I lived in Westboro, Massachusetts, a small town in central Massachusetts in late September 1985 when hurricane Gloria hit our state. At that time, both Jim and I worked for Stratus Computer and our daughter Leslie was almost five. We'd recently moved to a duplex on a rural road about two miles south of Route 9 (if you live in the Westboro area now, the parking lot for the commuter train is basically across the train tracks from our old back yard).
It was the first hurricane to hit the northeast in a very long time. As we weren't particularly close to the ocean or a river, we weren't particularly worried about flooding. However, we did live close to a heronry, a large open area of water where herons and other birds nested. And there were plenty of trees in our area, but we didn't expect to lose one of the trees in our yard.
But Gloria was before Katrina (which reminded us that hurricanes can really wreck havoc on a city) and before Andrew (which reminded us how huge a hurricane can be) and before the Weather Channel (which can keep us constantly informed about any kind of weather situation). While we prepared for Gloria, we didn't really take it all that seriously.
The night before Gloria, we bought some odds and ends - beer, extra batteries and got our coolers ready. We cooked some meals that didn't need to be kept refrigerated so if we lost power we'd have some extra food ready.
The morning the hurricane was due to hit, we dropped Leslie off at day care and went to work as usual. But, after only about an hour, work was canceled and we retrieved Leslie and went home. It was starting to rain and the wind was starting to gust. My sister Carrie drove out from West Boylston to ride out the storm with us. Our other nearby relatives stayed home.
Gloria was mostly a rain event in our area, but it did get pretty windy. We watched the standard coverage - newscasters walking along beaches with high waves in the background. Then, we lost power in the early afternoon. We actually did have the eye go overhead, so we briefly went out to feel the quiet for a few minutes before the wind and rain returned.
By about 6pm, the storm calmed down completely and we went outside to investigate damage. There were very few branches down, but the winds had ripped the leaves off of many trees and plastered the leaves to our car.
A massive tree fell over in our neighbor's yard, in such a way that the roots were jutting up ten feet in the air. Leslie wanted to go explore the tree, but the neighbor shooed her away.
The power popped on just before 8pm, in time to see the first episode of the revamped Twilight Zone, an episode starring a then unknown Bruce Willis, based on a Harlan Ellison story, appropriately called "Shatterday."
While things were pretty much back to normal the next day, some of our friends closer to Boston didn't have power for a week.
We were very lucky - Central Massachusetts mostly had branch and tree damage. I don't think anyone was killed. For the most part, if you stayed home and prepared for a power outage, you were fine.
That's basically my advice for the folks who live inland and are in the path of Irene: hunker down. Stay inside. Collect water, batteries, ice and some non-perishable food. If you live in a low-lying area that could flood (especially after the summer of rain the East Coast has been having), evacuate if you are told to do so. *Don't Panic.*