Baby Boomer HeadQuarters (BBHQ)

This Week with The Chicowitz — September 11, 2017

The Big One!

Sunday, September 10, 11 p.m.

Age often provides one with perspective, wisdom, and good judgment.

Often, but not always.

Recognizing that, we nonetheless decided not to follow the advice of the state. As we write this, we are riding out the hurricane here at the compound at “ground zero” – Tampa, Florida.

If the electricity holds for a few more minutes, I’ll explain why.

This may oversimplify things, but there are two categories of residents here in the sunshine state. Zone A residents are those who live within eyesight of water; those who live in a mobile home (there’s a reason why they call them “mobile” homes); those who live in clapboard shacks; and those who are not equipped to “run for your lives,” should the need arise. In a state with a population of 20 million, that constitutes more than a few... maybe 3-5 million.

Then, there are the rest of us: Zone B residents... there are about 15 million of us. The compound here in Tampa is much like most homes built in the last 50 years in Tampa – concrete block, heavily secured roofs, and steel-reinforced garage doors. We’re 5 miles from the bay, and well above sea level.

(Admittedly, “well above” is a relative term. I think we are sitting at about 21 feet above sea level. Not very above, you might say. But compaare that, if you will, to most of the city of New Orleans.

Point made.)

We have a bathtub full of water. In early June, we started filling empty plastic bottles of Gatorade with water. At last count, we had over 75. (Some of that “wisdom, and good judgment” I mentioned above keeps us from standing outside a local Publix grocery store and offering them at five bucks a pop.)

We have done the same with my beverage of choice:

We have a refrigerator full of luncheon meat, several loaves of bread, and plenty of PB&J.

Oh, and we have one other thing going for us: history. We have lived in Florida for close to a half-century. Never have we faced a significant threat from the weather.

I know, I know... this is the “storm of a century.” But they said that a decade ago when they guaranteed a 20-foot storm surge running though downtown Tampa that would decapitate the city. Guaranteed!

From the government’s perspective, there is nothing to be lost by overstating the threat... by overpreparing. I get it. Were I in the governor’s shoes, I would be saying the same thing. Good for him.

The governor was speaking to the exposed masses... the Zone A residents. They will need help. (Though as I will explain later, most of the help they will get will come not from the government, but from the free enterprise system... and generous citizens.)

Everybody wins with that strategy: Zone A residents, Home Depot, the media, the elected representatives...

Even the Mouse House is closing down... for only the fifth time in history. But they are closing down... not evacuating.

We believe that we are safer here than we would be on the interstate with 3 million people driving like godzilla was chasing them.

And yes, we have “faced a significant threat” more than once from idiots on the interstate.

There is no shortage of those in Florida, either.

I’d much rather be here where I can protect my property... and empty the freezer before all my drumsticks melt.

History

I acknowledge that this hurricane is unprecedented in our lifetime. But for some perspective and for your mature consideration, I offer my story on another storm of the century that Princess and I survived right here at the compound. Picture it; Tampa Bay, August, 2004:

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 would hit.

Wednesday:

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.

Thursday:

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 Charley.

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 crap.

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 lives!

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.
        N-E-S-T-L-E-S;
        Nestles makes the very best... stoooooorm surge.”

Or this:

        “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 deafening.

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 themselves.

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 today.

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 with.

I promised Princess a real hurricane; all we got was a dinky, little rain storm.

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 the idea.

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.”

I know... that was then; this is now. The video you see on TV is from Zone A. Those residents face a significant risk.

Out here in Zone B... we’re OK.

If I survive this one, I’ll tell you what happened in 2004, “after the storm.”

Don’t lost any sleep over it. The sequel is scheduled for September 25.

Though... if the hamsters live, and we have power Wednesday morning, I’ll post a short update right here.

Wednesday, Sept. 13 Update:

The Caribbean and the lower part of Florida took a hard hit, and softened the blow for the rest of us. Those in Zone A to the south of us need – and will get – tons of help.

Half way up the state, the hurricane dropped to a two and then a one.

For us, in Tampa’s Zone B, it was a calculated risk, though we believed a small one. The odds were in our favor, and we came out on top. We got some strong winds and heavy rain, but no flooding; we never lost power. Once again, the “experts” were wrong. The hurricane swerved east and passed over Lakeland, about 30 miles to the east.

We faced Charley eyeball to eyeball... and the other guy blinked. - Hershel M. Chicowitz, 8/04

Then Hurricane Irma blinked. - Tampa Bay Online, 9/11/17


A BBHQ Pop Quiz: This is the title of a 60s sitcom: “I’m Dickens; he’s__________.”

Your final answer is....




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09/11/17