With Hurricane Irma barreling down my path (and Harvey fresh in our minds), I declared to co-workers yesterday (including my boss who said I would have to work remotely) that I am done with Florida, and in five years, when my youngest graduates high school, I am outta here!
But, as my boss reminded me, every area has its natural disaster risk. At least with hurricanes, we get notice and time to make preparations. True. Irma, one of, if not the strongest hurricane to grace the Atlantic basin (we’re hearing the term Category 6 thrown around), is on a course toward south Florida – well, we think. The dreaded cone of uncertainty is something residents in hurricane prone regions are familiar with, but never get used to. The days before a storm hits is one of the most intense, heightened anxiety producing events imaginable – the not knowing for sure, the possibility, the “do we or do we not” put up shutters, evacuate, etc – can drive people insane. Fear is a terrible motivator. Yesterday, I waited in line for gas like many others and then headed to Target for supplies – I didn’t even need them, just felt I should be doing something.
Yesterday, a colleague came into my office and made the observation that everyone is “on edge.” Some, like myself, have lived in Florida for decades. You would think this makes us immune to the panic that sets in the days leading up to the arrival of a storm. But, in actuality, it makes it much worse. Especially those who lived through the seasons of 2004-05 when we were hit with multiple storms and faced wide-spread power outages and property damage.
Last year, as we prepared for Hurricane Matthew (the first Category 5 Atlantic hurricane since 2007), which was headed right for my coast, I recall friends and neighbors just looking at each other, but afraid to express the fear in their hearts. Has the many years of being spared finally come to an end? People took this storm seriously, as it had been over ten years since our area received a direct impact from a hurricane. Was our time up?
And then it happened. The WOBBLE. I remember getting a text message just hours before Matthew was supposed to make landfall. The storm shifted east and, once again, my area would be spared. You see, no one ever can predict Mother Nature. It is as if she is playing with us, testing us.
In 1992, I was a young college graduate living alone in an Orlando apartment. Hurricane Andrew, a monster Category 5 hurricane was coming right to the center of the state. I taped my windows (we now know NOT to do that), bought new batteries for my flashlight, and hunkered down. I went to bed, praying it wouldn’t be as bad as they had predicted.
I woke up the next morning, surprised I had slept so soundly, and looked out my window. I recall seeing blue sky and wondered, “Did we even get rain?” I thanked God, the storm must have dissipated (I was a hurricane newbie). I turned on the morning news and that’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks. Homestead (near Miami) had been devastated, practically wiped off the map. What the hell??
During the night while thousands slept, and without much, if any, notice, Andrew made a sharp turn and hit an area not expecting or prepared for such a massive storm. Few, who lived here during that time, will ever forget those images.
And, so, you see, these last minute curve balls by Mother Nature, is what always gets me all riled up anytime meteorologists take out their damn cone of uncertainty and spaghetti models. There are many times I want to tell the weather channel to take their cone and shove it where the sun don’t shine, but then I breathe and do what any rational person in this situation can do – prepare for worst, pray for the best.