Gees, you’d think that if the folks at the National Weather Service
had any sense of propriety, if they had even an ounce of cosmic balance,
the hurricane after Bonnie would be named Clyde. But no...... the names
are selected by a computer. Well, fooey. That shows what happens when you
become a slave to the computer.
Hurricane Charley was devastating to thousands of people south and east
of Tampa. I don’t want to make light of or minimize the damage that he
caused. But my story this week comes from the perspective of a resident
of Tampa, where all the weather folks were certain that the hurricane
Now assured of a direct hit on Tampa Bay, officials ordered the
evacuation of low lying areas of St. Petersburg, Pinellas County. I don’t
see it. As long, long time resident of the area, I know that hurricanes
can and do change course frequently when they reach the gulf.
Yep; no doubt about it. Though the hurricane is still over Cuba, the
experts called an evacuation of Hillsborough County, Tampa. Officials
predict a 14-foot storm surge in downtown Tampa, which is right on the
water in Tampa Bay. Schools, businesses... virtually everything will be
closed on Friday.
As I write this, over a million residents of the Tampa Bay area are
clogging the roads inland and northward, running from Hurricane
Surprising though it may seem to you, I am not one of them.
OK, OK; let’s get this on the table and out of the way:
It’s a hurricane;
It’s a hurricane!!
We’re all gonna die;
We’re all gonna die!!
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Fine, fine.
The hurricane is scheduled to rage through here about dinner time on
Friday. Ah, that would be Friday the 13th.
Having said that, the evacuation orders are, in a word, a load of
OK, so that’s 4 words. So sue me.
A hurricane here is a concern to anyone living in a mobile home or
within an eighth of a mile of the bay or the gulf. That represents
about 5% of the population — maybe 100,000 people. Nonetheless, the
press and the government continually try to scare the bahungas out of
everyone. This afternoon they are saying, “This time it is serious; we
really mean it this time.”
I looked at an evacuation map this morning. We are in a green area —
area C, if you are taking notes. I don’t know what that means. But the
last time I got a “C,” it was in my graduate Economics class,
a memory I would strongly prefer to remain buried in the past.
The biggest threat that I faced was trying to find a parking place at the
local grocery store this afternoon. Gees, I was taking my life in my
hands as I snaked up one aisle and down the other. And I was a sitting
duck most of the time. Unable to move, I was a bull’s eye for any
driver who had been brainwashed by the media into thinking the sky was
falling. It was downright scary! The heck with Charley; I’m worried
about that guy driving the 4,000-pound Ford Explorer behind me.
Always the contrarian, while most people were grabbing up batteries,
bottled water, bread, and frozen turkeys, I went for beer and ice cream.
There was plenty of ice cream available, but not much beer. I bought two
cases. As I am not a big beer drinker, I figured that should cover me.
When I was a kid, every time the power went out or there was a big snow
storm coming our way, my mother would stock up on the ice cream
drumsticks. I donno why; I guess it is another family tradition.
I love traditions!
Just for kicks, I called the AAA to see if they could book me in a motel
should I lose my senses and decide to bail out. Well, they struggled for
a while, and then said they had found a room at the Hard Rock Hotel just
outside of Tampa. All they had was a suite for $225 a night, minimum of
three nights. Sounds good, I thought. Then it hit me: I am about two tenths
of a mile from the Hard Rock Hotel. What makes them so safe and
me in such danger?
Yeah, that’s what I thought: $675.
Anyway, as I write this, 24 hours before we are supposed to be reduced
to tiny bits of water-soaked rubble, it is sunny, hot and humid here at
the compound — typical for August. I am going to cut the lawn this
evening. We are on high ground with not a care in the world.
Don’t cry for us, Argentina.
Preparing for the worst, I created a “safe room” and
corresponding procedure. When the winds hit hurricane speed outside,
Princess and I will hide in the plywood TeePee I built. It’s a
lesson I learned from my old Boy Scout days: be prepared.
See... we prop this puppy up in the hallway, and what can go wrong?
The local TV and radio stations began round-the-clock coverage at 3 p.m.
Of course they told the same story over and over again:
“THIS is the big one; this will be devastating to the
entire Tampa Bay area. Run for your lives; run for your
They predicted, with certainty, that McDill Air Force Base, in south
Tampa, would be under three feet of water... for weeks, maybe.
The TV and radio stations ran their coverage entirely without
commercials. (And what a relief that is, huh?) However, I see that as a
huge missed opportunity. The TV stations should have sold exclusive
advertising to select sponsors:
“This hurricane is being bought to you by Nestles’ Drumsticks.
Nestles makes the very best... stoooooorm surge.”
“When there’s a storm, ragin’ in the sky;
Count on Depends, to keep you dry.
Depends: the official undergarment of Hurricane Charley.”
Just a thought.
Friday the 13th; D-Day for Charley:
I was up most of the night, shivering me timbers. Still, as the sun
crawled out over the horizon, everything was as it was the night before.
So, I watered the plants, took Princess for a walk, and then took myself
for a nap.
I expected to wake to the sound of that proverbial freight train
barreling through the living room. Instead, I woke to the doorbell. It
was the Jehova’s Witnesses, trying to sell me a subscription to their
magazine. I took a pass, and prayed for forgiveness.
While Hershel Slept
Sometime between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., the weather experts changed their
tune. In a near-complete reversal, they now say that it will be Ft.
Myers, 125 miles to the south, that takes the direct hit. Tampa Bay...
gets left in the dark.
(Or actually, in the light, to be precise. The power never went out
anywhere in the Tampa Bay area.)
3:15 p.m.: Well, it finally hit. We are in a hurricane. There is a steady
rain outside. Winds are between 10 and 15 mph, with occasional gusts as
high as 20 mph.
I can hear light drops of rain rat-tat-tatting on the window panes. It
nearly drowns out the sound of the keyboard in front of me. The sound is
Rat-tat... rat-tat... tatting.
There are two small puddles in the cement walkway outside my front door.
It would be nearly impossible to dodge them as you walked to my
door..... Jehova’s Witnesses beware!
I just looked outside the garage.... there are puddles..... little tiny
puddles all over the place.
Oh, the humanity!
Saturday, August 14: The Morning After
“Increase in Charley’s Force Not Surprising” —
headline, Associated Press, Saturday, 11:30 a.m.
“Charley’s Force Took Experts by Surprise” —
headline, Associated Press, Saturday, 6:41 p.m.
What gets me is not that the weather forecasters missed the call by 150
miles. What gets me is that they were absolutely certain the hurricane
would hit Tampa Bay.... right up to the last moment. They were so sure of
So typical of the government; they know everything; we know nothing.
There is a lesson there, but there is no sense trying to make that point
A million people spent over a hundred and fifty million dollars —
private money — to evacuate the bay area. Thousands of residents of St.
Petersburg fled, pedal to the metal, inland to Lakeland, only to learn
that they had driven right into the hurricane’s path. If I were one of
them, I’d be looking for a lawyer to get me some satisfaction for my
overt, excessive stupidity. (One cheesy ambulance-chaser advertises,
“I’ll get you the respect you want; the justice you truly deserve.” Actually,
he can keep the damn respect and justice. I want cash.)
Charley will likely leave much of central Florida a swamp. The only
problem with that is that much of central Florida was a swamp to begin
I promised Princess a real hurricane; all we got was a dinky, little rain
We faced Charley eyeball to eyeball... and the other guy blinked.
For me it was biggest disappointment since I learned there is no Easter
Bunny... biggest disappointment since Jim Bakker got caught with his
pants down around his ankles in a motel room with a floozie... biggest
disappointment since Boy George broke up Culture Club... biggest disappoint
since “Disco Duck” hit number 1... Biggest disappointment
since I learned that Al Gore did not invent the Internet. Well, you get
We are so cheated. Yet; we will live to be drenched another day.
Some other time, Charley.
They should name the next tropical storm “Dufuss.”