It’s 1:45 pm on a Thursday, but this is no ordinary Thursday. Hurricane Dorian is bearing down on my house in M.I.S.C. Horrific rains are whipping the roof and sides of my house relentlessly, looking for the smallest crack so they can enter.
The eye of the storm is churning furiously in the sea just 40 miles from my front door. During the night my wife and I rose and went to her Creativity Room where she breathes life into amazing things, like shell wreaths and delicate fairy books that she spent thousands of hours creating.
Afraid that Dorian might have his way, she asked that we move them to a safer place in the house and wrap them in plastic. Three hours later the job was done, and we slept soundly while the winds raged outside our window.
You’d think that the storm would be further along by now, but it’s a bully, taking its time, beating anyone and anything exposed to its fury. Just look what it did in the Bahamas.
Forecasters are predicting that winds will increase to anywhere between 45 and 75 miles-per-hour later this afternoon. Torrential downpours are accompanying the terrifying winds, so we haven’t seen anything yet.
I’ve done what I can to prepare for Dorian. I hope it was enough. I’ll tell you about it in a minute, but first let me relate a true story that happened three days ago at a local Home Depot. While picking up supplies, I overheard customers and employees discussing the impending storm. Everyone seemed to have their opinion about how bad it would be.
Some based their opinion on the forecast and logic; others were talking… let’s see, how can I put this delicately? Others were talking out of the seat of their pants.
“It’s not going to be bad.”
“We’re not going to get anything.”
“It’s not going to be as bad as they predict.”
“They always say that to scare you.”
I wonder if those who voiced those optimistic forecasts are sitting safely in their own homes now or in a shelter. Hurricanes can be so unforgiving when you don’t prepare for one.
While standing in line, I couldn’t help but hear something else that was pretty stupid. “There’s nothing I can do about it, so I’m here to pick up paint for my daughter’s bedroom.” Someone else chimed in: “You got that right. They tell me I need to sandbag my house, but that ain’t gonna make any difference.”
Well, the first man was half right. There is absolutely nothing you can do to direct the storm or mitigate its intensity unless you’re a devout believer, and can talk God into helping out a little. But there’s plenty you can do to prepare for the worst. I don’t live in a flood zone, so I don’t have to worry about sand bags, but I’m smart enough to know there are other things that need to be done.
I would almost feel silly admitting this to those numbskulls at Home Depot, but I spent four days turning my house into a virtual man-of-war. I didn’t roll any cannons out; my neighbor across the street might have been terrified had I done that, but there were a number of key things I did do.
First, I climbed onto the roof of my sunporch and caulked the seams of the metal sheets to keep out rain that always seems to find a way in. While up there, I inspected my roof and found two cracked shingles and a vent that needed caulking. Done and done!
On Sunday, I cleaned out gutters, far from a glorious job. Hauling a ladder around the house and having to keep climbing it is hardly my idea of fun. Sticking my hand into rotted leaves and muck is even less so. My friends at Home Depot, no doubt, were home drinking beer and watching football.
I spent Monday screwing three-foot anchors into the ground around my shed so I could tie it down. Without tiedowns, it was likely to blow into my neighbor’s yard or worse into the next county. I use the word tiedown, but it’s probably the wrong word. Chaining it down would be far more accurate.
Let me explain something to you about these tiedown kits they sell. They give you four sturdy anchors and a strand of wire that a pencil neck like pirate Stede Bonnet could rip with his bare hands. The strands might be good for flossing, but that’s it. So on Tuesday, I got the heaviest chain I could find and had my friendly Home Depot associate cut an 8-foot length into four sections. The whole thing probably weighed about forty pounds. I then spent the rest of the day chaining my shed to the ground.
Yesterday, I spent the morning disassembling my pirate paradise, so pieces of it wouldn’t end up in North Carolina near the shoals where Blackbeard deliberately sank his Queen Anne’s Revenge. Screens, conch shells, pirate flags, two skeletons (one with a wooden leg), and furniture all had to be packed into the shed.
Of course, that didn’t include twelve flamingos that roam my pirate paradise. Boy, did they squawk when I corralled them up.
When I finished, I thought of the numbskulls who said there was nothing they could do, and I wanted to drive to Home Depot and hit them over the head with one of my flamingos. They would have been upset. My flamingo would have been upset, so I had a shot of rum instead.
It’s getting close to three o’clock, and that means I have an hour before Dorian fires a vicious series of broadsides that’s bound to shake the rafters of my home. I hope I did enough to prepare for the attack. As for the two knuckleheads who couldn’t or wouldn’t help themselves, God help them. Oh, wait! God helps those that help themselves. So I guess that’s not going to happen.
As the ever-vigilant Coast Guard who has been doing so much for so many in this storm says, Semper Paratis. That’s Latin which literally means always prepared. Or as the United Coast Guard says: Always Ready.
What do you do to get ready for a monster storm? Let me know, and I’ll pass your ideas on. Stay safe out there.
The Uncommon Mariner
P.S. We should never forget the huge debt of gratitude we owe to the men and women of the United States Coast Guard during this crisis. They have sacrificed so much and given so much of themselves to keep everyone safe.
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Hurricane Matthew has long blown out to sea, and I know I speak for millions when I say good riddance. What began as a category four hurricane finally limped out to sea as a tropical storm after a week of spreading death and destruction to millions and creating havoc in the lives of millions more.
We should be particularly mindful of the folks in Haiti who lost over three hundred sons and daughters, parents, and grandparents when it crossed through the Windward Passage, the strait separating Cuba from Haiti. Ironically, it’s the same route buccaneers and pirates took hundreds of times when they wreaked havoc on passing ships in the eighteenth century Caribbean.
The Bahamas, as vulnerable as they are with their mostly low lying country, were spared the deadly impact of Matthew. Since Nassau was once a pirate stronghold with the ships of Benjamin Hornigold and Blackbeard filling their harbor, I’d like to think maybe they were keeping a watchful eye over the islands.
As for my wife and I, after two days of preparation, we finally evacuated our home in Murrells Inlet. At the time, Matthew was a category four hurricane still tormenting Haiti and the Caribbean, and Governor Haley of South Carolina was issuing evacuation orders.
Though the storm was downgraded to a category one when it arrived on my front door step, I don’t regret leaving. It gave my wife and I the opportunity to reunite with her cousin and his lovely wife in North Carolina where they were gracious enough to host us for five days. The laughter and memories we shared were priceless, and Johnny’s stories about his time in Vietnam gave me an even deeper appreciation of the Vietnam vet. Thanks Johnny and Peggy. I hope you realize how much it meant to us.
People ask me, “Don’t you feel a little bit foolish leaving when all that South Carolina had was a category one storm?” We all know Monday Morning quarterbacks are pretty common, and their insights worthless. As a writer I’ve done much research not only on pirates and shipwrecks but hurricanes as well, and I know how devastating a category four hurricane can be.
Governor Haley and I don’t share much in the way of political perspectives, but I have to give her credit. She gave everyone ample warning and was right to issue an evacuation for her state when she did.
Had Matthew moved a little faster and hugged the coastline a little tighter, the devastation and loss of life from Florida to South Carolina would have been catastrophic.
The folks who chose to remain behind would have been caught in massive traffic jams while a horrific storm bore down on them. How do you explain to your kids when your car is suddenly swept away in flood waters that you were too stupid or obdurate to evacuate earlier?
Hurricanes are merciless. They don’t care how smart you are or how rich; they don’t care how busy you are or how important. They don’t care how many storms you’ve survived in the past. Stand in the face of one often enough, and one day it will be your last.
Soon the cleanup will be complete, and the storm a distant memory. I hope neither the countries of the Caribbean or the United States have to endure any more for quite a while. Many of us need time to deal with Matthew’s aftermath. As for those unaffected by the storm, they might want to reassess their wait-and-see strategy for dealing with hurricanes. One day it will save their lives.
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In case you haven’t heard, June 01st is the official start of hurricane season, and it doesn’t come to an end until December 01st. A lot can happen in six months and sometimes does, but if you’re prepared, you’ll be in better condition to cope than if you allow yourself to remain clueless.
Hurricanes don’t always know they’re supposed to hit between June and November 30th, so don’t be surprised if an occasional tropical storm becomes obstinate and sets her own pattern. Tropical storm Ana formed over Easter weekend in 2003 though she didn’t amount to much.
Hurricane season doesn’t really ramp up until mid August then it can be a roller coaster ride through October. That’s not to say that killer storms won’t hit before that or even in November because they have, it’s just that the season
Intensifies as it grows later till finally it dies down.
Most people think the real damage from hurricanes is caused by wind. The truth is winds can be extremely deadly, but the tidal surge accounts for a vast majority of deaths. Audrey hit east Texas in 1957, pushing a massive tidal surge forward while unsuspecting residents slept in their beds. Over five hundred people perished. The storm surge of Camile on August 18, 1969 left over two hundred and fifty dead from Louisiana to Virginia.
So what should you do to prevent you or your family from becoming a statistic? Three things: One, listen to officials and follow their directives. When they tell you to prepare to evacuate, be ready to go. Two, Be prepared. This means getting your property storm ready and your family ready to move if necessary. Three, have a plan. Know what you need to do, what you need to bring with you, and who you will need to contact.
Several things are important if you want to minimize damage to your property or danger to yourself. Cut down dead trees and branches near your home now. They’ll look pretty darn ugly sticking through your roof when you could have done something about it earlier. Continue reading →