I wrote this short essay almost exactly one year ago today. I had only recently moved to Florida and hurricanes were a new thing to me. I put my thoughts to paper just as Irma was making landfall in south Florida putting us directly in the middle of the cone of uncertainty. I was (to put in mildly) freaked out. Its lighthearted tone helped me deal with my fear. In the end, we came out OK but not everyone did.
Today my thoughts are with those whose lives were lost or irreparably changed because of Irma (and Maria and …) as well as those people on the east coast facing the scary specter of Florence as it races towards them.
Now We Wait
Irma is my first. And according to every source in internet land, she’s the biggest, baddest, bitchiest hurricane ever. But so far she’s just a lot of talk. And waiting. So much waiting. I recently relocated to St. Petersburg from the Midwest, so I’m from the land of tornados. Tornados come and go with almost no warning so the talking comes after. With hurricanes, it’s the opposite. We have been talking about Irma for days and days and days. Don’t misunderstand—I’m not complaining about having the time to prepare, but there’s a limit to the windows you can board and the water you can store and the flashlights you can test. Then … all that’s left is the waiting and the talking and the waiting and the talking.
We talk about past storms, future predictions, the cone of uncertainty, surge levels, present-day availability of water (and gas and plywood), our zones, the traffic on 75 (or 4 or 19), who left (and who stayed), and (most importantly) what snacks we stockpiled. And as we wait, we drink a bit too much, eat way too much, and try to find ways to amuse. We create imaginative virtual and in-real-life gatherings meant to defy Irma’s power. Some ideas are simply funny—simultaneously blowing fans towards Irma to change her direction (at least I hope that was meant to be funny) or coming together to protest and resist (#notmyhurricane). Others are a bit scarier. I just read an actual news story that really seems like a quintessentially Florida idea. Shoot guns into the storm to … I’m not sure? Scare it away? Anyway this idea has become so popular that officials are warning people NOT to do it. Explaining that it won’t turn Irma around and it’s potentially dangerous.
Florida–it’s gonna Florida! 😉
We also spend a lot of time texting, phoning, messaging, tweeting, and posting on Facebook. Yes we are OK. We’re in a non-evacuation zone or we’ve evacuated to Tampa (or Atlanta or Pensacola…). Yes. We’ve got water and food and flashlights. No. We won’t be wandering around town anymore. We say it’s to reassure friends and family, but I think it helps us a bit too. Because when all the talking is done, we’re just left with the waiting. And waiting is the worst.
Until she arrives. And that’ll be a different story.