There is another monster brewing in the Caribbean. We here on the west coast of Florida have it in our minds, though we aren’t paying it much attention;but you can bet that the southeast coastal residents of Florida are starting to watch it closer.
We here in North Florida just lived through another hurricane back in September, and I thought I would share a little about how we watch, prepare, and then ride out a hurricane. Hurricane Hermine came ashore the first week in September, but we had been watching it closely for almost a week before it hit.
We Floridians have all kinds of jokes about these storms. I guess because we seem to be ground zero from time to time. We watch as these little “disturbances” come off the West African coast.
It seems like every time Chuck and I go out west, we say, “here they come.” We spent several vacations anxiously watching storms approach Florida. A few years ago, we had to fly back to get ready for one that went west at the last possible moment. Sometimes the storms que up 3 or 4 at a time–marching in a single file across the Atlantic.
We just keep these disturbances in mind, though. They rarely amount to anything for us, because they have so far to go; and even if they do form into something they have so many other places to go. There’s Mexico or Louisiana or maybe it will turn a hard right and move on up to North Carolina. Unfortunately, someone else’s loss is our gain but it works both ways.
So Hermine was kind of out of sight and out of mind until she started going through the straights of Florida between Florida and Cuba. That’s when we took notice and really started paying attention. We began checking our supply of batteries, jugged water, and making a plan just in case.
We started paying attention to the computer models. At first it was half and half. Some had it coming our way and some had it going west. I remember thinking, “Go West Young Woman!”
They forecasted that there was a front pushing across the US and across the gulf from the west to east. That meant the options were declining in number. A front meant it wouldn’t go west so Texas and Louisiana were off the hook, and the storm was already in the gulf so the east coast of our country was off the table, too.
But if it pushes fast enough maybe it will turn it quicker and cause it to go to Tampa or Ft. Myers. What we know though is that the Gulf water is hot right now and without shearing winds this thing could get ugly.
We start checking on the storm more often. Some of us have apps on our cells. A few of the more popular are the NOAA Radio app and Hurricane Tracker. We have been getting alerts on our cells, but now they are coming more often.
The beginning story on this storm is that it may not reach hurricane strength. It may barely become a tropical storm. With information like that we get complacent.
The conversation everywhere in town is about hurricanes, especially those of the past. All the famous storms become first on our minds. We talk hurricanes and experiences at the hair salon, at meetings, even at church.
Hurricane Kate is always a topic. This one brought Tallahassee to its knees and was very late, after Thanksgiving. Chuck was without power for over two weeks. Kate happened before we were married. She was Tallahassee’s last major hit and was over 25 years ago, but people talk about it like it happened last year.
My Mama who was raised in South Florida liked to talk about Donna and Betsy and other famous Florida storms, and we all talk about Andrew and Camille with reverence. But Tallahassee is seldom hit.
Which brings me to another joke. Hardly any storms make it here because we are in the bend where florida curves down from the panhandle to the peninsular. It is called the Big Bend, but we like to say that we are the armpit of Florida and no storms come here. Well, except for Kate.
By the way hurricanes of the past half a century have names, but the ones before then are known by their year. When I was growing up old timers talked about the Hurricanes of 1928 and 1935 with reverence. Over 2,500 Floridians lost their lives in the 1928 hurricane. I had an aunt that lived near Lake Okeechobee, and she had an unnatural fear of all manner of storms for the rest of her life.
So while we discussed hurricanes of days long past, Hermine kept churning away and creeping north about 14 miles per hour. We’re beginning to realize that it might be coming here after all. All the computer models agreed.
Chuck and I rode down to the coast. We have a coast house on a little island just below Tallahassee. Hurricane Dennis was the last hurricane that caused us problems down there. He ripped the plumbing out from underneath the house which sits five feet off the ground. He also took Chuck’s flats boat for a ride over to the next island. We found it the day after the storm.
We moved everything inside, even the little lawnmower. We left out the kayak but filled it with water and tied it to one of the stilts–a mistake. But it was full of spiders, and I just didn’t want it in the house.
Wind at the coast is not the biggest problem. The storm surge is. A bad surge can be destructive and even deadly. Because we are in the Big Bend, water banks up here with no place to go.
People were already pulling their boats out of the water and trailering them inland. The road to the island is littered with all manner of vehicles parked on higher ground.
Back in Tallahassee we decided that we didn’t need to move the outdoor furniture, but as the storm got closer it got stronger. Finally, it was no longer a tropical storm but Category 1 Hurricane Hermine. It was time to get more serious.
My daughter and I went back down to the coast to remove some priceless items from the Coasthouse. Dad had a pecky cypress ship’s wheel that hangs on the wall down there. I grabbed it along with other items that we would hate to lose. We were already getting outer bands and we got soaking wet.
Back at home Chuck was beginning to put up anything that could be a projectile, including everything on and around my potting bench. You have no idea how much yard junk you have until you have to put it all away for a storm.
We’re concerned now that it could intensify before coming ashore. Kate was a category 1, but when she came ashore she intensified and became a category 3 during the last hours. Jamie and I were glad to see that no one else had begun boarding their windows. There are several commercial fishermen families that live on the island, and we follow their lead. They have more experience at this than anyone.
Back at the house in Tallahassee we joined Chuck in removing possible projectiles. Several pieces of lawn furniture are submerged in the pool. It keeps them safe, and they get a good cleaning in the process. The chlorine bleaches out the white pieces.
We filled all the bathtubs with water and pulled out all the flash lights and the generator. We made a mistake, though. We tried to start the generator, but it won’t start. Too late to do anything about it now.
Our daughter and her family who lives closer to the coast and near flooding decides to come stay with us to ride out the storm.
Next week, I’ll share what happened when the storm hit. Hurricane Hermine will be one of those “remembered” storms for our family.