doing the same.  We watched as taxi after taxi and bus after bus came and went from the Grand.  The drivers, even with rain gear and rubber blankets, were drenched to the skin, but I never heard one word of complaint.  The Grand porters stood in the rain and unloaded and loaded people hour after hour – no complaints. 

A soaking wet Grand Hotel omnibus driver, delivering his passengers.

A soaking wet Grand omnibus driver, delivering his passengers.

 

Passengers still had to get from the bus to the door.

Passengers still had to make it to the door from the bus. None of these photos do justice to the force of the wind that day.

 

This dray driver's tarp had blown off, and someone on a bike had stopped to tie it back on.  The dray driver, of course, could not get off and leave the horses unattended.

This dray driver's tarp had blown off, and someone on a bike had stopped to tie it back on. The dray driver, of course, could not get off and leave the horses unattended.

 
 
3:30 p.m. - Schools out, and children were going home.

3:30 p.m. - School's out, and children were going home.

 
 
Taxis bringing passengers from the ferry docks.  That's Anna in the green rain gear.

Taxis bringing passengers from the ferry dock. That's Anna in the green rain gear.

The Arnold Line did an exceptional job insuring that everyone that needed to get off the island got off, and everyone who wanted to be on the island got here.  There were some who chose to come back to the Grand after seeing what the water looked like on the Straits that day.  But many safely crossed.  As for me, I waited until a taxi pulled up that still had passengers left on board, after everyone else had gotten off at the Grand.  I would ask, “Are you taking someone to the Village?” Usually the answer was no, but finally Jeanine pulled up with two passengers who were going my way.  I climbed aboard and made it home around 4 o’clock.

Even though we have been on Mackinac Island for two seasons, there are still many days when I learn something new about living here.  Friday was a learning day. Is this the easiest place to live and work?  Absolutely not.  But there is such a pride here in getting the job done in even the harshest conditions – and getting it done using the means at hand – horses.  Watching everyone pull together Friday to pull off a monumental task made me so proud to be part of this community.  Through it all, people worked together to assure that the problems were solved, the visitors were taken care of, and never once was the integrity of this special place threatened.  People take care of each other here – in business and in their personal lives.  That’s one of the reasons I love it so.  There are many more.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYplmKIqczI

Note:  A light moment during all the drama Friday afternoon was watching these four cute little girls discover a phone booth for the first time.  They had never seen one!  Talk about making me feel ancient!

IMG_9144a

  

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11 thoughts on “Neither rain, nor wind, nor cold . . . 10/26/09

  1. Oh I feel cold just reading this!
    I’m so glad you were able to enjoy the Cupola bar and the views. It is one of my favorite places in the Grand. My husband and I played Scrabble in there on one cold, rainy day.
    Thank goodness the Arnold’s were able to run and you got home to your condo safely.
    Wishing you a better week of weather.

  2. I love watching storms on the lakes. When we have a big blow around here we try to head for St. Joe, MI and Lake Michigan to watch the waves come in. Watching from the Cupola must have a great thing. Hope the weather improves for your final days on the island. Good luck with the packing.

  3. What a wet, windy day! I would just love to be on the Island in the fall also. It must be just beautiful! Great blog as usual!!!

  4. Pingback: Perilous is Relative « Historic Mackinac

  5. Hi Bree

    What a great day so stay in, enjoy a cup of tea and read a good book! Are there any circumstances that the kids on the Island would have a day off due to weather?

    • Good question. I think they worry more about ice storms than snow. Maybe if there was ice on the roads so bikes couldn’t safely get down the hill – that might close the school.

  6. Hey Bree,

    I loved today’s story. The cupola is my favorite place at the Grand. I’m really going to miss reading about your adventures on the island. May God bless you all with a safe trip to the wonderful South.

  7. Does the island school have any “horse drawn school buses” or do pupils walk,bike, or have family cabs?
    Too early for snow machines and too rough for anything else would make for a bad day.
    Short sleeves was the attire for the day in south Georgia on Friday. Not so today.

  8. What wonderful storm pictures! And what an ideal place to watch it all! I remember one summer when we were visiting and were up at the Grand, we got caught by a summer storm. We stood at the west end of the porch and watched it sweep across the lake – very dramatic!

    @ Jean – the only time I remember the Island School closing was when the weather was too cold for the old furnace! I think it must have been 30 below and it just couldn’t keep up. That was the old Thomas Ferry school in the Indian Dormitory – I think the ‘new’ school’s furnaces have more power (in fact they probably heat the place with electricity!)

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