Right now, everyone in the dreaded cone of error is freaking the hell out about Hurricane Irene. My Facebook and Twitter streams are filled with people worrying about the coming days.
Me? Not so worried.
I hate to be flippant but consider me jaded after the historic storm season of 2004.
Let me set the scene for you: I had lived in Florida for less than a year. And I was just one month into my new job, working as a news editor for a local Orlando TV station’s website.
Suddenly, one Friday morning in mid-August it looked like a storm we had casually been watching at work was now turning our way. Sometime that morning, I call DadJovi.
Me: “So, this storm is looking like it’s heading this way.
Him: “I’ve lived here my entire life. This is just something the TV stations do to boost ratings.”
Me: “Well, I’m at that TV station and no, that’s not what’s going on. I’m watching the path with our meteorologists. It’s not looking good.”
Him: “It’s fine. What time will you be home for dinner?”
Fast-forward a few hours: Hurricane Charley comes ashore in Port Charlotte on the southwestern coast of Florida, as a powerful Category 4 storm. When it reached Orlando that night, it still had winds of 105 mph. It was very powerful but mercifully, it was quick.
Too bad the recovery wasn’t. It brought down powerlines and trees all over town. When I drove home from the station sometime around 1 a.m. it was like driving through a movie set — water came up to my car windows in some parts. Powerlines were scattered all over the roads. And when we went outside the next morning, this is what we saw when we opened our back door:
I’ll save you all the gory details of the other hurricanes, but in case you weren’t here, we also had Frances, Ivan and Jeanne to survive that summer (and a slew of others to contend with and worry about). The good news? I earned enough comp days for several weeks off later in the year because I basically lived at the station. The bad news? DadJovi rode out many of the storms by himself (and one very long weekend with my uncle who’d evacuated South Florida during Hurricane Frances and then the storm stalled over us … for several days).
Jeanne was the final hurricane to come through town, arriving in late September. And that bitch brought down my favorite tree in our yard and forever ruined our grass and camelias, which had all thrived in the massive live oak’s shade.
Not only was I pissed to lose our favorite tree, the whole neighborhood was pissed because this tree brought down the powerlines for every house in a several block range. And OUC said it couldn’t turn the power back on until the tree was cleared … and tree trimmers were harder to come by than … well, tree trimmers in a hurricane zone. So, up into the tree DadJovi went with the chainsaw, for hours and hours on end.
When our neighbors realized what the situation was, a lot of them pitched in to help too (although, notably, our backdoor neighbors didn’t and we still resent them til this day since the tree was technically on their side of the property line before it fell. Bastards).
Here’s what I learned that season: power is a blessing. I think by the time we got out of hurricane season, we had been without power for a total of 15 days. That’s 15 days in Florida summer. That’s 15 days of NO AIR CONDITIONING! We couldn’t go to a hotel because of our two
aggressive big dogs, so the four of us stuck it out at home. It was brutal. And we lost a ton of money on spoiled food.
So, as Irene barrels this way, I’ll take a couple precautions:
— I won’t be stocking the fridge with perishables this week. We’re on an eat-as-needed basis until it passes.
— I’m making extra ice all week. Worst-case scenario? I dump it out when the storm passes. Best-case scenario? I don’t have to pay $20 for a bag of ice the morning after the storm passes.
— Same goes for filling up the gas tanks. Get those cars filled up ASAP before everyone freaks out even more and stations start using the bullshit “uncertainty in the Gulf” excuse to jack up prices. We’ll also make sure our gas grill has propane since that was our only way to cook food post-storm in ’04.
— I’ve temporarily lifted our ban on buying bottles of water. Having a case or two around can come in handy when the power goes and it’s not like extra bottles of water will go to waste.
— I’ve figured out where our lanterns, flashlights and candles are, and we’re stocking up on batteries. And I’ve found our non-power-based phone. You know the old-school kind that plugs into a wall? No power? No phone. And cell service can be shit during and after a storm.
— I’m keeping the laptop, cell phones and any other entertainment devices charged at all times. Last time it was just DadJovi and me during the power outages. And as fun as the “Guess what word I’m spelling with the flashlight” game was, I don’t think that will entertain a 3-year-old.
— I’m stocking up on booze. Something has to get me through no power in a Florida summer. DadJovi (who doesn’t drink) and E. are screwed.
— But mostly, I’m not that worried. If it comes, it will just be a lot of rain. Frankly, even some of the worst hurricanes and tropical storms haven’t seemed that much worse than a bad summer thunderstorm — they just last longer. Famous last words, I’m sure.
So, if this is your first hurricane scare, enjoy it! I don’t mean to make light of it because I know a lot of people sustained really tremendous losses. But chances are, that won’t be you. Hey, you may even get a day off of work out of the panic.
And finally, listen to the meteorologists. Even though DadJovi still doubts them, I still know several of them and they’re good people. They’re not trying to scare you; they’re trying to help you (although yes, hurricanes are ratings gold). But until we’re 24 hours from a storm, the paths can change at a moment’s notice (see the Charley story above). So don’t get too caught up on all the paths … yet.
And if Irene does come this way, well, I’ll be relishing the fact that I won’t be bunking next to a sound operator on a cot at a TV station for 2 days.
Were you here in 2004? What’s your most memorable weather event?