Baltimore, like Washington, sits on the western side of the Chesapeake Bay - that make those of us who live in this region think we are protected from the worst tropical weather can bring us - until a hurricane forms, and then we are reminded that hurricanes love warm water.
And so, the rush - to buy pallets of bottled water, to install a generator that might not ever be needed again, to trade fish tales about the last time a major storm hit this area, or one’s hometown, and to wait for the storm that everyone from the President to the Archbishop of Baltimore says should not be treated lightly.
As it happens, Irene is taking its sweet time moving up the East Coast - at a half-hour past sunset the rain begins to fall more intensely.  Wind gusts are more frequent. The only wildlife around - a pair of ducks - has swum off in search of shelter.
The Fells Point neighbourhood of Baltimore is deserted, but for the restaurants and bars open for those who consider storms a reason for a party.  Every few minutes, a police car drives past the harbour, making certain that only news cars are the only ones parked on the streets.
The neighbourhood’s centuries of flooding are such that city officials routinely order private cars out until the threat subsides the advance of Irene is no different.
Curiosity seekers periodically wander down the pier to see if they can see anything beyond the two Coast Guard vessels docked at the end.  Some wear rain parkas, others in ponchos a few struggle to hold onto their umbrellas which might yet lose their battle with the rising wind.
They peer out across the harbour, they wait a moment, they turn around and head back up South Broadway or down Thames. Irene’s force is not yet fully in view.
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