Friday, August 22, 2008

Rainy Days

When I first heard all the hullabaloo about the big storm, I wondered "What's the big deal? It's only a tropical storm... so Central Florida gets some rain! They need it!" Early in the week I received an email from a friend in Florida that they had decided to stay home and work from home as long as they could get away with it. The corporate offices for my company (located in Melbourne, Florida) closed down on Tuesday and have been on "Hurricane Crew" all week. Being a Florida native I thought "Wimps!"

That was before I discovered how oddly this storm was going to behave. Who could have expected that Fay would zig-zag and stagger along the coast like a college student on Spring Break? It's truly odd how this storm is behaving, but not unprecedented.

In 1986 I was working for a television station in Tampa when we had a similar experience. It was a holiday weekend and I was working long hours so I could take the weekend and not even think about work for three days. so, Friday night I had just gotten home around nine and was cooking dinner when there was a pounding at the front door. As I rounded the wall to the kitchen so I could see the front windows, I saw the flashing red and blue of the police cars in the street.

I opened the door and was greeted by a stern looking officer holding a pen and pad at the ready. "I need to get the name and address of your next of kin, please." He said to me with no trace of humor or irony.

"Uh, what?" I finally got out. This was a bit too surreal even for my tastes, and I am a Salvador Dali fan! "Next of Kin? Why?"

"Why?" The officer asked incredulously. "Why? You live on an island two feet above the high tide level. That's why!"

"'Scuse me?" This was not sinking in.

"If you're not going to evacuate, we need your next of kin so we can notify them when your home washes out to sea."

I still looked at the man dumbly.

"The storm! You're under mandatory evacuation orders!"

"Storm? What storm?"

"The Hurricane! What cave have you been living in?"

"Uh, I've been at work." I explained. "This is the first I've heard of a storm."

It was a little awkward when I had to  admit under his questioning that I worked at a television station. It was even more uncomfortable when he said he had never heard of my station. (True! It was really small at the time and had no news department.) But now that the news had been transmitted, I assured the officer that he had no need of the names of my family, I was not stupid enough to stay in the path of a storm.

I packed the car and headed inland. I had friends still in Orlando and made plans to head there. Unfortunately, my little VW was not terriblly good in bad weather. When the squall lines hit I was about a quarter-mile from the television station. I decided to ride-out the squall lines there. Unfortunately, the storm seemed to like the mouth of the bay. For the next three days, the storm wobbled around a point a few miles west of the Sunshine skyway. It stayed there until Sunday afternoon then buggered off and hit the opposite coast of the gulf where Texas and Mexico meet.

It took me three hours to make it the five miles back to my home on Davis Island. The storm had dumped enough rain that most of downtown was a lake. Many of the roads to that part of town were absolutely impassable. luckily, the bridge was still high and dry and aside from a little water damage to some things that had been left on the floor (In my rush, I put most of the stuff that could be damaged onto the counters and tables, but had missed a few.) all had was a bit of water to clean up that had blown under the door.

It was a week before things were back to normal after that storm. I can sympathize with the people of Florida right now... I've been there. (Both figuratively and literally.) Good luck and I hope the storm buggers off and leaves you alone soon!

Wherever you are, I wish you good weather!

Don Bergquist - August 22, 2008 - Lakewood, Colorado, USA

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