August 13, 2004



After you wake up to a horrific peal of wind chimes that are tossing in the wind because a hurricane is on its way, you don't really feel like sleeping. So I called it 3 hours and got dressed.

Which of course woke the dog. Which then woke the wife. Which then woke my mother. And so on.

During all this, I decided to make one last dash for gas in both cars and for some moolah at the ATM. Surprisingly, both were still in plentiful supply at 6 a.m.

Everyone was stone-faced when I pulled up to the Hess pump. I only heard a couple words exchanged between a couple drivers. Those words: Water and Generator.

There seemed to be plenty of gas at the station I went to. The only pumps with bags over the handles - the international petroleum sign for "We're Out Of Gas" - was on the premium pump, of all things.

Last night while driving home, there were lines at every station I passed that still had gas. And half of the ones I passed were closed already.

Charley hasn't turned everyone into raging assholes yet, but you can feel the tension. I went on my way home to take a stab at getting bags of ice and found several men hovering around the freezer at the downtown Tampa Publix. A stock boy was dragging a pallet of bags covered with Celophane and joked that, "You can have some if you help me unwrap it all."

Since you can never have enough goodwill, I pointed him to prop the door over and slung him about 20 bags, like wild west firefighters handing off pails of water. When we were done, I had 8 bags, his gratitude and his wishes for me to "stay safe."

I went around the house taking photos of each room of the house and of the exterior to document our belongings and the pre-storm state of our house in case of damage. There's something freaky about doing that, but there's no way around it. Everything I own is now stored online in a photo database. That's a startling thought.

My father has a 42-foot boat behind his first-floor condo in Treasure Island. He's trying to move it to a bigger slip that would allow him to lay a little more mooring line out. That way he won't have to babysit the boat and he can bolt over the bay to my house in Valrico. If he can't get situated before the winds rise, he's stuck with the prospect of watching his boat get smashed against the pilings and of seeing his condo fill with storm surge water. After winds reach 40 mph, they'll close the bridges and he won't be able to get to my house.

This is why the experts always urge you to have a hurricane plan. You shouldn't be buying gas on the day of landfall. You shouldn't be searching for cash or water or canned goods at 5 a.m. You shouldn't be figuring out where the boat should be.

As smart as you think you are and as prepared as you think things are, they never seem to be quite finished enough.

There is no wind at the moment. The humidity is hanging like a wet shirt outside. The trees aren't moving. Neither are the people, at this point.

What things will be like in 12 hours is anyone's guess.

Posted by Jeff at August 13, 2004 08:10 AM