Grand Junction grad hunkers down during storm

Martha Hitchins

With winds from a hurricane rushing through the row houses of Philadelphia, Martha Hitchins summed up her position in a few words: “Terrified timpanist survives Sandy.”

Hitchins, a Grand Junction High School graduate and now principal timpanist for the Opera Company of Philadelphia, has lived in Philadelphia for more than three decades and Sandy is not her first hurricane, having dealt previously with the ravages of Irene and the remnants of Katrina.

After shifting her most valued possessions into safe locations, Hitchins settled in Monday night for what she hoped would be an otherwise uneventful night of Monday Night Football after having digested and enjoyed the Sunday Night Football airing of the victory of her beloved Denver Broncos over the New Orleans Saints.

The approach of Sandy and its 3 inches of rain by early Monday evening resulted in the cancellation of rehearsal, so Hitchins spent the day moving her possessions, wrapping them in plastic and worrying over the possibility of leaks from her roof, the chances that a tilting utility pole nearby might crash into her house — utility officials had assured the neighborhood the pole was fine — and whether a freshly trimmed tree in her yard might survive.

“I feel good having boxed up those precious memories,” Hitchins said.

Among them was a mink coat left by her mother, Jeannette Hitchins, a longtime Grand Junction High School secretary, greeting cards from her mother and her annuals from Grand Junction Junior High and the high school.

“The lights just flickered a couple times,” Hitchins said soon after Sandy made landfall. “It’s kind of that eerie pre-storm lighting.”

Philadelphia sits about 60 miles off the Atlantic shore — and squarely in Sandy’s path. Sandy was expected to inundate Philadelphia with rain and high winds through 2 a.m. and officials closed off the city as the storm approached.

“If the winds die down enough, I need to get some sleep,” Hitchins said. Until there is an all-clear, “I’ll be checking on things with my flashlight” upstairs and in her basement.


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