Friday, July 08, 2005

Thar We Blow Again!

It seems like hurricane season just started, and already we have Dennis (the fourth named storm so far) bearing down on Florida after wreaking destruction in Jamaica and threatening to hit Cuba at any time. Last year we got hammered, but at least it was at the end of the season, so eventually we knew we were safe for another year. If it's been this bad and we're only in July, I dread imagining what will happen by September.

At Category 4, Dennis is a musclebound storm. Originally, it was supposed to avoid FL altogether, but now it looks like we're going to get some fringe effects. At worst, it could veer and attack us on the same path as Charley. I don't want to imagine that possibility; I still remember what Kissimmee and Poinciana looked like after the devestating wind and rain last year. They still aren't fully recovered, so another strong storm would be a death knell for many of the homes that barely survived the last blast.

We have bottled water and extra cat litter, but that's about the extent of our hurricane preparation. We need to stock up on cat food and human non-perishables, but it's one of those things we never quite get around to. I'm probably somewhat complacent by seeing how well our house survived last year. We got by with minor soffit damage from Charley; the other storms tossed our landscaping around but didn't damage the house. But that was due to the storm's course; if its track had been just a bit different, Celebration wouldn't have fared nearly as well.

I guess it's no different than the tornados that I'm used to in the Midwest. They can rip one house apart, leaving nothing but a slab or gaping basement hole, and leave the place next door untouched. We were fortunate never to have a tornado touch down close to our condo, but over the years there were some bad ones that ripped through neighboring communities. Plainfield, which is about half an hour's drive away, is smack dab in the middle of Tornado Alley. I had co-workers who lost everything when a particularly nasty twister tore through there a few years back.

Our old townhome was close that tornado-haven vicinity; I remember driving to pick up a propane tank one afternoon and noticing that the sky had turned green. Both my husband and I stared up in awe as a funnel cloud danced through the sky in the distance. Thankfully, it was moving away from us and never touched down.

While tornados were our worst weather worry in Illinois, Florida can get a double whammy. When a hurricane comes, the risk of tornados is elevated, too. Oh well, with any luck, we'll escape this one mostly unscathed. If it continues on its present course, we'll get some residual wind and rain...and consider ourselves very lucky.

I can deal with bad weather, but I'm praying frantically for a reprieve because of a special event on Saturday. I am very active on Celebration's Front Porch intranet forums, and this weekend we're having a picnic so posters and lurkers can meet each other face to face. Usually, we're all staring at computer screens, with no idea who we're bantering with via our keyboard. One of the posters had a brainstorm: Hold a picnic so we can meet in "real time."

We've been planning this get-together for quite some time, and yesterday we made the final preparations. We took a little field trip to Sam's Club and loaded up on burgers, hot dogs, chips, buns, condiments, plates, napkins, silverware, pop, and bottled water. Our little group is providing the core items, and attendees are bringing pot luck dishes.

I've been compiling a list of attendees, and it looks like we could have around 60 people (or maybe more if we get some surprise drop-ins). We've got the pavillion in North Village reserved so we have lots of lawn space for games and picnicking, as well as the pool for relief from the heat.

But now everyone is getting worried as the newscasters dangle Dennis as the lead story in each broadcast. The Fox newsteam has promised "responsible coverage," but so far they haven't defined that phrase. I guess they're implying that they won't resort to fear-mongering and sensationalism. We used to have that same thing happen in Chicago with snowstorms. A somewhat minor storm would be whipped by the media frenzy into "Killer Blizzard!" and "Monster Snowstorm!"

I hope they really do stick to responsible reporting because people in Florida are already gun-shy. Charley, Frances, and Jeanne showed us just how nasty a hurricane can be, even inland, and just how many storms can hit in one year. The anxiety fire doesn't need any more fuel.

Right now, the sky is a gorgeous shade of azure, punctuated by white, fluffy clouds. It's hard to imagine that tomorrow it could be dark and angry, with gale-forced winds. Maybe Mother Nature will take pity on us this year and focus her wrath elsewhere. Even if she just holds off for the picnic, I'll be happy; we can use a little fun before the hurricanes make their 2005 comeback.

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