10 September 2004
Okay. As I write, Hurricane Ivan (the
Terrible) is headed for Jamaica with maximum sustained winds of 145 mph.
Ivan’s current projected path would take him across eastern Cuba, then
dangerously close to the Florida Keys,
and then up the west coast of Florida. Again?!?!?!? Well, yes. That is the
way it looks at this moment. This would mean that rather than sticking with
his west-north-westerly track, Ivan would choose to head north. As far as
anyone knows at this moment, that is…
On the other hand, those of us who have paid
attention over the decades know that hurricanes are notoriously capricious.
Frances recently shocked
the meteorological wise men by gaining a tremendous amount of strength at the
last minute and hanging an unexpected right. Despite all our expertise and
sophisticated weather-prediction technology, the bottom line is that hurricanes
do as they will. They simply meander around (aimlessly, it would seem), wreaking
havoc when and where they will. That is their job. And therein lies the problem.
Let us suppose, just for a moment, that Ivan
decides he would prefer not
to make a northerly turn. He is quite comfortable on his west-north-westerly
track, thank you. Where does that leave us? A straight line projected outward
from Ivan’s track over the past several days leads straight to New Orleans. Who
knows, other than the Good Lord? It may not be probable at this point, but it is
And that explains why I (residing in the
greater New Orleans, LA area)
am seriously considering the possibility of evacuating early next week. Run,
Chicken Little, run, the sky is falling in? Premature panic-button mentality?
I think not.
Remember Camille? Even if you are too young to
actually remember her, surely the name will be familiar to you, as Camille was
only the second Category 5 storm ever to hit the mainland U.S., after a 1935
storm struck the Florida Keys. She made landfall on the Mississippi Gulf Coast
at Pass Christian, just west of Gulfport, on the night of 17 August
1969 with winds estimated at 200 mph. (Accurate measurements were not attainable
due to failure of wind equipment from the extreme winds). Did everyone on the
Mississippi Gulf Coast evacuate, knowing full well that
they were under a category-5
hurricane WARNING? Some did, and some
Go figure. Perhaps the most infamous story is that of the hurricane
thrown in the Richelieu Apartments, on the Pass Christian beach.
was nothing left. Nothing. No one*.
Unfortunately, I remember Camille vividly. My
sons and I were in Virginia awaiting orders for my husband’s next permanent
assignment. He, as fate would have it, was on TDY (that’s temporary duty to you
civilian types) at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, MS. We had a very ugly first-hand
report of Camille's deadly dance, in addition to the horrors depicted by the media. Pictures of
ocean-going vessels resting on what had been US Highway 190 are engraved in my
subconscious. Horrendous, incredible images of the remnants left by
devastating hurricane continue to haunt me, despite the fact
that I would prefer
to erase them from my memory bank permanently.
Even if Ivan does not choose to hit the
Texas/Louisiana/Mississippi Gulf Coast directly, let us not forget that
hurricanes, tropical storms, and tropical depressions can have life-threatening
impacts hundreds of miles inland. All
of us must to be alert to - and prepared for – the probability of heavy rain,
lightning, tornadoes, floods and flash floods brought on by these tropical
beasts. I, for one, am acting like a Boy Scout. Be prepared, right? Over
and over again, for decades
now, I have heard, "Whatever you do, do
NOT wait until the last minute to make
And this brings me, finally, to the point – the
exercise. Have you ever considered (seriously) what preparations you would have
to make should
you be threatened by a major hurricane?
Just think about it for a moment. What
essentials would you choose to take with you (assuming that you decide to get
the hell out of Dodge)? There
with an elderly relative who is blind in one eye (and close to it in
deaf in one ear, and who does not get around so well these days. And, of course,
your dog. The dog of your life, MissSophieDogAngel. (The fact that she is an
angel will definitely help.) Your task is to load up your PT Cruiser with
everything you do not wish to risk losing, should the worst
come to pass.
What to take, what to leave behind?
Not only that, but how do you secure your home?
Buy plywood, call your favorite all-around Mr. Fix-It to install it in
appropriate places? Why not?
And what about patio furniture, flower pots and such? These items need
to be dealt with not so much for their protection as for the protection of
they might strike, should they find themselves cavorting about in
hurricane-strength winds like so many leaves from the sycamore tree in
yard. Obviously, they need to be moved. Can you do this alone?
Thank God for Mr.
Fix-It. (Do hope he is available. Left him voice mail…)
Boggles the mind, does it not? What is Most
Important? First the obvious,
I suppose... FAMILY PICTURES! Files. Important documents, insurance policies, tax records, bills,
medication, for sure. What about the PC? Are
the back-up discs enough, or
do you attempt to take the CPU?
What, among your (perhaps too many)
possessions, do you value most? Think about it. What are you determined NOT to
lose, should there be anything within your power to prevent its loss?
of course. Family mementos, the family Bible. And, if you
are a lover (translation: collector) of books, music and art (I plead guilty),
a good many books, CDs and framed prints you cannot imagine doing
without. Too many. The recipes, thank God, are stored on CD, but what about the
HUNDREDS of cookbooks, many of which are now out of
print ?!?!?!? And
then there are favorite clothes, shoes, jewelry, and
Way too much. Way. A blivet, as my recently
departed Uncle Bud would have said.
Very few treasured possessions will be able to make
this trip, should it come to
that. [And it did.] What
to do? Prioritize,
simplify, eliminate. And then do it again.
An interesting exercise, is it not? And the fun
is not over yet. Hurricane
peak season still has 7 weeks to go...
(P.S. Category-3 Hurricane Ivan came ashore near Gulf Shores,
Alabama, on September 16, 2004.)
* We were informed recently that there was indeed one survivor
of the infamous
Richelieu hurricane party: A woman was somehow (miraculously)
of the destruction of
the building. She was found in a tree four miles distant from
what had once been
the Richelieu. [MG 2oct04]
(Camille facts courtesy of