I consulted the Weather Channel. Things weren’t looking good. The TV rolls footage of mudslides, floods, torrents, and frightening commercials advertising Preparation H.

We have evacuated Florida, and my wife managed to fit all our earthly possessions into a midsize SUV.

We are travelling with 2 large dogs, 57 pieces of luggage, 6 boxes of wedding pictures, 10 years of past income tax records, and a glass cake dome my aunt Eulah gave me for a wedding gift.

Our evacuation decision happened this morning. I opened the paper to find a headline which read: “Hurricane Michael: Everyone is Going to Die: Continued on Page A5. ”

Then, I consulted the Weather Channel. Things weren’t looking good. The TV rolled footage of mudslides, floods, torrents, and frightening commercials advertising Preparation H.

The weather woman announced:

“Hurricane Michael could be the MOST devastating storm in history, ladies and gentleman. Right now, we go to Danny McDannyson, who’s live on location, bringing NON-STOP coverage of this devastating disturbance.”

Then the camera cut to a man wearing a Naval issue windbreaker, standing on the beach somewhere off the coast of Hiroshima.

“THANKS STEPH, THIS STORM CONTINUES TO BECOME MORE DEVASTATING BY THE MINUTE, AND AS YOU CAN SEE, I AM STANDING ON THE BEACH, FOR NO SENSIBLE REASON, WHERE WIND SPEEDS WILL SOON BE STRONG ENOUGH TO PEEL A MAN’S EYELIDS OFF HIS EYE SOCKETS AND…”

“Thanks Danny, any recent developments?”

“YES, STEPH, MANY DEVELOPMENTS OVER THE PAST FEW MINUTES, OUR METEOROLOGISTS ARE TELLING US THAT THESE NEW DEVELOPMENTS KEEP DEVELOPING WHILE THIS STORM CONTINUES TO DEVELOP.”

“Thanks Danny, I understand the National Weather Service issued an update on the storm’s position, can you tell us more about this?”

“STEPH, I WOULDN’T CALL IT AN ‘UPDATE,’ INASMUCH AS I WOULD CALL IT A ‘DEVELOPMENT.’ BUT REST ASSURED WE ARE KEEPING OUR EYES ON THESE DEVELOPING NEW DEVELOPMENTS, AND BRINGING YOU DEVELOPMENTAL INFORMATION AS THIS DEVELOPS…”

“How about the National Weather Service’s spaghetti models, Danny, what do you make of them?”

“I’M A BIG FAN OF’EM, STEPH. A BIG FAN.”

“But, where is this storm projected to make landfall?”

“GLAD YOU ASKED, CURRENT MODELS RELEASED BY FEDERAL METEOROLOGISTS ARE UNANIMOUSLY FORECASTING THIS STORM TO MAKE LANDFALL SOMEWHERE BETWEEN THE FLORIDA PANHANDLE AND LINCOLN, NEBRASKA.”

So getting back to what I was saying: you can see that during these apocalyptic times, when tensions are high, it’s very important to travel with a cake dome your Aunt Eulah gave you.

Anyway, as a Panhandle-Floridian, I feel obliged to tell you that this is not our first storm. Nor is it our first trip across country with the cake dome.

We’ve been through some rough stuff before. Opal nearly ruined us. Ivan sucked the sod off my mother’s front lawn.

These were more than storms, they were benchmarks in the lives of those on the Gulf Coast. We still talk about them.

For example: you can visit a local hardware store and mention the name “Ivan” and old men will surround you like chickens around a junebug.

“Hurricane Eloise,” one old man will start off saying. “Now THERE was a storm, worse than Ivan, took the roof clean off my shed…”

“Opal,” another adds. “That was the worst, left ten feet of water in my…”

“Ivan,” my uncle would say, tugging his overall straps, sniffing very loudly. “That was the worst. My mother-in-law lost her trailer, had to live with us for eight weeks, drove me nuts. And one night, while she was sleeping in the den, I almost held a pillow over her face until she…”

To those not from the Gulf Coast, it might seem strange to name our storms like this. After all, Midwesterners don’t name tornadoes. But people here like naming things. We’d name a scoop of coleslaw if it had enough personality.

We choose old-fashioned, endearing names because we are traditionalists. We lean toward familiar names you’d hear at family reunions, homecomings, or church potlucks.

“Opal,” for example, was the name of a storm that claimed the lives of 63 victims and caused 4.7 billion dollars in damage. And it is also the name of our former church pianist.

“Irma” was 2017’s big hurricane which caused 64 billion in damage (that’s billion with a “B”). Irma is also the name of the lady who plays bridge with my mother on Thursdays and always wears a jogging suit.

“Eloise” hit 4 countries with wind speeds measuring well over 155 miles per hour, and is also the name of my elderly aunt who just had hip-replacement surgery.

I forgot where I was going with this. But keep in mind, this storm is no laughing matter, it’s very serious, and according to the Weather Channel, it looks like it will cause serious damage.

So I will close this letter for now. And I want to remind my fellow Gulf Coasters to stay tuned to local sources for detailed information on new developments.

Please stay out of harm’s way. Take your children, and spouses, and dogs, and mothers-in-law, and SUVs to a safe place located inland. And above all, no matter what the cost…

Don’t forget your wedding pictures or your glass cake dome.

47 comments

  1. tattletale411 - October 9, 2018 6:09 am

    My husband wants to know why you didn’t mention bread and milk. He says it wouldn’t be a storm if you didn’t get (or at least try to) buy bread and milk.

    Reply
    • Rae Carson - October 9, 2018 11:03 am

      And toilet paper. That’s the first thing that disappears from the store shelves when natural disasters threaten.

      Reply
  2. Cathi - October 9, 2018 8:16 am

    Be safe!

    Reply
  3. GaryD - October 9, 2018 8:17 am

    To take my mind off what weather like this could do to my mansion on wheels I always try to watch comedy shows until the power goes out. I guess my favorite comedy show is The Weather Channel. Those guys know how to make you laugh.

    Reply
  4. Marlene - October 9, 2018 8:41 am

    Be safe my favorite Chip Monk and same to your sweet wife, doggies and cake dome. We were in Maravilla last year during Hurricane Nate and God kept us safe and secure. Will be praying you come home to an intact home and blue skies when it’s over.

    Reply
  5. Janet Mary Lee - October 9, 2018 8:54 am

    Safe journey Sean! You have about nailed it!! And do not forget the cows, and horses and other livestock! Bless you for heeding the call!! May God watch over you and Jamie, and the puppies and your mother in law!! Any of us would be proud to have you visit!! Hope the damage will be kept to a minimum.Peace be with you!

    Reply
  6. Carolyn from Georgia - October 9, 2018 9:11 am

    Prayers for y’all !!! Stay safe!!! ♡♡♡

    Reply
  7. Cynthia Harmon - October 9, 2018 9:36 am

    My first thoughts and prayers were for you and your family when I heard of the evacuation. I’m glad you’re in a safe place. In the same way you often say to us, we love you and care about you and yours.

    Reply
  8. Kelly from Central Florida - October 9, 2018 9:52 am

    Be safe and prayers that the damage is minimal so you can return to your piece of paradise soon!

    Reply
  9. Judy - October 9, 2018 10:00 am

    Drive safe, y’all. (Too bad about the Braves…and the Indians.)

    Reply
  10. Dee Fritzie - October 9, 2018 10:10 am

    Love this piece. Having lived in Florida for over 60 years I can relate .

    Reply
  11. Alison - October 9, 2018 10:22 am

    Best to you, Jamie and the ” kids”. One thing is for sure…..Michael will bring us some wonderful stories from Sean of the South. Stay safe.

    Reply
  12. Dirty Pirate Hooker - October 9, 2018 10:43 am

    Thank you for this bit of humorous levity. As a fellow Panhandler, I often wonder if I would pack up my Mama’s Fenton cake plate and dome should I leave. I guess now I should, along with all those tax statements dating back to the beginning of time and grandma’s wooden bread bowl and the three motorcycles in the garage and my daddy’s old Cuban cigar box full of antique Zippo lighters and the seven feral cats in the back yard that we feed. But I think we’re going to stick this one out here in Callaway; me, my roomie, her mom and aunt and boyfriend with a broken leg, our five grown kids and their seven cats and dogs, and my two cats who are going to be so sulky because, well…dogs in the house. Y’all be safe, you and Jamie. I hope you don’t get stuck in traffic, and more, I hope your home is okay when you return. I’ll send up some prayers for you.

    Reply
  13. Leslie in NC - October 9, 2018 10:58 am

    I’ve been through a few hurricanes on the Gulf Coast myself, Sean. No laughing matter those storms, but thanks for the grins about TWC and the cake dome! Stay safe wherever you’re going.

    Reply
  14. Helena Shirley - October 9, 2018 11:08 am

    A wise woman once told me to follow Jim Cantore. He’s never been hurt in one of these storms.

    Reply
  15. Lori Klein - October 9, 2018 11:10 am

    Stay safe guys. Seriously. You matter to a lot of people.

    Reply
  16. Glenda Hulbert - October 9, 2018 11:58 am

    Yet another event for you to write about in followup blogs. Just posted on my Facebook page for my Midwestern – mostly Missouri family and friends – who have never lived through a hurricane, During Frances and Jeanne in ’04 I sheltered nine Mexicans on my floors as their place of residence was stick built. We cooked all the thawed food from my freezer [I no power] over charcoal outside. They cleaned up the debris following “GRATIS”!!! Sending prayers for safe travels. We love y’all.

    Reply
  17. Sue - October 9, 2018 12:00 pm

    Wish you well. God bless you. I live near Mobile so I think we are good here.

    Reply
  18. Debbie Taylor - October 9, 2018 12:07 pm

    Thanks for a much needed laugh in the midst of this scary situation. Be safe with your sweet family, human and furry!

    Reply
  19. Janie's Jottings - October 9, 2018 12:17 pm

    Here in Central Florida we are old pros at the hurricane drill but I was sure hoping we wouldn’t have to deal with it this year. Our double wide has held up well but we travel across town to my aunt & uncle’s block home to ride out the storms with them. My brother’s family evacuated in two vehicles once and were caught up in traffic for hours and hours. I hope you and Jamie and your little ones stay safe. Can’t wait to hear your story about this.

    Reply
  20. Steve Winfield - October 9, 2018 12:41 pm

    Godspeed. Hug the dogs & don’t forget the Preparation-H. There’s still rooms in Bessemer but not for long.

    Reply
  21. Karen Irby - October 9, 2018 12:43 pm

    Sean, I’m glad you got Jamie and the puppies, and the cake thingy, to safety! May the Lord keep y’all, and all in harm’s way, protected from all danger. Oh, and contrary to what someone said earlier, NEVER go where Jim Cantorie is. The man is a disaster magnet! Love y’all!

    Reply
  22. Helen Trammell - October 9, 2018 12:46 pm

    Thank Heaven for Aunt Eula & what about Frederick you whippersnapper?

    Reply
  23. Deloris Salter - October 9, 2018 12:48 pm

    Praying all who have to leave their homes will drive safe. Thank you, Sean, for your writing talent. I wouldn’t miss reading your pieces for the world!!

    Reply
  24. LeAnne Martin - October 9, 2018 1:10 pm

    Stay safe, Sean. Praying for y’all and everyone else down there.

    Reply
  25. Teresa Tindle - October 9, 2018 1:32 pm

    Sean, I know the weather station likes to scare people. But the truth is when these unpredictable hurricanes come our way, it’s best to get your family (dogs included and all our other babies) to safety. And be sure to take that most prized possession your Mother left you like my beautiful Bundt cake pan my Mother left me. I could not bake my pound cakes without it. Take good care of Jamie and the fur babies. God bless a man who takes such good care of his Aunts cake pedestal. Be safe.

    Reply
  26. Ann Anderson - October 9, 2018 1:35 pm

    🙌🏻 👍🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

    Reply
  27. Heidi - October 9, 2018 1:36 pm

    When I saw where Michael was projected to hit I immediately started worrying about you all. So glad you updated us and are moving inland. Stay safe. Hopefully you’ll be home soon with a cake under that dome.

    Reply
  28. James Taylor - October 9, 2018 1:42 pm

    I read this as I sit here in Wilmington, NC recovering from Florence just a short time ago. Praying that my tarped roof stays tarped. Don’t Need to have to go through a second round of ins. adjusters.

    Reply
  29. Peggy Shackleford - October 9, 2018 1:50 pm

    That’s one of your best! You do have a way with words!

    Reply
  30. Starr - October 9, 2018 2:19 pm

    I think we must be cousins! After all, my Mother was raised in Rayburn, Alabama and her name
    Is Eula! Pretty sure there are only about 3 women with that name! Lol. Just for
    Kicks and giggles I called my 87 year old Mother and asked her if she had a nephew named Sean ! She said ….with 9 sisters and 1 brother, all with kids and grandkids….it’s possible ! Oh my goodness, I love the South !!!!!

    Reply
  31. Jack Quanstrum - October 9, 2018 2:56 pm

    Great story! Enjoyed reading it. Good luck!

    Reply
  32. Shelton Armour - October 9, 2018 5:22 pm

    Sorry you had to bail-out and leave things behind not knowing what you’ll see when you get back. Our prayers are with you and all who will get clobbered by Michael. God bless and travel safe. Hope you brought dog food and plastic bags (for large dog leavings).

    Reply
  33. Betty F. - October 9, 2018 5:36 pm

    Perfect parody on the Weather Channel – loved it!

    Reply
  34. Donna J. masmar - October 9, 2018 5:46 pm

    Better come to Iowa, Sean; lots of good stories here and we only have blizzards and tornadoes!

    Reply
  35. Eileen Hartman - October 9, 2018 6:07 pm

    from one hurricane zone to another…(yes, Harvey 2017) please be safe and hang onto the cake dome…I had one item I removed and carried wrapped in huge garbage bags when the Harvey floods came.

    Reply
  36. Margaret Jackson - October 9, 2018 8:15 pm

    Praying for all the people in the path of Michael. I remember Eloise, Opal, Frederick, and more. My 4th graders are fascinated by hurricanes and storms of any type. We spent all our history time this morning comparing hurricanes and tornadoes, plotting Michael, and discussing what to do if the storm came here. (It’s not suppose to.)

    i really enjoy your work. You have had me in tears more than once.
    Margaret Jackson

    Reply
  37. H. J. Patterson - October 9, 2018 8:36 pm

    Plenty of room, food and cheap beer in Opelika if you, Jaime and the pups need a place to stay.

    Reply
  38. Beverly - October 9, 2018 9:00 pm

    Come to New Orleans! No storm here!

    Reply
  39. Phillip Saunders - October 9, 2018 11:15 pm

    Wait! Go back! You forgot the nine matching butter dishes you also got as wedding gifts. Too much sentiment attached to leave those behind. Safe travels. Oh, and by the way, my old buddy from Picayune, MS still pops his suspenders and says Camille was the worst. I think he meant the 1969 Cat 5 hurricane, not his old girlfriend. Seriously, they are all bad, and y’all are wise to evacuate. Prayers for those in the path.

    Reply
  40. MyPlace - October 10, 2018 12:47 am

    Oh No, Sean! You forgot the “old time hurricane survivors’ basics”: Toilet paper, several gallons of bleach, all the bread Walmart has on it’s shelves, all the peanut butter, all the bottled water, and fifty cans of Vienna sausages… and don’t forget to fill your bathtub with water to use for flushing whenever you come back home and there are no lights or water… (survivor of Camille and Frederick speaking here…)

    Reply
  41. MyPlace - October 10, 2018 12:54 am

    And PS, you and Jamie, and the pups are welcome here, we are east of Birmingham… might get some rain and a few breezes but come on! DO BE SAFE!

    Reply
  42. Pam Ramos - October 10, 2018 3:03 am

    I’m so glad y’all are leaving ! I sure thought of you and was afraid you would try to ride it out . My sister lives just outside Dothan and she has decided to ride it out ! I’m sure praying for everyone’s safety.

    Reply
  43. Freddi Rein - October 10, 2018 5:37 am

    You and the family are welcome to bed down with us! I am 25 miles north of Montgomery.

    Reply
  44. Melanie - October 10, 2018 1:06 pm

    Prayers for safety to everyone. I think it’s my fiery redhead cousin’s doing. She just got to the beach a few days ago with other members of the family for a brief vacation. Mother nature didn’t like the competition. 😉

    Reply
  45. Gigi - October 10, 2018 9:03 pm

    1995- the year of Erin and Opal. Evacuating with Erin at 8 months pregnant and again with Opal but with a newborn. Hurricanes are the milestones we Floridians help mark the passage of time!

    Reply

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