Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Hurricane Deja Vu

Was it really less than three weeks ago that Hurricane Charley was bearing down on Florida, and my husband and I were stuck 1500 miles away, frustrated at being unable to get to Celebration and worried about our friends and home? A hurricane striking with such destructive force inland is supposed to happen only once in a lifetime, if at all. But here comes number two, not even a month later.

As I type this, it's Wednesday evening, and we're scheduled to fly home Friday night. It's hard to say when, or even exactly where, the hurricane will strike, but nearly half-million Floridians have already been ordered to evacuate. In Palm Beach country, 300,000 residents have been warned to leave. Almost 200,000 more are being evacuated from mobile homes and low-lying areas in Brevard and Martin counties. Because of our frequent Disney cruises, I know mny people in the Brevard area, so I am praying for their safety.

It's hard to say just how hard the inland areas might get hit this time around. But even if Frances is weaker than Charley, it could strike areas that haven't yet recovered from the first devastating blow. When we flew home to Celebration last weekend, we were struck by the sight of countless blue tarps dotting the rooftops as our plane came in for a landing. The airport was still a disaster area, with wet carpet, roped-off areas and huge areas of missing ceiling tile as grim reminders of Charley's recent visit. And of course, the massive damage in the Kissimmee area isn't even lose to being fixed. Buildings that are sound in the first place might have a decent chance against Frances, but those that sustained damage will be no match if this new storm strikes with the same power.

I don't know if our flight is in danger of being cancelled yet. The last I heard was that the storm was expected to strike Florida on Saturday, but that could change at any time. With enough luck and prayers, maybe it will change course and miss the state entirely. But there's always a chance that it could come early, too, or that our flight could be cancelled so there won't be a chance of the plane being stranded at the airport the next day.

Even if we have time to get home, we face a difficult question. Do we stay in safety 1500 miles away, or do we go to Celebration to tough it out? I suspect that, if at all possible, we're going to head home. Last time, when there was no way we could get to Florida because all of the flights were cancelled, we spent every minute of the weekend obsessing. My husband was glued to the Weather Channel and the news stations, while my fingers flew across the keys of my laptop. I spend all of that Friday evening toggling between the Celebration webcam, reading the online discussions on the Front Porch and, and reading emails/viewing photos sent by friends who were experiencing the storm firsthand.

It was a strange, surreal experience to experience a "virtual storm." Even though we knew that our house was fine, other than some minor soffit damage, I don't think we ever really relaxed until we finally got home a week later and saw it with our own eyes.

So as crazy as it sounds, we hope that if Frances pays a visit, we'll be hunkered down in our powder room rather than far away. We consider ourselves Floridians now, and Celebration is our home, even though we have to spend too much time away. We're prepared to take the bad with the good. Florida is a paradise in many ways, but there's a price to be paid for the sunshine, palm trees, and living in Mickey's backyard.

It's now going to be a tense couple of days monitoring the weather sites on the internet and the news channels on t.v. This time around, we also have a Disney cruise planned for Thursday, September 9, along with some Celebration neighbors. Since 1998, we have sailed the Thursday or Friday before Labor Day every year, and we've had uncanny luck. We've sailed between two hurricanes (that was the infamous year that Floyd destroyed the dock at Disney's private island, Castaway Cay, shutting it down for months), but we'e never been in one. This is the first year that we're deviated from that schedule, booking our cruise the Thursday after Labor Day. And lo and behold, the hurricane will probably hit the week before. If you ever want to sail in hurricane season, plan your trip when I'm cruising and the odds are that you'll be safe.

Of course, that hinges on the fact that A) the Port Canaveral area doesn't sustain major damage; and B) that we can get to Florida at least by next Thursday morning. With this crazy year and it's once-a-century one-two punch, I don't take anything for granted anymore.

I'll be saying my prayers tonight to protect everyone in danger's way. I've only been a Floridian for a year now, but Lord knows that 2004 in a year I'll never, ever forget.

If you'd like to contact me, my email address is

You can find my site about Celebration, Florida, at

My Disney Cruise Line site is, my travel agency site is, and my life skills site is

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