Thursday, September 7, 2017

My Friend Irma


“It’s comin’ the tornaduh!”---Jim Lavendusky

Tuesday, September 5

Gentlemen, start your generators!  It’s that time of year, again.  The Witches of Africa brew up some serious Evil in giant cauldrons along their west coast, dump the stuff into the adjacent Atlantic Ocean and wait for the fun to start.  Most of the efforts don’t take, of course, similar to the success rate of a drunk with damp matches.  But even a besotted thumbless man occasionally raises a flame.  Fortunately, many of the newborn storms lack the wherewithal to persevere or stumble off into the night, lost, finally catching a steamer to the far off Azores or disintegrating in loneliness and frustration.  But it just takes one uninvited guest to spoil the party, and it looks like we have one.  Her name is Irma.  The lady has been fiddling around with her eyeliner and makeup, in no particular hurry to choose a final destination, but now weather conditions emanating from the north and west may decide it for her.  The bad news is that destination might be us.

Most non-Floridians are grossly misinformed about the Sunshine State.  They think (a) all of us live on the beach, and (b) we get hurricanes all the time.  The truth is a large percentage of us live inland and we haven’t had a serious bell-ringer in over a decade unless you want to count that tiny spat Broward County had with Matthew last October.  The panhandle gets an occasional dousing from storms headed for Alabama and Mississippi, but the people who live there are all Republicans who disbelieve in Global Warming and deserve all the weather insults they can get.  Last time I looked, however, the Weather Oracles had drawn a million little lines designating Irma’s path all over the state of Florida, so we may be in for it this time.  So, naturally, we’re looking for hatches to batten.

We learned in 2004 that the first thing to do is get your generator ready.  The power will go out, especially in this neck of the woods where it is gerbil-driven. Clay Electric has a vast herd of the critters powering wheels and treadmills all over the north-central part of the state and this is usually sufficient to maintain a modicum of reliability.  In times of duress, unfortunately, the rodents panic, get out of sync and blow the conductors.  During Hurricane Charley, the power was out for a week.  If a person is without generator (which virtually everyone in those days was), that means no food-storage, no AC, no television, no clothes washing.  We flushed the toilets with outside water, but that was loaded with tadpoles and we ended up with toads in our toilet.  Before long, the bathtub was filled with dirty clothes, some of them wet dirty clothes, the kind you get from feeding horses and patching fences in a downpour.  Nobody sleeps, due to the broiling temperatures and the possibility that a giant oak tree might fall on your bedroom.  Oh, and you may have a few unexpected guests, the kind which arrive when the county imposes an evacuation decree on mobile-home residence.  We got the Gaffalione family---Steve, Shannon, Tyler, Cheyenne and an infant---for three days, before a microscopic hotel room opened up outside Gainesville.  Obviously, hurricanes sometimes inculcate bravery, resourcefulness and determination.  Tyler, a feisty sort, managed to overcome the mindbending experience to emerge as thoroughbred racing’s Apprentice Jockey of the Year eleven years later.  Every cloud has a silver lining.


Hurricane Advice For Rookies

Long, long ago, in a kingdom far, far away, there was a time when the poor haggard people had no bottled water.  They had to make do with strange fluids drawn from the earth and transmitted through a series of pipes to an unlikely instrument called a “sink.”  On the back of the sink were a pair of “faucets,” one for cold water, one for hot.  Fluid going to the latter passed through a “hot water heater” on its way to the sink.  Admittedly, all this was terribly primitive but it worked for the unprivileged people of that era.  And in times of crisis, it will probably still work today.

The other day at a Publix market in Ocala, we noticed a man filling his diminutive automobile to the brim with Zephyrhills spring water.  I asked him if was planning on entering the burgeoning H2O business, but he said no, he was merely preparing for Hurricane Irma, getting enough water for the family.  Maybe he was Charles Manson in disguise and he was buying water for the entire commune or perhaps he was anticipating The Second Siege of St. Augustine, because this guy had enough water for both of them.  Hello out there---rather than scratching your eyes out over the lack of water on the supermarket shelves, how about bottling your own water?  Or just fill up the bathtub like Mr. Weather is always advising.  We realize it’s a radical solution but desperate times call for desperate measures.

After the water problem is solved, secure your house and vehicles.  Remove from the property any objects which could come crashing through your bedroom window in the middle of the night or threaten outside animals.  Consider where your cars, trucks and tractors are parked.  Any trees nearby?  Are they in an area which could possibly flood?  If your house is a significant distance from the road, think about placing one vehicle at the end of your driveway in case fallen trees block your egress.  Yes, we know, you have a chain saw, but some of these trees are really BIG.

Keep a bunch of flashlights and candles around, and plenty of replacement batteries.  Make sure you have a cell phone charger for your car, as a last resort.  The utilities could be out for days and the generator fuel doesn’t last forever.  Load up on food which doesn’t require a refrigerator or cooking.  Make sure you have a battery-operated radio, matches, duct tape, raingear, plastic garbage bags, a manual can-opener and a churchkey.  Always keep several pastries on hand in case of emergency.  Make friends with someone who has a helicopter.

Okay, you’re ready. 


Post-Hurricane Advice For Rookies

Directly after a serious hurricane hits, you will be staying home for awhile.  First, the roads will be flooded somewhere near you and second, downed trees will be blocking your passage.  You could, of course, walk, if there was anywhere worth walking to.  Plan on eating in a lot.  Siobhan, like the wily Hawaiian she is, once cooked a couple of meals underground.  After a day or two, the county usually clears a path through the underbrush, meaning you can drive again.  The first places to get power will be the interstate-adjacent islands, so you can eat something outside of canned bok choy.  If you belong to a gym, which clever people like Bill do, your family will be welcome to use the showers.  If not, try calling an empowered neighbor and begging for bathing privileges.  When they ask what time you’d like to come, tell them you’re waiting on the porch.  The early bird gets the loofah. 

Do not try to drive your car through areas which look like Lake Erie.  Just because some other guy made it doesn’t mean you will.  Stay on the interstates and major roads as much as possible, even if the trip is longer.  And remember, the residents of seriously compromised areas aren’t in the market for sightseers.  Some of them will throw lighted matches at you.  Leave them alone.

The first order of business when the storm abates is to check your trees, especially the water oaks, which can be (a) very big and (b) prone to crush you like a bug.  Weakened trees don’t necessarily fall during the storm, some of them like to wait and catch you off-guard.  It’s a tree thing.  It’s also a good idea to have equipment that does not require batteries.  You know how batteries are.  Just when you need them most, they run away and hide under the bed like your local congressman.  One battery-operated critter you can put to good use, however, is a fan, especially important for sleeping.  Even if you have a generator, air-conditioners draw an enormous amount of power and you may not have enough juice to keep all the balls in the air.  Fan batteries come from good families and are raised properly; they will not abandon you in a pinch.

Oh, and one more thing.  Keep your generator away from the house in a small outbuilding or storage facility.  If, for some reason, you decide to ignore this advice, at least procure a carbon monoxide monitor so you don’t wake up to find yourself dead.  All the high-class families are getting them.  If there are any more questions, you know where to find me.  And bring along a raspberry pie, I’ll be hungry.


Thursday, September 7

The prospects are not too cheery.  While chances are we will not be demolished like the islands, not many of us non-panhandle Floridians are getting off scot-free short of the last minute intervention of The Fates or a crack team of mutant superheroes.  The ultimate sunny circumstance would be a late decision by Irma to travel north about fifty miles out to sea.  We got that little miracle last year with Matthew so it would be a bit presumptuous expecting two in a row.  Sunday and Monday look like demolition derby days so who’s to say when we’ll see you again?  The Flying Pie prides itself on its high dependability quotient but the best laid plans of mice and Pie often go awry in the wake of unparalleled catastrophes.

Still, We’re expecting to be here next Thursday, all spruced up in our post-hurricane finery, with terrific tales to tell, aquaphotos to display.  That would be if the good Lord’s willin’ and the creek don’t rise.   We’re not too uncomfortable about that first part but we’re pretty worried about the creek.

That may be all, folks.  But we hope not.