My first blog post was on 1 September 2004. [Believe it or not, many people still do not consider that the most significant event of that year. Or even of that day....] Several of my early posts were related to hurricanes, 2004 being one of the most active and devastating Atlantic hurricane seasons on record including three hurricanes that passed pretty much directly over where I lived in central Florida. At the time of that post, we were still cleaning up from hurricane Charley and Frances had us in her sights.
I was relatively lucky as far as storm damage was concerned. I lost some branches from the trees in my yard and I was without electricity [for a week with Charley, a few days with Frances, and a few hours with Jeanne.] Some of my friends and colleagues had significant damage to their homes that took months to repair. Coastal and Caribbean areas were hit even harder and thousands of people lost their lives. By comparison, having the school calendar messed up and sweating through several days of heat and humidity with no electricity was a cakewalk.
In two and a half decades of living in central Florida, only two other years really stand out in my memory as far as hurricanes are concerned. The first is 1992. I was in a brand new high school that year. The way I remember it, the first day of classes was cancelled district-wide. The weather that day was glorious. We started a day late amid torrential rains. The reason? Hurricane Andrew. At the time district officials had to decide whether to delay the start of the school year, it looked like Andrew could pass right over us. We dodged a bullet, but south Florida was hit hard. Andrew was the costliest hurricane in U.S. history. We were inconvenienced. And we knew we were lucky.
The other year that stands out is 2005. Two major hurricanes hit Florida that year, but that’s not really what I remember most. It was the most active season on record with storms continuing into January of 2006 and it included Wilma, the most intense hurricane on record, and Katrina, which replaced Andrew as the costliest. Katrina was the real game-changer. With Katrina, hurricanes became political or, depending on your point-of-view, more political than ever.
I have always been dismayed at news agencies that send reporters into evacuated areas to stand amid wind and rain to tell us how windy and rainy it is and how no one should be out there. And I am doubly dismayed when they interview people who have ignored evacuation orders, especially when they declare they were “right” rather than just lucky. I didn’t understand how people could complain last year that the anniversary of Katrina was in the news even though the damage is still being repaired. And I was completely mystified this weekend when I saw people claiming that the threat of Irene was exaggerated even while the storm was knocking out electricity to millions of people, destroying property, and taking lives. I happen to think the preparations, the evacuations, shutting down airports and subways, etc. was completely rational and proportional to the potential that Irene represented. It could have been much worse. And I dare anyone to tell the people who lost their homes and business or especially the families of the 40+ people who lost their lives that it wasn’t that bad….