As expected, nothing of import really happened.
…And then is heard no more: it is a tale. Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing. – Shakespeare, Macbeth
Let me be clear – it’s not that there wasn’t flooding, downed tree limbs, wet roads, and brownouts; it’s that this is just a thunderstorm, which is a normal occurrence in Florida. Normally we get a thunderstorm every day – a blue sky in the morning might be rumpled with charcoal clouds by around 4, with the appropriate thunder and lightning, and sheets of rain. Sometimes the rain falls so hard you can’t even see out your windshield.
It would be easy to criticize how the media addressed this storm – there were a lot of people freaking out, and while it’s good to be prepared, if the media is going to run around like this for every single storm, people might get Anticipation Fatigue. When that happens and a real Cat-5 rolls our way, people roll their eyes and shrug. Then we will have disaster. But the reality is, meteorologists don’t have a 100% success rate when it comes to predicting storms. Long story short: I wish the media would make it clear that little storms like this are the rehearsal for the real stuff. That if you go through the year thinking ‘Ha ha, we won’t see a bad storm anytime soon!’ then you are living in denial.
My Dad worked for Florida Power and Light as a lineman for 37 years. He climbed poles, drove bucket trucks, ran power line, replaced transformers, and did all the things people really want to see done after a bad storm has come through. He went to South Carolina for a few weeks to work Hugo in 1989, and came back with incredible stories about the devastation. A line of pine trees sheared off about 15 feet off the ground, because the wind had thrown something and mown them like grass. Mobile homes were opened up and turned inside-out, the inhabitants’ possessions strewn about for a hundred yards.
After Andrew in ’92, Dad went down to Miami for a month to work 16-hour days to help get the city back on its feet. My Mom and I went down for a weekend to visit him, although we barely saw him since he was working or asleep. We contented ourselves with gawping at the destruction – one weird detail I remember is that the topsoil was gone. There was just no dirt. It had all been scraped away by the wind, or washed away by the storm surges. It was probably a strange thing to fixate on, but I was also surrounded by destruction and probably trying to make sense as best I could. Houses torn open, trees downed, roads flooded, windows and doors stove in, and other things. We saw one of those tin sheds that people keep for lawn equipment stuck to the top of a power pole. A tornado had picked it up, carried it a few dozen yards at about 30 feet off the ground, and impaled it on a light pole. It looked like a giant lollypop made of scrap metal.
By the time Katrina happened in 2005, Dad was pushing sixty and knew he couldn’t keep up with the younger guys when it came to the 16 or sometimes even 24-hour days, so he didn’t go. I think he regrets not going, but he doesn’t talk much about the past. Now he volunteers for his church a lot, and his bucket-truck experience gave him an edge when he helped them clear bats from their 120-year-old belfry and put up a screen to keep the little guys out. Long story short – guano had built up in the vestibule roof and was slowly melting the wood. It STANK, and also leaked in a most disgusting way during storms. Don’t worry – he put up bathouses nearby to relocate the bats.
Sorry for the ramble – I guess my point is that it’s more important to stay prepared year-round rather than wait for the media to tell you bad weather is coming. Enjoy fine weather, but don’t forget to prepare for the worst, too.