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A Parade Of Clouds

This past week I ventured to Cape Hatteras on the outer banks of North Carolina for a family vacation. We arrived on Monday and settled into our hotel with a beautiful oceanfront view. We did a little exploring around the town, stocking up on snacks and beer and finding the edible restaurants: yes, I love eating a good restaurant.

If you're lucky enough to have 4-wheel-drive, this is one of the only areas in the country, that I know of, where you can drive on the beach. It's a lot of fun, especially if you like to surf fish. Many take this pasttime very seriously and have their trucks decked out for the task.

Mark Barry, Cloud Parade 9, 2004By early evening we were back at the hotel sitting on the dunes, drinking and noshing, watching the waves. As the sun was setting a fantastic parade of clouds drifted by. My digital attempt to capture the moment pales, but, you get the picture (sorry). Constable's cloud studies were all I could think of (see Ionarts post on November 23, 2003). You've got to be decisive when painting clouds, as the scene changed quite rapidly. The large cumulus formations with rain showers beneath were my favorites.

As with anything so wonderful it comes at a cost. In this case the reason we had this grand display was because this was only the first act. The main performance would come the next day, Tuesday, in the form of a category 3 hurricane called Alex. Winds topped out at 110 mph. The gusting rain blew in over the top of our hotel room door and sand permeated the trim around the windows. We hunkered down in the rear bathroom. I did yoga.

By noon the eye of the storm was over us, and an erie, yet beautiful calm appeared. I went out on the beach and took some pictures (one, two, three, and four). A steady wind blew sand that stung my back, ouch! After a few minutes of this it was back inside for act two.

The storm came around this time from the west, the lower-lying bay side. The wind now literally poured water through the rear bathroom windows with each gust. We moved our hunkering back to the front room. After an hour or so the roads and hotel parking lot were flooded. The windows were coated with sand, we could only imagine what was happening to the cars parked in the lot. I took a nap.

Eventually Alex drifted away, and we munchkins slowly emerged. I was looking for Glinda the good witch of Munchkin Land to sing "Come out, come out, wherever you are." We had all survived. There was a lot of flood and wind damage. Many cars in the hotel lot had their rear windows blown out and were coated inside and out with sand. My car only had a sand blasted rear window and side mirror which was pretty amazing to see. Luckily there were no injuries and within an hour the roads were plowed of sand. The first to arrive on the scene were TV crews with huge satellite dishes hungry for images and quotes. Most importantly the beer truck arrived, closely followed by the ice truck. Now that's a relief operation. By the way very little painting got done.

Mark Barry ( is an artist living in Baltimore.

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