Here We Go

I’m watching the Weather Channel with my mother-in-law. Right now, there are two back-to-back tropical storms heading straight for our Gulf Coast.

Count them. Two.

Here is an actual quote from a weatherman:

“When two storms are similar in strength, they tend to orbit a common center, almost appearing to ‘dance’ together. Sometimes these hurricanes can end up forming a super hurricane…”

You do not want your hurricanes dancing together.

“This has not been a good year,” says my elderly mother-in-law.

No, it certainly has not.

The first thing Gulf Coast people do when a hurricane is brewing is telephone each other. We call everyone we can think of. The conversations all go the same:

“What’re y’all gonna do?”

“Don’t know. What about y’all?”

“Still waiting.”

There is a strange anxiety surrounding hurricanes where I’m from. There is also a weird thrill that accompanies them. I can’t explain it. You’ve never felt more alive than when a hurricane is brewing in your backyard. And you’ve never felt more unsure about what to do.

A long time ago my wife and I evacuated for a storm, but my elderly mother-in-law insisted on staying to ride it out. When the storm hit, it landed only a few miles east of our city.

Meanwhile my wife and I were safe, 262 miles away, watching live footage of our hometown getting pommeled. We called my elderly mother-in-law to check on her.

She answered the phone in a very calm and collected voice, saying, “Get me the [deleted] out of here.”

The thing about an oncoming hurricane is, you never know whether you should evacuate. You watch news channels nonstop, but it doesn’t help you make a decision. Because nobody on TV ever tells you flat-out: “Get out of town.”

Even so, you can’t look away from the tube. You’re always hoping they’ll give you some actual, solid information. During every weather update you crank up the volume and tell your family to “SHUT UP, THEY’RE SAYING SOMETHING IMPORTANT!”

But they rarely do. The meteorologists use big words and make lots of sweeping gestures, but they don’t say anything new. Their forecast models look like someone dropped a can of bait worms onto a map of the continental U.S.

The hurricane graphics always show a spray chart with predicted storm paths landing anywhere from coastal Mexico to Des Moines.

Make no mistake, hurricanes are scary business. We have experienced dozens, but I’ve only ridden out one serious storm. I will never do it again.

It was terrifying. I remember standing on the porch with my cousin James when it made landfall. It was black outside. We listened to the noises of unseen hundred-year-old live oaks getting sucked from the ground.

After that hurricane my wife and I swore we would always evacuate for storms. But evacuating itself is exhausting work.

First off: before you go anywhere you have to comb through your entire house and figure out which items to take with you and which ones you leave behind. This is more stressful than it sounds.

Because your wife wants to take everything, including her grandmother’s antique sewing machine and all three accordions she inherited from her uncle Chester.

By the time you finish packing your vehicle the rear bumper is touching the pavement and your mother-in-law is stuck in a hollowed-out cockpit of junk in the backseat.

You drive the interstate in a vehicle loaded with boxes, sheet music, family photos, a chest of drawers, your wife’s shoes, one shrink-wrapped wedding dress, an oil painting, a Coleman cooler, and your entire lifetime collection of LP records.

The only problem is, once you’ve decided to evacuate, everyone in Florida is already doing the same thing. This means you sit in stand-still interstate traffic for upwards of three presidential administrations.

The last time I sat in traffic during an evacuation, the hurricane made landfall while we were in a traffic jam. The car shook back and forth. Trees were falling. Lightning. Thunder. Tornadoes were spotted. My wife started crying. My dogs were whimpering and freaking out.

Then the lightning display stopped. The world went dark. People started getting out of their cars. There was an eerie calm that fell over the world.

The quiet voice of my mother-in-law came from the backseat. She said, “The dogs peed back here.”

Then we all turned around and went home.

But we are Gulf people. We have endured the worst of Camille, Elena, Andrew, Opal, Ivan, Isaac, Katrina, and Michael, and all storms between. It hasn’t dampened our spirit. In fact, it hasn’t even made us bitter.

Wiser, maybe. But not fearful.

I have friends who have lost everything in hurricanes, but they refuse to let hard times ruin them.

One of my friends lost his house during Michael. He said: “It was horrible, yes, but it made me evaluate what was important in life, it brought me closer to my family. You can replace houses.”

Another friend says: “Yeah, we lost a lot in ‘18. You don’t forget a storm like that. You respect the weather, but this is home. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.”

Another Michael victim says: “Hurricane Laura is worrying me, man. Especially with COVID and everything. My dad had a heart attack after Michael, from all the stress.

“But hey, as long as I have my kids and my wife, and my dad, I have everything I need. I just really hope this thing doesn’t hit us. I feel like I just finished rebuilding our life from the last one.”

May we all stay safe.


  1. Robert M Brenner - August 22, 2020 8:23 am

    Wishing you God’s love and protection from these storms! Be safe my friend ❤️…

  2. TrixC - August 22, 2020 10:17 am

    Lovely! The Gulf Coast has hurricanes…with warnings. Where I live…it’s tornadoes and while you do get a little heads up, they can spin out of nowhere, in the middle of the night having no digression. Stay safe, be smart and good luck!

  3. Sue Rhodus - August 22, 2020 10:18 am

    I dare say, your description is spot on for many. Prayers for the safety for all.

  4. Kathy A Reaves - August 22, 2020 10:25 am

    I live in north central Florida. One thing we learned when we evacuated from Irma is to avoid the interstate. Please stay safe.

  5. Naomi - August 22, 2020 11:52 am

    Many years ago, my girlfriend wanted me to go to Texas with her. What I didn’t know was that she was bringing her teenage son and one of his boyfriends. Before we got out of Georgia, we went straight into torrential rain. It was a hurricane followed by a tornado. My friend let her son drive; he had just gotten his learner’s permit. We were trying to outrun a hurricane with a tornado right behind it. This young man got in the driver’s seat, leaned back, opened with window and put his left arm outside the window and started driving with one hand. I wanted them to let me out so that I could go home; I was about to have a heart attack. Many years ago, we had a hurricane come through Atlanta. My husband and I stayed up all night that it wouldn’t take our roof off or knock down any trees onto our house; we were out of power for 4 days and had to cook all of our meals, including coffee, on our gas BBQ grill. All of the supermarkets had to get rid of all of their perishable food. We had enough food in our freezer to last a week, but we had to start eating everything because they were defrosting. When my husband was still working, he did income tax for a man he worked with. In exchange, this man let us stay in one of the condos he owned in Panama City for free. We had to leave early at least two times because a hurricane was headed for PC; we preferred to evacuate. In 1984, we had a tornado come through our back yard. I was babysitting my two nephews and a neighbor and her children came over. We don’t have a basement so we had to hunker down in the hall. My husband was still working; his office was in a high-rise in Atlanta that was all windows. They made everyone stand in the hall to get away from the windows. There is nothing more terrifying than a tornado or a hurricane, except maybe an earthquake.

  6. Susie - August 22, 2020 11:58 am

    What else can happen in 2020??
    Maybe that isn’t a good question to ask.
    Prayers for everyone in the Gulf.

  7. Joe Bolton - August 22, 2020 12:21 pm

    There are tornadoes inside hurricanes.

  8. Linda Clifton - August 22, 2020 12:24 pm

    Please be safe! It seems I have said this a lot in 2020. I really mean it! Be SAFE! ❤️

  9. turtlekid - August 22, 2020 12:27 pm

    After enduring or evacuating from Florida Panhandle several times, we chose to move further North. Still miss The “forgotten coast” but our country has beauty and benevolence everywhere, except in the cities. We now live in north, rural Mississippi, and are very contented. I absolutely love the exaggerated descriptions of your evacuation experiences! You have an exquisite imagination of how to focus on this harrowing event and make it humorous. Been there, understand it perfectly.

  10. Laurie Ulrich - August 22, 2020 12:43 pm

    Count me among the thousands who are praying that there be minimal damage and no loss of life from this storm.

  11. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - August 22, 2020 12:45 pm

    May all of you be safe.

  12. Stephanie - August 22, 2020 12:46 pm

    We are in the process of selling our home. Their option is still happening during the potential Laura and Marco hitting in our area. Prayers for all in the path.

  13. Susan from Wausau - August 22, 2020 12:48 pm

    We haven’t gotten all the leaning trees down from Michael! What a shot of adrenaline: bottled water, batteries, candles, enough meds. Does the generator still crank? We have two elderly mothers , for crying out loud.

    Y’all pray and try not to do crazy stuff! During a category three, when we were in high school, my then boyfriend, (now husband) and his brother got in a John boat and let the wind blow them across the pond. Then they dragged it back around and did it again and again!

    We’ve grown to love you, your family, and this extended family of readers. Take care, and try and make the kids behave.

  14. Jan - August 22, 2020 12:48 pm

    Praying for you all from Pinson, Alabama. May you all stay safe!

  15. Robyn - August 22, 2020 1:14 pm

    Please start planning now and packing now. I don’t understand hurricanes, but i understand tornadoes. Y’all come to Texas and stay with me. Bring the mil and the dogs it’s okay with me I’ve got room. Stay safe and know we are all praying for y’all.

  16. Keloth Anne - August 22, 2020 1:14 pm

    Only in 2020 could two storms merge 🥺Stay safe🙏🙏

  17. AlaRedClayGirl - August 22, 2020 1:21 pm

    While hurricanes are not much of an issue here, we do have tornadoes that can spring up at a moment’s notice. I guess every part of the country has some sort of potential disaster breathing down its neck. I do pray that you and all of our Gulf Coast neighbors will be safe!

  18. Connie - August 22, 2020 1:42 pm

    I’ve lived in lower Alabama most of the last 66 years. I’ve been through them all but the first one I remember is Camille. We were a family of 9, with no money. You don’t evacuate when you’re poor. There’s no place to go. When Frederick came through, I was married with children. We had three families in our house. Several weeks without electricity or water. Ivan, I lived in Perdido AL. 27 days with no electricity. I don’t evacuate. That being said, if my granddaughter and her husband want to get out of town I will certainly encourage them to leave at least three days ahead of time. I’m more worried about the idiots on the highway than staying in my little house. Stay safe you guys.

  19. Rebecca - August 22, 2020 1:46 pm

    I suggest you take only one accordion of Uncle Chester’s next time and definitely take a road less traveled, so to speak. And when evacuating, you better pay attention to the inland forecast too cause you sure don’t want to be there either. Been there, done that with Ivan and headed north to a relative in the country whose water came from a pump. Lost power, then water. Miserable. Then was stuck until it passed thru that area. As of Saturday morning it looks like Laura is forecast landfall further west. Good for you in NW Florida and me in Mobile. Good vibes for everybody else in MS, LA and TX.

  20. Heidi - August 22, 2020 1:46 pm

    Maybe that’s why I live in Utah. Each state has its “issues” though. You all take great care..we are lifting prayers up. And hope the doggies don’t pee in the backseat with Mother Mary!

  21. Bobbie - August 22, 2020 1:53 pm

    Praying for you and family and all in the path of these storms. May the Lord give you wisdom and protection.

  22. PWS - August 22, 2020 2:06 pm

    Thank you Sean, yes, here we go again from Northeast Florida. You nailed it. Thanks for the chuckle in the midst of “the season“.

  23. Joyce Jennings - August 22, 2020 2:58 pm

    Sending prayers for all in the path of these storms from SC!!

  24. Retired Ol' Geezer - August 22, 2020 3:00 pm

    Sean, once again, you’ve hit the nail on the head, both in your comments on the storms and your opinion of weathercasters, especially those camera hogs on The Weather Channel. As a former part-time fill-in weathercaster (WKAB-TV, Montgomery, Alabama), I can absolutely attest that, “color radar”, “storm tracking”, and all, that they really do not know much more about day-to-day weather than anyone else. Sometimes I actually feel sorry for them, since when they make a mistake jillions of folks know about it. Yeah, I also know about that too. Please keep up the wonderful work.

  25. Beverly King - August 22, 2020 3:01 pm

    We just finished repairs to our house from the winds and flooding of the last hurricane (and we are in SW GA!). Thank you for this bit of discernment leavened with wit!

  26. Helen De Prima - August 22, 2020 3:32 pm

    Prayers for everyone’s safety! Whenever New Hampshire winters seem intolerable, I think instead of hurricanes and tornadoes and wildfires. And throw another chunk of seasoned hardwood into the stove. We prepare for blizzards six months in advance — no nasty surprises.

  27. Christina - August 22, 2020 3:40 pm

    Y’all have weathered some big storms. It’s a gift that you can be resilient and lighthearted at the same time. Praying for safety for y’all.

  28. Barbara - August 22, 2020 4:10 pm

    I can totally relate to the packed car. Used to live on the SC coast. When we evacuated my husband took sheet music that couldn’t be replaced, some bottles of wine, clothes and our cat in his car. I took things that my grandmothers and my parents had given to me that money couldn’t replace and all the photos and videos. And, the two dogs. It really does make you realize what is really important in life and it is mainly people you love. At least with a hurricane you get some time to prepare. Praying for all of the Gulf coast to stay safe.

  29. Pat D. - August 22, 2020 4:43 pm

    Spoken like a true Floridian !

  30. Linda Moon - August 22, 2020 5:12 pm

    I’ve been watching the Weather Channel, too. I have family in your Gulf Coast where hurricanes occur. Tornadoes are in my neck of the woods. Coast dwellers get dancing hurricanes and we get spin-off tornadoes. Safety and wisdom to you, Jamie, Mother Mary and your dogs, Sean. I understand Jamie’s need to take things, but I usually just herd pets and the husband to the basement quickly. I’ll keep watching the Weather Channel for some good and safe news from the Coast!

  31. MAM - August 22, 2020 5:26 pm

    My “best” hurricane story is when I was at Girl Scout camp in Texas as a kid and my mom was one of the camp leaders. A low wind intensity hurricane was a’coming, but it was already raining so much that our camp was a swamp. We had to evacuate and the only place to go was down the railroad track, because the roads were flooded. We walked out. A family friend had to pick us up, because Daddy couldn’t get out until he chopped up the two palm trees that had fallen over each end of our driveway! Stay safe!

  32. Chasity Davis Ritter - August 22, 2020 6:48 pm

    Prayers for yalls safety…

  33. Becky Souders - August 22, 2020 7:43 pm

    Safe indeed. Sending all the hugs I haven’t been able to share for the last months!

  34. meg widmer - August 22, 2020 7:45 pm

    Bless you!!! I cannot imagine living where you do. In Indiana, yes, we have tornadoes once in awhile…not for years now, but the South seems to have terrible storms on a regular basis some years. But, having said that, home is where the heart is and we are fortunate in this country to be able to live wherever we want pretty much and move also whenever we want. Thank you for your descriptive life pre-storms…megm

  35. Barbara - August 22, 2020 8:03 pm

    Praying for the best for us all. I live in Houston where predictions have been we may get some of both. I just turned 70 in the middle of a pandemic, and now two hurricanes?! I have lived though some tough storms: Carla in 1961 where Dan Rather became famous, Alicia in 1983 (that was on my birthday and I was supposed to be going to a Simon and Garfunkel Concert, and the eye went right over our house, Allison in 2001, Rita in 2005, Ike in 2008 and the big one, Harvey in 2017. The only time we ever left town was Harvey, and that was because we had a planned a long vacation and flew out the day before she hit. When I left for the airport that day I just looked around my house where we had lived for 30 years and hoped it would be okay when we came back. It was, though it had been surrounded by flood water for days. Take care out there.

  36. Liz Bishop - August 22, 2020 8:44 pm

    Prayers for all of you.

  37. Susan - August 22, 2020 9:14 pm

    Well said.

  38. Robert Brown - August 22, 2020 9:25 pm

    Love you! Can relate to this so much, live below Tampa. You stay safe-

  39. Richard Young - August 22, 2020 9:43 pm

    Prayers for safety of those in the path of whatever comes our way along the Gulf Coast. 2020—-a year of first times ever in history AND we have 4 more months to go !

  40. Bill in the Panhandle - August 22, 2020 10:16 pm

    5:00 Saturday evening. So far so good. Jim Cantore is not here yet.!

  41. Rita - August 22, 2020 11:32 pm

    Sending lots of prayers your way!

  42. Mary Ann Gilbert - August 23, 2020 12:10 am

    Praying for y’all, Sean!

  43. Mary - August 23, 2020 12:43 am

    Stay safe and hunker down if you are staying put. Will keep all of you in my prayers.

  44. Livy Abele - August 23, 2020 2:35 am

    Indeed …. May you all stay safe 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

  45. elizabethroosje - August 23, 2020 2:46 am

    Your stories cheer me up daily! I can see your keen concern for this dual hurricane situation and you and your beautiful wife have been on my mind and in my prayers.


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