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Friday, August 26, 2011

Memories of Hurricane Season

Hurricane Irene as seen from space.

As I read Facebook updates of my friends on the East coast preparing for Hurricane Irene's arrival, my mind flashes back to childhood memories in Florida, where I lived for 13 years, starting at age 7.
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In our many years living in Cape Coral, Florida, there is only one time that we actually evacuate our house. The hurricane's path is still undetermined and the newsman advises that residents should move closer inland;  my dad, ever afraid of natural disasters, takes his television confidante seriously. We pack up the car and stay at a hotel an hour or two away and spend the night eating treats and telling stories.

When we come back to our house the next day, we are faced with the devastating aftermath of one missing shingle from the roof. Having been prepared for a huge disaster, I am somewhat disappointed.

A neighbor mentions that while we were gone, a funnel cloud had formed over our house and was reaching down before it suddenly disappeared. The story is enough to complete my dad's justification for our evacuation.
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My first memory actually involving fear of hurricanes comes from one hurricane season when my father unglues himself from a long tete-a-tete with the evening news coverage of an approaching hurricane. We live on a water canal in Cape Coral, and my dad is worried the water level in the canal will rise dramatically and flood the house. He freaks me out when in a panicked tone he shares, "and they say it sounds like a train coming!"

I cannot sleep that night! I keep putting my ear to the window throughout the night listening for choo-choo train sounds. I had thought my dad meant an approaching hurricane would sound like a train horn, so I am not even listening for the right sound. Regardless, I am up all night and am exhausted for school the next day.
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*Big John is 28 feet tall.
A common ritual when expecting a hurricane is to rush the local grocery store at the last minute and buy supplies from nearly empty shelves. My parents never have anything for emergency storage (except for several barrels of "Freak Out") which means we participate in this ritual almost every year in Florida.

During one particular storm, the rain is pouring down hard even though the center of the hurricane is still a ways off. My sister and I decide to tag along with my father to get batteries, water, bread and other essentials at the store. The grocery store is Big John's.

Now, the entrance doors to Big John is on an elevated concrete walkway. Cars can drive right in front of the store on their way in or out of the plaza. On the opposite side of this "drive through" area is concrete curbing and walkway where pedestrians can stand when leaving their cars and waiting to cross the drive-through before heading for the store's front doors. Something like this:

During this storm, I apparently forget about all of these features because the rain has filled in the entire drive-through area with water to the height of the concrete curbing on both sides. I am running from the car in the rain trying to catch up to my dad. I do not foresee the next thing that happens.

I seriously don't remember falling. One second, I am filled with adrenaline looking at the back of my dad; the next second, I am underwater. Specifically, I am lying flat, face down, in a pool of dirty, street rain water.  Flummoxed, I pull myself up to all fours, trying to orient myself, and look up to find my father laughing.

"What happened?" he says between laughs.

"I... I don't know" is all I manage to say. I am one embarrassed preteen when I walk into the store completely soaked from hair to sneakers as customers look on. A cashier takes a look at me and, in all seriousness, asks if the hurricane has arrived, and my dad cannot contain his laughter.
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One of the things you do in Florida if you cannot afford to cover your windows with plywood (as was the usual case for us) is to put duct tape across the glass in an asterisk pattern; the idea is that if the glass is hit by some flying object, the tape will hopefully hold the broken glass together.

So, my father goes out and buys a LOT of duct tape. He immediately has all of us taping up the many windows in the house from the inside. When we are finished and meet back up in the living room, it becomes apparent to all of us that Dad bought the cheapest duct tape there is because the tape is gently falling OFF the windows. We try to make the tape stick by rubbing our fingernails on it.

Sitting at home through the storm, the tape strips on the windows peel down due to the strenuous weight of gravity. My dad every so often, blows his breath at a window to test the tape's resistance against wind gusts. We fall to the floor giggling.
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We were very blessed to never have been caught in the middle of a devastating hurricane. Prayers to my friends on the East Coast. May Hurricane Irene be gentle on you and leave only memories you can later look back on and chuckle.

* Big John used to hold grocery bags when I first moved to Florida. The bags went away when the store went out of business.


Kristen said...

When I saw the title of your post, I almost didn't read it because I didn't want to be terrified and stay up all night. I'm glad I gave it a chance. =o) Your drawings are fantastic, and yes I laughed at the puddle-soaked Adhis. Sorry.

I hope everyone is playing it safe tonight. Prayers for them!

Lyns said...

What a fun post to read (considering the subject matter). We should all right down things we remember. It seems like I've been told that before????