They say you never forget your first time.
He was born in the Cape Verde islands. He grew up fast and rugged. He was strong and tenacious and he set out for the New World. I was a meager young elementary student just starting to find my way in the world. He arrived in the isle of Santo Domingo in late August and tore the place up. I sat at home and waited for his arrival, slightly nervous at his approach. His Caribbean stop was but a minor delay and soon he was on a direct path to my home here in Jacksonville. Although anxious, I was also quite mesmerized by his power and wonder what it would mean for me and my friends. He continued to grow nearer, and my excitement turned to dread. Then,just like every major rock band in the last 20 years, Hurricane David in 1979 decided to skip Jacksonville all together.
I am a Florida boy and hurricanes, and their short bus riding cousins, tropical storms, have always been a part of my life. From that early memory of the storm that bullied its way past our city and on into Savannah Georgia, I learned how to deal with them. First, a word about Jacksonville geography. Our fair city sits in an indention on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and is less than 130 miles from the Gulf of Mexico making us the meat in a rather unpleasant tropical weather sandwich. Additionally, we are on the Gulf stream, that expressway of warm water that runs along the eastern coast of the United States, which as anyway that has ever had the misfortune to stay in Motel 6 will confirm, sleeping next to the expressway just plain sucks.
From June to October, tropical weather systems are life pawn shops in Vegas and white people in Wisconsin, simply a fact of life. I have a healthy respect for nature’s power as regards wind and rain and as I learned that time I peed on the electric fence, the awesome power of electricity is nothing to trifle with(it still burns a little). But for all the majesty of natural storms, having to deal with the b.s. that comes with it, is sometimes too much to bear.
As we are approaching the anniversary of Katrina and since there seems to be another storm heading toward New Orleans. I feel that I must confess that I find the almost criminal way that the U.S. government failed the people in Katrina’s aftermath to be appalling. However, that being said, if you are harmed by a hurricane, you’re a dumb ass. Unlike the other major natural disasters that affect the U.S., namely tornadoes, earthquakes and the Kardasians, there is always ample warning before a hurricane strikes. I like to think of each version of natural disasters as kind of like street crimes. Earthquakes are basically like being in a liquor store robbery, if you go to that kind of store there is always a chance that one is going to happen and occasionally someone is going to get hurt. Tornadoes are gang drive by shootings. There is no warning, they could happen anywhere and if you happen to stumble into one, odds are you are going to die. Hurricanes are bank robberies done by polite professionals who do carry guns but they call the bank three days ahead and even tell you what time a time the robbery is going to happen. So if you decide to go turn in your rolled up pennies at that time because you didn’t heed the warnings, you really can’t say you were a victim. It’s like a hurricane is a birthday party that sends out invitations and requires a r.s.v.p.
Normally this would be the point where I would point out how the advancements in meteorology and its related sciences have led to the advanced warning system that have taken much of the danger out of tropical weather systems. But let’s face it. Meteorology is a crock. No, not the scientific study of weather, but rather the bastardized version of that science that is propagated by those charlatans on the 6 o’clock news, namely weatherman and women. Now, I appreciate that I can use my smart phone to see whether there is rain on the way but I can thank the fine people at Apple or Samsung for that ability not some j.a. in a plaid sport coat in front of a green screen. You know what my app calls the weather radar? Weather radar. Then please tell me why the same technology, when it is on the news, has to be referred to Super-mega-Doppler 25.365.25B. I understand the need to brand your newscast but I just need enough info to find out if I can play golf tomorrow, not arrange a missile launch. I would even overlook the apparent ego that goes into the radar naming if the thing actually worked correctly. Have you ever turned on the weather on a perfectly clear day and they show that there is something on the radar? Instead of excusing that obvious mistake or calling it technical issues, they say,”Oh, that’s just ground clutter”. Ground clutter? I am sorry but that sounds fairly ominous. I am sorry but if there is something called “ground clutter” outside I don’t think I would be wearing open toed shoes. This really causes me to doubt the entire “Weather team”. Boy, that sure sounds impressive. I guess it beats what I call them,”Club Suck”. I am quite convinced that, in reality, none of that electronic equipment that they pensively look into when they do the pre-weather weather report actually works. It’s like they just went into radio shack and told the salesman to fill up the cart with everything with blinking lights. That’s right there is no Doppler. Speaking of Doppler, my high school physics teacher taught us that the Doppler effect was the thing that explains why a car horn seems to get louder as a car gets nearer. So, can someone please explain what in the holy hell that has to do with the sweeping screen showing that it is apparently going to rain in blue and fuchsia for the rest of the day.
So since Doppler is just a prop, how do they forecast the weather? The ugly little secret is that every television station has a “weather dog”. About 10 minutes before its time for the weatherman to go on camera, they send the dog outside. If the dog comes back shivering, they saw it is going to be cold. If he comes back wet, they say it is going to rain. And if he doesn’t come back at all, they say it is probably going to be windy. It’s not just the technology of local weather that irritates me, it’s the personalities. First of all can we stop with the meaningless banter between anchor person and the weather dufus. Ha ha ha. Yeah, you guys are a regular Abbot and Costello with your jokes about umbrellas. Actually they are more like a Jeff Dunham act in that one of them( the anchor) is an overpaid clown and the other one (weatherman) is just a dummy. Secondly, as bad as the “Chief Meteorologist” is, talk about being king of the d.b.’s, his underlings are even worse. I am totally convinced that the weekend weather guy may be the lowest form of sentient life on this planet. But at least we now know what happens to the people who couldn’t quite cut it at Devry or ITT Tech. Not that I blame them. Especially around this part of the country, being a weatherman is basically just assisted suicide. I don’t know how many times I could go on camera between the months of May and September and say the same thing over and over. Personally, if I had to say,”Highs in the 90s with a 30% chance of rain” for 5 months straight I would probably be looking for a bus to jump in front of too. I’s not just the monotony of information that they relay that is so boring, it’s also the way they deliver it. But, it’s not really their fault, it’s just the type of people the stations hire. Since 13% of the American population is African-American, then will someone please tell me why 98% of weatherman are white, not just white but ultra-white. And don’t give the whole “What about Al Roker?” thing because even I have more SWAGG than Al Roker.
I know that the powers that be have tried their best to spice up the weathercast by injecting the occasional hottie into the mix but it doesn’t really help. These girls are usually under 25 with a body built for sin. Confession time: When the 90 pound ex-cheerleader in the ultra-tight mini skirt and the push up bra is talking about “colliding air masses”, relative humidity is the last thing on my mind. I am also convinced that most of these nubile young things lack shall we say the proper scientific training. Let’s face it, they went from working where guys were “making it rain” to a place where they have to talk about rain. Just seems like a logical progression to me.
Seeing how much of a soul killer that job can be, it is not so surprising that anything that will enliven the experience is grabbed onto like a lifeboat in shark infested waters. So now when a single puffy cloud appears off the coast of Africa, it is plotted and named and they create a graphic just for it. I do believe that the weatherman over emphasize the danger of even the most remote and unorganized storm just to heighten the importance of preparing for even a minor storms possible damage but, enough is enough. Can we not have twice hourly updates about Tropical Storm Edward and please stop referring to it as “The Coming Ed-pocalypse”.
Speaking of names, one of the reasons that people don’t head the warnings about storms is that the names just don’t inspire fear. Names like Guillermo and Ivan and Skippy just don’t send a strong enough message. But I guarantee you that if Hurricane Velociraptor was on its way of Tropical Depression Grizzly Bear was en route, your ass would sure as hell be gassing up and heading out-of-town. And I don’t want to hear anyone say that they didn’t know a storm was coming. When was the last time that you heard of an Amish person being killed in a hurricane? Exactly. If a group of people who think the zipper is new technology can stay out of the path of storms, then maybe you should quit watching Maury and maybe you would be safe too.
The only good bit of technology that anyone has come up with regarding weather is the way the give you a “cone of probability” as to where the storm will strike. Way to c.y.a. weather people. Really? So its going to hit land somewhere between Key West and…the Moon? Nice job of not going out on a limb there. Why don’t you go to Vegas and bet on “a horse” to win the Kentucky Derby. However, I do find it is a handy tool to use. Each week I draw a similar cone on the calendar at work and tell my boss that I may show up sometime between Monday and Friday. “Better prepare just in case”.
So the storm comes and all you hear about is evacuations and safety precautions and staying indoors throughout the storm. And as the storm approaches and you turn on the weather channel, where do you find the weather guy? On the beach getting sandblasted and pelted with sideways rain. Nice job Mr. “Do as I Say but not as I do”. That makes about as much sense as me setting myself on fire in order to remind my kids to not play with matches.Which brings me to the stupidest part of Hurricane Season, storm preparation.
I know that every Spring I should assemble a storm prep kit. Yes that is EXACTLY what I want to spend our tax return on, bottled water and flashlights. Even if I did plan on doing it, assembling such a kit is just a waste of time. This is what a kit should include and the reasons why I don’t bother.
- First Aid Kit- Oooo. Band aids and aspirin are exactly what I need in case of emergency. If a storm so disrupts civilization that I have to tend to my own wounds, I am going to do whatever every body else does. Claim it was a slip and fall and then call 1-800-ASK-GARY.
- Baby supplies( formula, diapers)- You mean there are going to be screaming babies at the shelter? No thanks. I think I will just board up my windows and ride this one out. After all isn’t it about time to find how mobile this mobile home actually is. No, I don’t live in a trailer but the truth is that if the wind blows hard enough, every home becomes mobile.
- Medicines- Cause that’s just what desperate people who may have just lost every one of their physical possessions need, lots of Oxycotin
- Cell phones- Yes I know the dog drowned and my family is now penniless and homeless, but look at this great casserole recipe I just found on Pinterest.
- Plenty of cash- I am sorry. I though the sign out front said “Evacuation Center” not the “Ritz Carlton”
- Battery operated flashlights -Unfortunately for a light to be of any use it uses one of those gargantuan hulk batteries that costs more than my first car and puts off more ambient radiation than Chernobyl. No thanks. I will just use candles. I know the experts say that using candles are a safety risk but the way I see it. If its been raining for 4 days and I have a foot of water in my living room then fire is not really a major concern of mine.
- Battery operated or hand crank radio- On the bright side, it is the only time you will hear someone on N.P.R. get excited about anything. However, here comes the whole battery issue again. I am beginning to think the entire Hurricane was just a scam by EverReady to bilk us out of our money. And you can forget the hand cranking of the radio. “I heard you were injured during the storm.””I was.” “What was it?” “Carpal Tunnel”
- Lots of water- If the storm is bad enough, there is only one liquid I am going to be ingesting and it isn’t Evian. They also recommended filling your bath tub with water . Sorry, its gonna take more than some Clorox Cleanup and a Magic Eraser before I start taking sips of anything in my tub.
- Prepared Canned foods and meats- If we are going to have to eat Vienna sausages and Spagetti-os in order to survive then I am going to go swimming with my toaster oven. I know there are other prepared food items available but if it is anything on the culinary scale below pizza rolls, then I am not interested. And don’t mention Spam. Despite what the Hawaiians think, Spam is not edible. In fact, I believe that Spam was the direct cause of our involvement in World War 2. Everybody knows that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor but does anybody know why? My theory that a land like Japan that takes food to be more than sustenance but is actually an art form just could sit idly by any longer. I figured that a country that developed Kobe beef and Sushi Grade Blue fin Tuna could not share the same ocean with an island that saw Spam as gourmet.
Even when you are all prepared, sometimes the storm doesn’t come . So you emerge from your shelter and are relieved that the most you will clean up is a couple of empty beer cans. You feel lucky and you are. And your heart goes out to the cities that aren’t so fortunate. Because you know next time…..
There is always a next time.