As I write this, Central Florida is one day away from bearing the punishing brunt of large and dangerous Hurricane Irma. While I completing the back-up process on this computer and before I put it away for safekeeping, I want to share some thoughts about Irma and about us Central Floridians, her supplicants for the next 48 hours. I did the same in advance of Hurricane Matthew last October, but I sure as hell hope this is not the start of an annual tradition.
I was worried about Matthew last year. Because he stayed off the coast and this area was on the western side of the storm, we had several hours of tropical storm conditions, but not much damage here, 50 miles inland. Irma is coming up the other side of the state and the present forecast models pretty much agree on a path through Central Florida as a major hurricane.
We haven’t had a powerful storm come through here since Charley in 2004. (Yes, I wrote about that one, too). Some of us who persevered through that hurricane were transformed by it.A friend and fellow Penn Stater lost half of his house to nature’s fury back then. I was fortunate to have had no significant damage other than a couple of trees down — which, lucky for me, missed the house.
Others who sustained little or no damage grew complacent. I was just talking to my 87 year-old, recently widowed neighbor, Rita, across the street, asking her if she needed my help with anything. She said that she would be staying elsewhere, with her daughter, and that everything was in order. On the one hand, she wasn’t worried because “we’ve never had any problems” with prior storms. On the other, she said, “I’ve got skylights in every upstairs room, and that pine tree worries me.”
She gave me the combination to her garage door opener and offered me all the food in her multiple refrigerators if I needed shelter and food. That will save me a trip to Publix tonight for more emergency canned salmon. Publix closes at 8 PM this evening. They’re staying open later than a lot of the Central Florida competition shutter their stores.
Rita said her husband Bob would have loved to have been around for Irma. The couple had owned a condo in the Bahamas where he used to go outside during hurricanes and tropical storms to enjoy the wind and the rain. He was a lawyer.
Some neighbors are not taking the threat very seriously. I still see patio furniture, barbecue grills, potted plants, etc. sitting out in the open. These people don’t comprehend the danger. “It’s all old stuff, and besides, I’m insured.” Yes, dickhead, but your flying “old stuff” imperils others’ lives and property. A lawn chair traveling at 100 mph can do considerable damage. You don’t have to be an expert on Bernoulli’s Equation to intuitively gauge the airborne potential of loose objects. Even heavy crap can take flight in 100+ mph winds.
We have a lot of new residents of Florida, millions such the Hurricane Charley time, who have no idea what their in for. They fart around and don’t take the time to read about storm preparation. They all underestimate a major storm’s fury. How bad can it be?
Irma Ain’t Charley
Even those who were here for Charley forget about the wrath of the beast. I’ll tell you something. Charley delivered his punch quickly and then sped off. In this area, we had hurricane force winds for only a couple hours, and Charley was a Category 2 when he got here. Irma is a different story. She’ll be a Category 3 and she’s taking her time getting here. She won’t speed up like Charley. She’ll dawdle around here blasting us with 100+ mph sustained winds and spawning tornadoes all night Sunday. It is going to be scary as hell.
My neighborhood was fortunate not to have lost power during Charley or in his aftermath — not even a minor brown-out — but I sure as hell can’t bank on that being the case this time. Some people and businesses in the area were without electricity for a two weeks or more.
To Leave or To Stay?
I considered leaving town. Up to last night, I was still thinking about it. There’s not much I can do if I’m here. Can I fight Irma? She can kick my ass in two seconds flat from 100 miles away. What chance do I have? Not much. But I felt like I would be abandoning others who I care about, who are staying. Not much I can do for them, either, during the storm, other than worry about them and check on them from time-to-time. Still, they’re here, and I’m going to be here, too.
I have lots of skylights, a major worry. I also have lots of windows. I do not have hurricane shutters — no one around here does. We’re inland, so no worries, right? Plywood is not an option for me, a I have a two-floor house and would have to do an awful lot of work in a short period of time to cover every window. Besides, plywood doesn’t really provide much protection against water.
This afternoon, I’ll watch the Pitt-PSU game, assuming that all my preparations are done by then. Immediately after the game, the weather is expected to take a turn toward shitty. I might be able to squeeze in a post-game observation post here. After that, it might be a while before you hear from me again. I’ll be back when all is well. I hope that will be Monday afternoon, although I won’t be posting anything immediately.