Saturday, September 27, 2008

Gustav, You Bastard!

Most of us who live in hurricane country – I won’t say “all” because I try never to generalize – wait, isn’t “never generalize” a contradiction in terms? In the same vein, isn’t “moderation in all things” a bit of an extreme position? I mean, shouldn’t it be moderation in most things, with a smattering of excess when called for?

This post seems to have wandered badly off course, I’d better start again.

Most of us who live in hurricane country share a dirty little secret. We sort of like living in hurricane country. We have a weather-related hobby that we can share during back to school time that gives us all something to talk about other than the oppressive heat and likelihood of afternoon showers. Before the Interwebs took the challenge out of everything, many people would get free hurricane tracking charts from the local TV stations and some (mostly old ladies) would religiously plot the positions of the storms from the nightly weathercast. Now we can all be play-along meteorologists, debating the relative merits of the National Hurricane Center vs. the Weather Underground sites, and interpreting the various hurricane model runs and predictions.

In addition to the conversational aspects of hurricane living, there is the excitement. Will it hit us? Will it dissipate or turn back to sea? Will it deliver God’s wrath to the rival Next State Over? The “dirty” part of our little secret is that we want it to come close. That secret, morbid, thrill-seeking part of us is never more active than when the 3-day prediction cone includes our area. The perfect storm brings a little wind and rain and maybe a day or two without power. It’s the closest we get to snow days here on the Gulf Coast. There’s a little debris to clean up, and maybe a small tree to cut up for firewood.

On the flip side, we are secretly disappointed when the storm turns away or weakens to nothing. After all, we went out and got all those batteries and water and filled up the car with gas. Some of us made sure our generators were ready to go or boarded up our houses. People fled their homes, sometimes in great numbers. For some reason, stores can’t keep Vienna Sausages. I’ve never quite figured that one out. Anyway, the point is that we spent a lot of time making preparations, and if the storm doesn’t show up it’s a lot like being stood up for a date.

Well, this is all a lot of fun until somebody gets hurt. What none of us want is to be hit head on by a major storm. Unfortunately, most of us don’t learn that until we get hit head on by a major storm. I mean, my house is considered too far inland to really be in hurricane country, but you can tell that to the 90 mile per hour winds that blew down all the trees in my yard. By the way, if anyone ever says, “It’s just a Category 1” to me ever again, I am going to poke them in their eye. Let me give you a couple of examples.

This is my tool shed before Labor Day.

This is my tool shed now. See if you notice any differences. You may have to look closely.

This is my back yard.

This is my driveway.

ly disconnected from the power grid." as "

Electricity is a distant memory for us now. It took the power company four days to come up with a plan of how they will go about restoring power, and many people will be without power for over a month. I have a pile of debris the size of a motor home at the curb, and that’s just from the front yard. The cleanup will take months. Oh, did I mention the holes in my roof and the other damage to our house?

And we were lucky. Several people in our neighborhood have houses that are in much the same condition as my shed. Our neighborhood is full of beautiful old houses and beautiful old trees, and it looks as if a war broke out between them. There were heavy casualties on both sides. And of course there were communities harder hit than ours, with hundreds of homes damaged or destroyed. The electric company described some towns as “hopelessly disconnected from the power grid.”

So thanks Gustav, for sucking the fun out of hurricane season. You suck!

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