Monday, August 29, 2005


They are a fact of life for us Southerners, particularly along the coastal areas. I grew up on the Gulf Coast of Florida and there were plenty of times as a child that I can remember one storm or another churning up our way. Momma would throw a hurricane party, we'd head off to bed and that would be that.

The first storm that really had any emotional resonance for me was Hugo, closing in on its sixteenth anniversary. I'd gone to college in Charleston and had fallen in love with it. It was so unlike the cow towns I'd known growing up, full of charm and culture. You can truly breathe the history in the place.

I was back home in the Tampa Bay area when Hugo hit. I remember waking up at four a.m. to see, well hear really, a newscaster broadcasting from what is now the Charleston Place Hotel. It was pitch black, the electricity was out and the fear in his voice was palpable.

Once the news crews could get out, the destruction was enormous. Really, it was too much to take in at once and that was just watching it on television. I also remember yelping in surprise as I recognized a former co-worker's house on the Today Show, an uprooted tree bashing in his beloved BMW. It was an odd feeling, having such intimate knowledge of a place so severely affected. Because so often, places like that are just...places to us.

Now we have all sorts of warnings and the Doppler Radar and computer models, but it's still a guessing game. Because they didn't expect Katrina to take that jog to the east that spared New Orleans but apparently wiped out Dauphin and the other Alabama barrier islands, with no way to know the casualties until tomorrow, if then.

And there's still another two months to one of our 'seasons' in the south--hurricane season.