August 14, 2004



See that radar? Bloomingdale is where I live. The rain right now is coming down in buckets.


The sad thing: It's the hardest it's rained all week. And a hurricane whipped past us yesterday.

It's now clear that everything that was predicted to happen to Tampa and St. Petersburg has now happened in Charlotte County. The destruction there is total. Places like Punta Gorda and Arcadia and further north in Lake Wales have taken their place in hurricane history along next to Florida City and Homestead and the Outer Banks.

The television footage from there is frightning. At least 90 percent of the mobile homes were damaged or obliterated. Even hurricane-code structures are damaged. The post office in Fort Myers had its roof peeled open. There isn't a tree or bush that was untouched. Everyone walks around thankful to still be walking around, but there is a glaze in their eyes that says they can't absorb the things that their eyes are showing them.

And yet here we sit in Tampa/Bloomingdale. We have more bottled water than God. Our pantries are full of food and storm supplies. We have enough batteries to open up an outlet store. Our homes are undamaged. Our children are dry and safe and warm, except when they're out playing in the rain, like my son is right now.

We did the same stuff that people further south did. And look what happened to them.


That graphic of my hits counter shows how much people who weren't in Florida were wanting to know about the storm. I get a nice amount of traffic for a site that goofs off a lot. But yesterday's traffic spiked seven-fold. Side Salad was among a handful of blogs that wrote during the hurricane. I didn't really even provide all that much information. But hundreds of people kept checking in at the site to see what the latest was.

People like a friend from Maryland who called this morning to check on us. That's one of the nice things that happened out of all of this - friends e-mailing to make sure we were okay, checking to see we were battening things down, sending well wishes that we would be safe. If there's a positive byproduct out of something so horrific, surely it's that. Every note I got touched my heart. We are blessed by the company of such wonderful friends.

But it's difficult to sit here and look at that devastation and do nothing. There will be a point when it will be time to help the people who were hurt the most. It's why people in the Carolinas and Georgia come to the aid of Floridians after the canes blow through - and why we do the same for them.

I'll always remember the convoys of electrical trucks and water trucks and food trucks that headed south on I-95 and I-75 after Hurricane Andrew. I remember the friends who filled pickup trucks with bottled water, drove three hours south to Dade County and handed them to the first people they saw. It was a hint of the things I would see on TV and read about after 9/11; people helping people.

I wish it would continue, but I know better. The days will normalize as the cleanup continues on, but nerves will fray. Opportunists will come in search of money, trying to capitalize on other people's misfortune. Contractors will prey on the weak and anxious, promising to fix roofs and walls and lives and then delivering nothing but debt and misery. I saw it happen after Hurricane Andrew. Unfortunately, that's the cycle of the storm.

And although it might not seem like it right now for those living there, much of life in Charlotte and Polk and Lee counties will return. But there will always be a scar from Charley. And there should be.

Andrew showed us that everything bad that could happen will happen. Charley showed that as much as you think technology can show you about a storm, it is still a storm and it will do whatever it wants and there isn't anything you can do about it.

And we should look at those scars and remember. Because there's plenty of time left in hurricane season. And we all still live in Florida.

Posted by Jeff at August 14, 2004 01:03 PM

Glad your okay, good luck!

Posted by: DivineMsCupie at August 14, 2004 03:43 PM

So very, very true. Every word. I survived Hurricane Hugo in 1989 living in a "modular home" in a "modular park" in South Carolina.

I saw a lot of price-gouging and general fuckwittery before the cane came through, but afterward, I was overwhelmed by how many people came to help. And, I hate to say it, but I was pleased to see the asshole hotelier's roof blown off (he would be the asshole who auctioned off his last remaining room to desperate newcomers like me -- I had been in SC for exactly 30 days and had my household goods for exactly 3 days at that point. I just walked away).

At any rate, to paraphrase: it's always darkest just after the storm but the sun will shine again. My heart is with all the residents who have no more residence and I'm so glad to see you're safe and sound.

Take care,

Posted by: Emma at August 14, 2004 04:41 PM

Glad that you and your family are ok. My friend Kent's parents had to evacuate, they're still waiting to hear what's happened to their home...

Posted by: Meg at August 14, 2004 07:16 PM

Thanks for all of the Charley info; much appreciated. I also enjoyed the "doggy thong" (LOL! what is wrong with these product designers...) and the Bush photos. Cheers.

Posted by: Stef at August 15, 2004 01:57 AM

Great post Jeff. I am donating a bunch of water and canned goods today. Even with another storm brewing, I will just buy more later in the week if need be. Seeing what happened down there is scary and depressing. Seeing 'what could have been' is never easy...

Posted by: Jen at August 15, 2004 08:55 AM

Hey Jeff! Excellent post! I will definitely be keeping an eye on your blog now that I've found it. I am glad that you and yours are doing well. I and all of my friends here in Washington were keeping a close watch.

Posted by: Stacy at August 15, 2004 05:27 PM