I appreciate irony as much as anyone, more than some quite likely but considering this time last year I was in the hospital on a respirator hovering between here and the hereafter, I do think it would be over the top were my life in danger from Hurricane Dorian, the storm that is as usual generating all kinds of over the top superlatives in the field of human terror. The Weather Channel headline reads: "Multi Day Siege of Strong Winds, Dangerous Storm Surge and Heavy Rain." Well, that should strike holy terror in the heart of every Floridian.
I posted this picture on Facebook of Rusty and I panicking as Dorian approaches...the Bahamas...with landfall in Palm Beach...not the Florida Keys. Anything is possible, the world may be flat, but I'm pretty sure the Earth is round and I'm pretty sure when the National Weather Service points the storm at Palm Beach and Jacksonville there is going to an almighty mess up the East Coast, not the Keys. Not Miami even. I look at the National Weather Service page for my storm information ( Google "nhc" for National Hurricane Center) and I avoid the drama laden orotund oratory of the commercial weather services who get their information from the National Hurricane Center just like me.
I took this picture a few days ago of the palms bending in the wind at the White Street Pier under gray rainy skies and I expect this is pretty much what we shall see Sunday night and Monday. As a precaution we will put our vulnerable deck stuff in the spare room and we shall load our iPads with downloaded videos and we shall have water, food and flashlights ready as we always do and we shall try not to grumble when the power goes out. But I absolutely refuse to sweat this one.
The worst thing about hurricanes is when you aren't in the line of fire and you're glad someone else is going to get creamed. You feel relieved and glad and guilty at the same time. The thing about storms is they rarely kill people but they do lots of damage and the clean up after the storm is not life threatening but a total pain. And it goes on and on, even after they restore the utilities and the clean up crews start sweeping up the trash. The mosquitoes and the smell of decaying garbage hang over the whole place. Restaurants are closed, movies are closed normal life takes ages to pick back up. Check out the airport tower still out of action two years on from Hurricane Irma. They manage flights in and out from a trailer until this gets fixed:
I have sat out every storm since 2004 in the 911 center in Key West and every time I see the patterns reassert themselves as storms approach. There is usually lots of bravado and no one plans to evacuate then the nerves start to get jangled especially when the categories start to go up. Category Three officially makes the storm a Major Hurricane but all these numbers end up being rather vague. A Category One, a mere 70 mile an hour pussycat can easily blow up to a Category Three in the time it takes to drive to Miami...So there is a lot of talk about paths and probabilities and all that stuff. Dramatic clouds last week had nothing to do with the hurricane. They just looked pretty:
My wife and I have our own hurricane plan. If I am to stay at the police department for the storm my wife packs her bag and our dog into the car as soon as the schools are closed and they drive north to a hotel room we reserved as soon as the storm starts to head our way. With Layne and Rusty out of the way I close up the house and ride the scooter to work and wait for the storm to leave. In my opinion waiting to evacuate at the last minute is the worst thing you can do as you become one in many cars streaming north across the state. They had colossal traffic jams on freeways across Florida on the approach of Hurricane Irma but Layne and Rusty were already in Pensacola with friends at that point.
Bearing all that in mind one has to ask how it was that last night Key West had run out of gas. I kid you not. I arrived at work, my tank three quarters full as we filled our cars Thursday, and when I wondered out loud one of my colleagues suggested it might be PTSD. Fair enough, gas vanished before Hurricane Irma never to be seen again until well after the storm when all the pumps along Highway One were destroyed and they gave away free gas from a tanker to a long line of cars in Big Pine Key. If you remember that scenario a less than full tank will prompt you to run for more.
I remember before Hurricane Irma how empty the town was as evacuations sped up and people streamed up north to escape the Category Five storm approaching. During the day when I was off duty and awake I wandered around town on my Vespa looking at the city and wondering what would be left in a few days and as much as it was serene and peaceful to see Key West empty, it was a false serenity filled with foreboding. This time around I don't know what's happening. We can't evacuate as there is nowhere safer in the state than these islands well south of the storm's track, but the future just feels uncertain as our suppliers to the north are facing potential catastrophe.
I suggested to my friends not to order stuff for delivery in the next few days as all our deliveries are sorted in Orlando and Miami and that seems likely to be problematic for a few days. Meanwhile we face the possibility of erratic fuel deliveries in the Keys and so far that prospect's not being handled too well by nervous drivers:
Hurricanes don't bring out the best in people even those who live far away. They seem to delight in ramping up the anxiety. We get calls in dispatch warning us we have to leave or we will die. They ask if its safe to visit even as the city was evacuating en masse in September 2017. People are strange, its as though they want to share a part of the experience by involving themselves from a distance. I took this picture of Nick last night at work in a moment when I was off the phones and he wasn't. It's what we do, listen, understand and send help. Until sustained winds reach gale force, the emergency room closes and the first responders are no longer dispatched. Then we wait.
I would be quite content for the web cams to be shut down before a storm. They cause us more grief than you can imagine. We had one guy sleeping in a cardboard box in front of a downtown bar a day before Hurricane Irma arrived and we received hundreds of calls, no exaggeration, over a period of hours telling us to get the man some help. He refused and stayed put but finally they took him to the city hurricane shelter when he realized the weather was deteriorating and the calls stopped. We have a reduced population of homeless people in the summer months but Key West is a city with shelters, half way houses, soup kitchens and all sorts of facilities but for some the freedom of the street is what they want. I know it's odd but respecting the rights of the poorest among us is not a bad way to be I suppose, and if they want help they can get it. If you are an inveterate cam watcher please don't call; I can assure you no one is left behind when a hurricane hits the island.
In the middle of all this drama let's not lose sight of the fact that the sandy heavily populated east coast of Florida is facing winds as strong as Hurricane Irma's and they aren't used to coping like we are in the Keys where we live close to Nature. This is their drama, their storm, their clean up and until further notice we in the Keys are sitting pretty. I feel pretty happy about that, and considering all the grief I've had in the past year I think I deserve a break from more weather madness.
Hurricane Irma Posts from September 2017:
Calm Before The Storm
The Story Of A Table
Upper Keys Recovery
Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale: