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.