The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through the end of November. When you live in South Florida, it’s something you pay attention to. Time to think about buying batteries, Sterno, candles, nonperishable food, and bottled water. It’s time to check your flashlights, your storm shutters, and make sure you know where everything is in case of emergency.
But hurricanes are thoughtful and considerate natural disasters, for the most part. Unlike tornadoes that just spring up out of nowhere, you can generally see hurricanes a week or more out, assess the spaghetti models, decide if it’s time to batten down the hatches or if in all likelihood it will miss you. And we’ve been very fortunate the last decade or so.
Back in 2004 we had so many named storms they ran out of names and had to start using the Greek alphabet. Here’s a tracking map showing just four of the little boogers as they impacted our neck of the woods. That was a rough year.
Hurricane Frances hit us in the middle of the night on September 4. I was a single parent with two teenaged boys. We took the cushions off the sofas and spread them out on the dining room floor of our rented duplex because it was the center of the house. I think the boys slept but I listened to the howling all night long. While we fortunately sustained no damage, we were without power for two weeks. I’m talking about fourteen whole days with no lights, no refrigerator, no stove, no air conditioning (September in South Florida is like a sauna). Do you have any idea how many times you enter a room and automatically flip the light switch without even thinking about it? I was never so glad to see the trucks from FP&L. Those guys and gals were heroes.
We finally got back to normal when on the night of September 26, we were clobbered by Hurricane Jeanne. This is the radar of Jeanne hitting us. It was another interminable night on the sofa cushions in the dining room. At one point I thought I couldn’t take any more howling. But of course, I did, because what else can you do? Again, we were without power for two weeks. And it wasn’t only the residential customers who were off the grid. Business like grocery stores and gas stations were out of commission, too. We heard that a movie theatre downtown had power. We sat through Without a Paddle two days in a row, not because it was an astounding achievement in film-making but because for two hours we could sit in the air conditioning.
Life eventually returned to normal. Then the following year, we were hit by Hurricane Wilma on October 24, 2005. One difference was that Wilma had the decency to roll through during the day. At one point, the boys and I sat on my bed watching out my sliding glass door. We’d taken off that storm shutter because we’d gotten a bit claustrophobic. The door looked out onto our screened lanai, but of course the screen had all been blown out. We watched in fascination as an empty recycling bin scooted a couple of feet across the patio then it was suddenly whipped out of sight. We never did find that thing.
Here we are on the brink of another hurricane season. I’m not worried, really, it’s just something I notice. I’m thinking about batteries and candles, wondering where the Sterno ended up in the garage. We’ve gotten off really easy for years. Sometimes it almost seems like we’re due. I just might buy a new flashlight.