Fun with hurricanes; a cautionary tale

I’ve lived in Florida for 20 years. Before that I spent nearly every summer here with my grandparents. I also was born here and lived here from age three to seven, so I really should know that Florida is a magnet for hurricanes.

Should being the operative word.

When I moved here in 1996, Florida was in a bit of a “dry period” hurricane-wise. I think the most recent large storm had been Andrew in 1992 (don’t quote me on that, though). Every time June would roll around, my dad would insist on being prepared, stocking up on canned crap food, water, batteries, and reminding me to never let my car get below half a tank of gas. I played along because I knew it was his way of showing me he cared, but inwardly I was rolling my eyes and thinking, “pfft. We’re not going to get a hurricane this year. Florida never gets hurricanes anymore.”

For the most part, I was right. We had a few brushes, like Hurricane Floyd in 1999. I had a feeling it was going to end up missing the state, and it did (the guy I was dating at the time, who was not a Florida native, laughed at people being afraid of something named “Floyd”). I actually had a pretty good knack for knowing whether or not a hurricane was a threat, a sixth sense of sorts that I inherited from my grandfather. I was never wrong.

Then 2004 rolled around. It was Friday, August 13th. I’d just lost my job the day before, had been out getting drunk with friends that night, so I was a little surprised when I woke up Friday morning and realized that Zach’s school had been cancelled and my dad was rushing around bringing in patio furniture and potted plants because Hurricane Charley was on his way, due to arrive that evening. Apparently not only had my luck run out, but the luck central Florida had dodging hurricanes ran out, too (this also seems to be about the same time my hurricane prediction “gift” disappeared).

Charley, while not big in stature, was strong in wind and rain, and he was pretty damn fast. Thinking back, it feels like the worst of it only lasted about an hour, maybe an hour and a half. Once it was through though, we realized just how bad it was. The power was out, and there were trees down all over the place. We couldn’t drive down the street in either direction because it was blocked by large toppled trees. The house didn’t sustain any damage, but the neighborhood lost a lot. Our power was out for eight days while crews worked to replace poles, lines, and repair transformers. While it was a huge inconvenience, I know it could have been a lot worse.

Then Charleys’ friends Frances and Jeanne decided to blow through as well. Neither were as strong as Charley and didn’t cause any major problems or extended power outages, but three hurricanes in the span of two months? It felt like we’d had our fair share.

Things got quiet after that hurricane season, which led to a serious case of what I call the “lackadasies” when you become completely lackadaisical about something you should take seriously. I started ignoring hurricane preparedness. Didn’t make sure the battery powered lanterns were in working order, didn’t have an adequate water supply on hand, etc. It was bound to catch up with me, which it did last week with Matthew.

I knew it was out there, I knew it was possibly coming this way, but I didn’t get nervous until Wednesday when it seemed pretty definite that it was going to hit, and I started seeing pictures on the news of store shelves being emptied of necessities. Meteorologists were predicting this to be worse than Charley. Commence panic and scrambling. We were able to get some water, junk food, batteries, tiny flashlights, and ice. The patio furniture was put away in plenty of time, but man, that was a miserable few days. I already have issues with anxiety, and the constant news coverage of how bad it was going to be, coupled with not being prepared had me in a constant state of static. If you follow me on twitter, you probably saw all that anxiety come out in a huge number of tweets.

We got lucky, again, when Matthew moved a bit to the east, saving our area from the hurricane force winds we were expecting. We did get a decent bit of wind though which lasted for close to a day. The power went out for a day and a half (if it had been longer, I’d have lost it given the state I was already in), the roof, which is already in not great shape, lost a crap ton of shingles, and I busted my toe stomping on a block of ice in a cooler (go me), but other than that, we were very fortunate. We didn’t even get that much rain from it while places four miles away were near flooding.

Safe to say that next June, I’m going to be checking off my list of hurricane preparedness items. I figure if I’m prepared, the less likely we are to get hit with anything bad. I think of it like that old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Also, as soon as I can move out of this state, you better believe I’m going to.

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