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Sunday's Word: Flood

The hurricane that was hyped as the storm to end all storms ultimately wasn't all that, at least at my house.

Yes, it was the source of scary moments, especially for my wife and son.  But at least in my part of the state, from my perspective there wasn't much to tell.  On our property, no trees went down.  Our power never went out.  Heck, we never even lost out or demand movies.

But there are still many people in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut without power, thanks to the slow-moving tropical storm that seemed to take forever, first passing through the Bahamas and Virginia before gaining strength in the Pennsylvania/Northeast portion of its journey.

While the actual storm may not have lived up to its Apocalyptic expectations at our house, the real legacy of Irene in this area comes from the "flooding" that resulting from the gallons of rain that it poured over the entire East Coast. (more)

"I couldn't tell the road was broken and thought it was shallow water and almost drove my car into free flowing water...that was intense," Lehigh linebackers coach Justin Weaver posted on his Twitter account.  (The photo is from that posting.)

If you live on the top of a hill, you probably didn't notice much when Hurricane Irene came through, but if you lived close to the banks of any river this weekend, you were either faced with a sight like Coach Weaver's - or, at least, were thinking that it might happen.

Everyone in this area probably knows someone affected by the storm - a neighbor who is still out of power, say, or a family member with flood damage in the basement.

Heck, my parents, who live in Connecticut in an area where the full brunt of the storm hit, are still out of power.  We're praying they get the lights on soon so they can clean up.  (I can't start to think about the amount of food they're going to have to throw out.)

As luck may have it, Lehigh will be opening the season six days from today not very far from the "flood"-ravaged areas of the New Jersey shore that were also slammed by the river "flooding" - and, to top that off,  large swells of ocean surge, too, this weekend.

Monmouth University - quite fortunately - escaped Irene with "minimal damage", according to their website. There's no worries that the game next weekend will be cancelled thanks to the tropical storm - matter of fact, the release says that they're "open for business".

But as seems to be the case with this storm, unscathed communities are right next to other living areas that are facing massive cleanup, power outages, and lack of phone or internet service.

"On site the night of the storm, Ocean county mayor Bill J. Larkin said the water crested over a 4-foot-high berm and walls so quickly, turning on water pumps early would have been little help," the Asbury Park Press reported.

These stories aren't coming from halfway across the state - the nightmares of "flooding" (including the picture above) come from just around the corner from the University.

While it doesn't directly affect the game's ability to be played, it does take away a bit from the energy of the contest, however.

Instead of being a glorious, sun-filled opening of the 2011 season, complete with lighthearted blog postings containing quotes from The Situation and jokes about Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirts, it's instead a serious situation just down the street, with ruined homes and a continuing concern with rising "flood" waters.

The season opener for Lehigh is generally a joyous affair, kicked off by the Alumni Steak Fry and finishing with the long-awaited resumption of football activities.  But this year - with the Steak Fry rained out and some folks with home damage or power loss to worry about - it doesn't totally feel that way.


There's one more aspect to the "flood" analogy as well, as it pertains to Lehigh.

This offseason, thanks to their success in 2010, Lehigh has gotten a "flood" of positive coverage from across the land.  Junior WR Ryan Spadola and senior LB Mike Groome have received a host of preseason awards for, well, being good last year.

The Lehigh players will be the first to say that preseason awards mean nothing, really, and "it's the awards at the end that count."  It is true.

But how will this Lehigh team handle this particular "flood"?

This current group of football players have never experienced being the hunted in their collegiate playing careers.  It's one thing to sneak up on Northern Iowa and Harvard and beat them on the road.  It's quite another to have every team give you their best shot, week in and week out.

Think Princeton was tough last year?  Try them in their season opener, at their place, when they'll be trying to "make history" by taking down the reigning Patriot League champs.

Think Bucknell circled their game with 5-6 Lehigh last year as the game they most wanted to play?

Even Monmouth - who's been predicted to be a middle-of-the-pack team in the Northeast Conference this year - has to be loving this opportunity to poach a nationally-ranked team, at their place.  What better way to start the year?

It's going to be a very different year for Lehigh.  The opponents will be coming at the Mountain Hawks giving them their best shot.  It will be a "flood" of tough opponents, starting with the Jersey Hawks this weekend.

The single question for this team going into the season: are they up for this challenge?


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