August 29, 2005



I've been wondering when my hurricane compadre Willie Drye, author of Storm of the Century: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, would check in at the Side Salad Weather Center. Willie's walked us down the aisle of a couple of these bad boys and contributed to the general knowledge of readers over at National Geographic in the process. (Willie's latest expert missive for NatGeo can be found here.)

Southern gentleman that he is, Willie attempts to comfort me for prematurely mocking this approaching cataclysm:

Hey guys:

On August 22, 1992, Jane and I were having lunch with a friend in a little cafe in Stuart, Florida. Someone mentioned that the first tropical storm of the hurricane season had formed. I'd never been through a hurricane, and I used a baseball metaphor to make a quip that I thought was terribly, terribly funny at the time: "So they finally got around to throwing out the first tropical storm of the season," I said. "It's about time."

24 hours later, Jane and I were in absolute panic, a couple of rookies staring down the barrel of Hurricane Andrew, totally clueless as to what one does to get ready for one of these things. I did stuff that day that I would never, ever admit to now, not even under oath after an injection of sodium pentothol, you'll never get it out of me so don't try. Luckily, the damn thing made landfall 120 miles south of us. But we didn't know where it was going on that unforgettable Sunday afternoon 12 years ago, and we were totally freaked.

I was convinced that Andrew cranked up from a tropical storm to a Cat 5 overnight because I dissed Mother Nature. So since then, I've never cracked wise about a developing hurricane.

But Jeff, it's not your fault -- at least, not yours alone -- that Katrina blew off the charts during the weekend. I have friends in the Keys who were ignoring the thing, who didn't even bother bringing in the lawn furniture, and as it blew by offshore, it took the roof off a hangar at the Marathon airport. One friend on Big Pine Key says he and his mate went to bed expecting some windy rain and awoke to reports of a tornado touching down not too far away. Another friend on Key Largo says his carpet is soaked because he didn't board up and the wind blew the rain beneath his doors.

So Katrina's ungodly strength may be inversely proportional to all of the razzberries it received as it approached Florida. Until NOAA proves me wrong, no one can really dispute that theory.

Going through a few hurricanes changes the way you relate to the world, doesn't it?



Indeed it does, brother.

The latest vitals on Katrina:

* Winds: 175 mph sustained

* Gusts: up to 190

* Possible storm surge: 28-feet

* Rain: Potential for 15 inches

* Waves: As high as 60 feet at the eyewall

* Disturbing wire service paragraph No. 1: "Scientists predicted Katrina could easily overtake that levee system, swamping the city under a 30-feet cesspool of toxic chemicals, human waste and even coffins that could leave more than 1 million people homeless.

* Disturbing wire service paragraph No. 2: Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard said some who have ridden out previous storms in the New Orleans area may not be so lucky this time."I'm expecting that some people who are die-hards will die hard," he said.

* Latest quote of doom: "New Orleans may never be the same." - Max Mayfield, National Hurricane Center director.

* Say goodbye to: Tony Peterson leaned over a balcony above Bourbon Street, festooned with gold, purple and green wreathes as Katrina's first rains pelted his shaved head. "I was going to the Superdome and then I saw the two-mile line," the 42-year-old musician said. "I figure if I'm going to die, I'm going to die with cold beer and my best buds."

Posted by Jeff at August 29, 2005 01:34 AM | TrackBack
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