Hurricane Matthew – We plan; God laughs. Twenty-four hours before we were scheduled to evacuate to Atlanta, Southwest Airlines texted me that the flight was canceled. The following day, Thursday, airport officials closed Fort Lauderdale’s airport two hours before the flight was scheduled to leave.
So we were forced to go to Plan B: board up and hunker down. Our newspaper print deadline got moved up about 12 hours, which gave me much of Wednesday afternoon to prepare. That means an expensive trip to Home Depot to buy plywood, screws, tarps, etc.
“Big-box” stores like Home Depot, Walmart, Publix, etc. have hurricane preparation down to a science. They obviously follow the weather forecasts and pre-position additional supplies of plywood, water, etc. At Home Depot, most of the required hurricane supplies: batteries, flashlights, garbage bags, charcoal, lighter fluid, etc., were all in one location. They never seem to run out of much of anything.
Though there was tension in the air, there was always also a sense of “we’re all in this together”-style unity. “Good luck and stay safe” was the phrase of the day.
After unloading 20 pieces of plywood by myself and lugging them to the various windows around the house, the rest of the family and a church member helped finish boarding up. We all got a good night’s sleep on Wednesday, and got up Thursday – the day that Matthew was forecast to strike Florida – to make final preparations and evacuate to Lisa’s mom’s home, which had custom-built storm shutters for every door and window.
I was the last to leave. I loaded up our company van with my 10-year old hurricane emergency kit, a generator that hadn’t been in operation since 2005, and headed out. All Broward County roads were closed, so I-95 was as empty as I’ve ever seen it. I spent the time between 3 p.m. and sunset refreshing my hurricane kit and trying to resuscitate the generator.
Finally, the rain became constant and blustery and the wind picked up. I went inside, grabbed my favorite adult beverage, warmed some leftover pizza, glued myself to the Weather Channel, and waited for the inevitable power outage. It never came. And the house was so secure, we could barely hear the wind outside.
After a somewhat restless night, I emerged the following morning to a typically humid overcast Florida day. Other than an inordinate amount of leaves blown off various trees, there was no evidence that a 120 mph hurricane was anywhere nearby. Matthew had “wobbled” to the east, largely sparing South Florida as it hammered the Bahamas and headed north. Thank God for the wobble.
However, my hometown of Daytona Beach was not so fortunate, as Matthew decided to wobble west. But even there, things could have been much worse. A solar panel blew off Mom’s house there, causing a hole in the roof (which her neighbor generously covered). She had evacuated to Tampa, and my sister and her husband to Orlando.
And where there are storms, there are unscrupulous construction companies following them. Mom got a $33,000 roofing repair estimate. Needless to say, it was rejected.
Matthew didn’t loop around and hit Florida again as many hurricane prediction models forecast.
Still, we won’t remove the plywood from the house until hurricane season officially ends on Dec. 1, assuming no storms are on the horizon then…
Weather, politics and media: As of this writing Wednesday morning, Hurricane Matthew has killed thousands of people in Haiti and 38 people in the United States, including 19 in North Carolina.
More than one million structures have been destroyed in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina thus far, with an estimated damage of $10 billion. Both the death toll and damage estimate will rise as flooding continues.
All four “Matthew” states have Republican governors who relentlessly attack the federal government as too big, bloated, and incompetent. They brag about how states can handle their own business. They attack traditional media as unnecessary and untrustworthy.
Yet, they turn to traditional media to get info out because social media alone is insufficient. They ask for federal government relief before the first raindrop falls. Then they get frustrated because people stay when governors say they should evacuate, and evacuate when governors say they should stay.
Continually feeding paranoia and distrust of institutions like government and mass media for political purposes has real world life-and-death consequences. Or do the consequences matter?
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow the Florida Courier (@flcourier), the Daytona Times (@daytonatimes) and me (@ccherry2) on Twitter.