Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Calm Before The Storm

Waiting for a hurricane to make landfall is a period in one's life that requires patience and the ability to keep oneself amused by the daily requirements of this most peculiar time. The weather is lovely if a little warm, the southernmost buoy bathed in afternoon sunlight and  no great crowd around it...This is the reward for the work, the uncertainty and the moodiness that hits  a lot of people at times like these.
Key West residents are doing their thing as they wait to see what Hurricane Irma brings. Why did the chicken cross Whitehead Street? Because it could as there was no traffic at all in any direction.
Why was he passed out? Because ...why not? Actually I suspect he was sober and doing fine and simply was reveling in the lack of people and traffic and noise and bustle across Old Town Key West. I felt like doing the same thing and enjoying the lush cool grass but work beckoned.
Every time I paused and turned off the Vespa engine the 150 cc burble died away to a bucolic silence like you will rarely hear on Duval Street in daylight hours:
Hotels are closed, stores are closed and gas stations are out of gas. As far as I know the only fuel in the Lower Keys pending resupply (if any) yesterday was at the Shell station on 1st Street , see below for the line, and the two gas stations on Summerland Key which seemed to be running low. I suspect the Chevron on Ohio Key might have some but I did not ride that far, almost to the Seven Mile Bridge. Looking for gas is one of those peculiar amusements. I saw one fight break out last night at a gas station resupplied, only to be broken up by the woman attendant with a baseball bat. By the time the cops got there everyone had gone. I filled the Vespa.
And now the panic buying is over, the streets are empty and the long lines of cars driving north are filing along, in orderly fashion I might add along Highway One. I understand the crowds are now filling the mainland freeways as urban south Florida is inspired by Irma to flee.
Most of the bars downtown are closed much to my surprise. I think the Category Five nature of Irma with unbelievable 185 mph winds has scared more people than want to admit it. The Green Parrot was open for business and there were people at the bar. I also saw people drinking at Don's Place on Truman...
...but the iconic tourist draws in town were firmly shuttered as employees took to the evacuation route: 
Usually you find a bunch of blowhards telling newcomers to ride it out. This time there are a lot of people desperate to leave. The transit system will pick anyone up at bus stops who want to evacuate and take them to the transfer station on Stock Island and put them on a coach to a Dade County shelter. The service starts at noon and buses will be labeled "Hurricane Evacuation."
People still seem to think Key West is on the path to a direct hit but the National Hurricane Center,while being extremely cautious about its uncertainty is putting the bulls eye right now on Homestead and Miami. If they are right Key West may be as much as 120 miles from the center of a storm with hurricane winds not reaching half that distance from the eye. Irma for Key West could be just another tropical storm of Category One hurricane. Wet and annoying but eminently do-able.  The fear is of sudden change in strength and direction.
I did my share of helping install shutters in the hot sun and I was impressed by these guys determination with their plywood on Whitehead Street:
The city park and ride garage is a prime spot to park ever since Wilma flooded thousands of cars. So now they have to keep cars from parking here to keep space for city vehicles:
I was enjoying the silence  and the solitude downtown and suddenly a motorcycle rumbled by, a car turned the corner and a  cyclist wobbled into view. This is still an inhabited city...
 Those hurricane shutters take sweat and effort to install.
I watched these guys have a mid-road chat on Caroline Street just like the old days when September meant a naturally empty Key West:
My house has a surprising number of windows and they seem to multiply when they have to be covered by broad sheets of aluminum. I got some much needed help and then I got to sit in a corrugated cave in darkness, alone, until I couldn't stand it so I took off for work on the Vespa to get these pictures before I sat at my desk.
My wife meanwhile spent the day driving and arrived in Ft Myers with a tired dog and a tank full of gas so she is well out of the path of Irma, or will be by tonight.
Yesterday was the day designated for visitors  to leave the Keys and today is set aside for residents, not that anyone much cares which way people go but the hotels use the mandatory part to clear their rooms and prepare their buildings for what's to come. 
 I wish the billboards would stay gone:
 And then twelve hours at work where people respond in their own way to the tensions of hurricane threats. Myself? I feel pretty good seeing as how the threat has veered off to the east and we look to get but a sideswipe. Fine by me thanks. You never know how it will end up but for now I'm enjoying the calm before whatever storms strikes this weekend.