Sunday, August 23, 2020

The Storm That Isn't

The worst thing about not getting hit by a  hurricane is the relief you feel at the expense of someone else. Well, I thought as I watched the storm's predicted path drop south of the Keys, very good I said to myself. Until one considers the rain and wind and wreckage of lives in places that can afford it less than we can - Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba... good for us bad for them.
Even though Tropical Storm Laura  never looked like a bad threat to life and limb someone in my position can't afford to ignore the weather. The storm was first thought to be arriving late Saturday possibly as a Category One hurricane which isn't necessarily dangerous but with work beckoning I was very likely going to be kept at work locked down at some point so all my storm preparations had to be finished by Friday night, my last day off.  So Friday was the day I piled up the garden furniture, secured the potted plants and for the first time prepared our van to be used either as an evacuation vehicle for Layne and Rusty or as a place for me to sleep while stuck at work. Rusty as always ignored the future.
Normally I would be left behind after they left and I would shutter the house and report to work with an overnight bag and the usual pillows and  blankets routine. During storms I sleep in the interrogation cells a monastic little room with no windows next to the main air conditioning vent which keeps the room cool and offers white noise to sleep by. This time I thought if there are to be no evacuations I could drive the van to work and live out of my own space. I took Rusty for an evening walk and saw others having fun. No storm worry here!
We drove to Marathon the three of us so my wife could do some in person computer work in her classroom, a place she rarely visits now she is teaching from home. It was very early in the day so we stopped for some grocery shopping followed by a bagel for breakfast. My wife has hunted down a rather decent bagel place with, close by, gravel parking suitable to a  21 foot Promaster van. A short walk to toasted bagels and worth the minor effort. Rusty sat out to enjoy the scenery while Layne raided the fridge and found cream cheese and peanut butter. She likes having her stuff with her in her kitchen and I like having my own tea so I have no objections to carrying a kettle and tea bags of my own. Contentment all round once Rusty had his chicken strip.
I suppose I have to admit the storm preparation was a good thing. I usually clean the yard and trim the trees at the beginning of summer but this year June was so unbearably hot, up to 108 degrees American (42 degrees Canadian) I did no outdoor clean up at all before we left on our coronavirus self contained vacation.

Now it seems the storm is tracking wide of the Keys and there is only a county wide request to remove boats and RVs though they aren't even asking tourists to leave. I suppose the economic devastation caused by coronavirus lock downs and  so forth make it that much harder to be cautious in the face of a what appears to be a mild storm encounter but I remember a time when this level of threat would have been met with evacuation orders all round. 
Things change and perhaps not always for the worst though it feels that way this year. Friends in our former home town of Santa Cruz California face a far worse hurricane season than we do at the moment. Tens of thousands evacuated, a hundred homes burned, history destroyed and wildlife displaced, all by the weirdly named CZU fire in the Santa Cruz mountains. It is a very peculiar thing but for many people who predicted the imminent disappearance of the Keys thanks to the effects of climate change extreme weather has done a number on the most unexpected of communities.

It comes back to this uncomfortable feeling of relief at other peoples' misery...even though a massive derecho storm wiping out towns across the Midwest doesn't relieve hurricane stress there is this irrational hope that a storm in Nebraska might make hurricane season in the Atlantic less of a threat...California wildfires are the manifestation of climate change therefore there's no need to wipe out a small group of islands already facing the stark realisation of sea level rise. The human mind is bizarre. Please God hit them and spare us and I hope the Red Cross is well funded this terrible year.
Just to prove a point the Board of County Commissioners is continuing to discuss putting a toll on Highway One. The idea they tell us is to raise money to pay for engineering to save us from sea level rise. Perhaps too it will become part of the turn away from mass tourism that gentrification brings. You may well need deep economic pockets to own property in a community set at three feet above sea level, when that level is inexorably going up and everyone wants the county to spend billions to keep their drives dry in the highest of high tides. It's going to cost a fortune. 
It seems Hurricane Laura will be someone else's problem, not ours -hurray! And I wonder at the change coronavirus or its exhaustion has brought about. A decade ago the possibility of a Category One bounding over from Cuba had all the evacuation alarms going (and overtime for me). Today coronavirus, a feeble economy and a new appreciation for the value of the tourist economy I guess, means the doors are open, the rain may be coming but your life, your presence and your dollars are earnestly sought in these hard times. Less hard times because we have no storm really at all. Someone else does happily for us in the Florida Keys.