Monday, March 6, 2006

85 Shopping Days until the 2006 Atlantic Hurricane Season

It's half past Apocolypse in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast (credit to MSNBC), and there are 85 shopping days until the 2006 Atlantic Hurricane Season.

Before I moved to Florida, the count down to shopping days was more associated with shopping for Christmas presents and not batteries, plywood and bottled water. 2004 changed that for me when Florida was hit with four major hurricanes in six weeks. Then, last August, Katrina roared ashore and change the landscape and psyche of nearly every person who lives anywhere near the water. When Katrina was first a blip on the radar, it was out in the Atlantic and came ashore near Miami as a Catagory 1. Floridians barely notice a Cat 1 most of the time. In fact, some businesses don't bother to close. This time, Katrina walloped Miami and caught everyone off guard. Floods, power outages and surprising damage came along for the ride. Once she was out in the warm August waters of the Gulf, she picked up steam and plowed into the unprepared Gulf Coast. Katrina wiped entire towns off the map and contibuted to the breaching of the New Orleans levee system exposing just how incompetant and corrupt the Louisiana government is. Katrina unleased horrors on American soil that we thought we were more likely to see in a third world country.

That brings me to this season. What can we expect? Will it be as bad? Will it be worse? Will we escape? Pretty soon, we'll be seeing hurricane preparedness guides and evacuation maps in our local newspapers and in racks on our grocery stores. The local news and the Weather Channel will begin to air retrospectives of last years season and compare it to the 2004 season to see if they can extrapolate enough data to give them insight to this years' season.

Already, 86 days out, I can sometimes catch snippets of conversation about hurricanes. It's almost taken for granted here, that you have your box of supplies, a stack of plywood and everything important ready to go should the evacuation order come down. It's also this time of year that you can almost feel the beginnings of anxiety tenticles slowly wrapping it's slender bands around your stomach.

I hope that the main lesson that people have learned from Katrina is this. When you see a massive hurricane headed toward you, get out. Don't wait for the evacuation orders, leave if you feel unsafe. It's not fun and games anymore. It's not all about hurricane parties, or Pat O's potent drink. As anyone of those people who survived the Super Dome and the Convention Center. I'm sure if they could call "do over" they would get out of town. Walk if you have to. Beg a ride if you have to, but get out of harms way. I'm sure if you could ask those 50,000 or so people stuck in New Orleans during during and right after Katrina, they'd tell you the same thing. The last thing we need is a repeat of last August. Never again should we to have to turn on the news and see the people having to be plucked off roofs after they have chopped their way to safety.

The Gulf Coast will rise again, of that I have no doubt. We are a people with a deep sense of history and have strong bonds to the land. It's going to take more than two storms named Katrina and her sister Rita to keep the people of Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas from coming back stronger than ever.