(283, 1, ‘2008-08-19 06:23:00’, ‘2008-08-19 06:23:00’, ‘Earthquakes strike with no warning. You can watch for tornadoes, but they drop from the clouds at with devastating randomness. Thundering hailstorms give you only minutes of warning before they pummel you with razor-sharp chunks of ice.
But hurricanes… Hurricanes meander their way across the sea, prancing and preening. “Oo, look at me! I’m a big, round rain cloud! Oo! Look at my predicted ‘cone of disaster’! Better give me a name!” They’re like those irritating kids at the supermarket who spend all their time nasally nagging at their mom to look at them.
Hurricanes are the whiners of natural disasters.
Still, they can be a little harrowing to “ride out,” so for posterity, here is the story of how the Ladybug, Queen B, Nana B, and I survived Fay, the Tropical Storm that tried to be a Hurricane, but couldn’t quite make it. Hurricouldn’t Fay.
At 5 PM on Monday, you never would have known a hurricane was coming. Sure, it was gray and rainy, but Florida is like that most evenings in summer, I discovered. Nevertheless, the Weather Service was predicting Tropical Storm Fay to make landfall near the Naples area of Florida in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, and was warning that the rain and wind would steadily increase as the night wore on.
So the Nana B, at whose home we were staying, decided it was time to “lock down” for the storm. This meant going around the periphery of the house and dropping down storm shutters — retractable steel shutters that might best be described as “bulletproof Venetian blinds” — over each of the windows, as well as dropping a massive steel gate sealing off the house from the enclosed pool patio in the backyard (what Floridians call a “lanai”). I made a joke last week about the pristine state of my mother-in-law’s home as a result of it being hermetically sealed off from the outside world, but I didn’t know it actually could be.
From the outside, with all the storm shutters drawn, the house resembled nothing so much as giant orange armadillo rolled into a ball for its protection. From the inside, the house resembled a Gothic tomb: ominously spacious, dark, and silent. The expected sounds of a raging storm — the patter of rain, the howl of wind, the thrash of palm trees — are largely muted by the steel screens, and so the house is eerily quiet, save for the occasional shudder of the house against a sudden gust of wind and a slight white noise in the background. The steel shutters themselves snuff out all the external light, plunging the house into an artificial night. The many “indiglo” night lights the Nana B had installed in the house winked to life, illuminating the house in a blue glow that was bright enough to cast spooky shadows across the vast vaulted rooms, but dark enough not to see anything else. In fact, the only real light that pierced artificial night inside the house came from a single window in the den, which was covered not with the grim slats of a storm shutter, but instead with an undulating sheet of thick plastic that warped the outside world like a freakish one-way fun-house mirror.
Being inside a dark, sealed off house is a little unnerving. Turning on the lights helps with the dark but not the unnatural silence, and so does little to alleviate the sensation of being trapped. Fay was coming, and while she was not quite strong enough to be a hurricane, she’d still managed to kill at least 10 people, and there was no place to go to escape her. If it’s possible for a 2500 square hoot house to feel cramped, a hurricane — even a minor one — can do it.
After a couple of uncomfortable hours in the house, the Nana B decided it was time to go out for dinner, on the paradoxical grounds that most of the restaurants would be empty, since only morons would be out on a night like this.
I pointed out that that made no sense.
Still, we went out for fondue. Fondue is a form of dining wherein you eat food that you yourself cook in a pot placed on a stove at your table, and pay lots of money to do so.
I pointed out that that made no sense either.
After dinner, we returned home through the ever increasing rain and wind, and settled in for the night, waiting for Fay to pounce in the night like the Boogeyman. The Queen B slept with the Ladybug in the little girl’s room, partly to comfort her daughter, but mostly to escape my fits of snoring. The night was pretty quiet, save for the distant sound of rain and wind beyond the shutters… Every few hours I’d get up a walk over to the plastic-covered window, watching the warped images of palm trees thrashing about in silent wind and rain pour past streetlights in silent bucket-loads, waiting for Fay to pounce but getting only that sealed-off silence. Then at 5 AM, Fay arrived at our house.
I’m not sure how I expected the hurricane to announce it’s arrival, but ringing the doorbell wasn’t one of them.
Yet at 5 AM, when Fay was right over Bonita Springs, the silence in the house was deafeningly shattered by the doorbell noisily ringing. The storm’s surge was playing havoc with the electrical system, and the doorbell continued to ring repeatedly for another few minutes with its obliviously happy (and loud) tune that, if anything, was even more disconcerting than the silence of the house.
Eventually morning passed, and with it Fay. By 10 in the morning, Fay was far inland, and while the she was still pelting the house with rain and might gusts of wind, the threat of major flooding and damaged had passed for us, and so we pulled back the shutters and opened the house up to the world. The storm had thrashed a lot of the palm trees and filled the pool up flush to the patio, but beyond that had left the house pretty much untouched. I walked about in the rain and wind, listening to the clatter of raindrops and the crashing of palm fronds and the occasional distant snap of a palm tree breaking.
And the Ladybug? Well, she just wanted to sing in the rain.
In any event, we made it through Almost Hurricane Fay, thoroughly soaked, but otherwise safe and sound.