As I sit in my office and watch a wall of water come out of the sky, I am reminded that yes, it is June, and yes, it is now officially Hurricane Season 2013. This is the season when the folks in the weather arena really come alive; they look forward to it every year.
The first named storm of 2013 brought a lot of rain this week.
Even before hurricane season begins, meteorologists start warning us at least a month in advance that it is coming (like we could forget), encouraging us to get our supplies in order so we are not caught off guard. Then out come all the Hurricane Preparedness Guides, which seem to be published by every media outlet in Southwest Florida. I don’t know if these guides are different every year or the printers just stick on another cover.
There are instructions on what supplies, how much and where to buy them. There are maps with escape routes out of the area, plus maps of where shelters are located and how to get to them. There are also maps of flood zones all around Southwest Florida to let you know what the chances are that your home will be under water should we get a massive storm surge. These guides are jam-packed with helpful information.
Bob and I have lived all over the country—from the “frozen tundra” of Minnesota to California to Oregon to Washington, D.C., to Boston and finally to Naples. As we watched the horrible tornadoes rip through Oklahoma on the news last week, I could not help but remember huddling in our basement in New Brighton, Minnesota (yes, Minnesota is the northern part of Tornado Alley) as warning sirens blew to warn of two twisters that ended up leveling several homes within a mile of ours. The alarms blew only a few minutes before the tornadoes hit.
Living in California, we experienced wildfires so fierce that to get home from work, I had to drive through the mountains of Malibu to get to Pacific Coast Highway, as the fire had jumped the 101 Freeway and eventually shut it down. The Golden State is also subject to earthquakes for which there are no warnings. Just imagine standing close to a train track as a train speeds by and the ground shaking as it passes—that is what it’s like being in an earthquake. And there is pretty much nothing you can do except get out of the way of flying debris and situate yourself inside a door frame.
One summer in hot, sultry Washington the straight-line winds of an extremely violent storm (without warning) picked up an old, 50-foot-tall tree and thrust it right through my mother-in-law’s house. It was almost a terrible disaster—if she had been in her bedroom when the tree hit, she would have been killed. And, of course, in Boston, we had nor’easters, which could pile up feet of snow with blizzard conditions and the fiercest of winds. Fortunately, we lived in downtown Boston and did not have to go far for anything. The less fortunate suburbanites were left stranded for days.
When we moved to Naples full-time, Bob and I had no idea we would have to deal with two hurricanes in a two-year period. We were amazed when the forecasters started beating the drum steadily about prepping for hurricane season, so we listened and got ready. I bet I had more batteries, bottles of water, canned food and portable devices than anyone could imagine. With hurricanes Wilma and Charley, our bathtubs were filled with water and our shutters were in working order and shut tight. We sat at our kitchen table and watched the weather phenomena as they hit the surrounding area. The rain and winds were incredible, and we could see one transformer after the other explode. Birds, parts of trees and things we could not identify blew past our windows, and we eventually lost power. But we were fine because we were ready a week in advance.
We are so grateful that Southwest Florida has such skilled weather teams and advanced warning systems in place for powerful storms. We hope that someday, the residents in Oklahoma and the rest of Tornado Alley will have similar advanced warning systems. Last week, they had only moments.
Here’s to a safe storm season.