Following #Matthew

Image from NOAA via Weather Underground.

You don’t fuck with a hurricane.

As I write this, Hurricane Matthew is about 45 miles NNE of Cape Canaveral, Florida. After devastating western Haiti and plowing across the northern Bahamas, it’s remained just off the Florida coast for its entire U.S. run, leaving hundreds of thousands without power. Damages and casualties are still to be determined, but the National Weather Service is warning of a huge storm surge. Cape Canaveral has recorded gusts in excess of 100 mph and Matthew remains a Category 3 storm, not expected to weaken until it enters the waters off Georgia.

Hurricanes always give me a pit in my stomach.

It’s from growing up in New Orleans, where every storm that entered the Gulf of Mexico was a threat. Gulf storms are notoriously unpredictable, with wobbles and feints that may mean landfall within hundreds of miles of predictions. Forecasting has gotten much better since the late ’70s, but for me, every hurricane still brings back memories of Nash Roberts and his magic marker, along with filling bathtubs and pulling out plywood.

The legendary Nash Roberts and his trusty magic marker.

When the hurricane landed somewhere else, I felt a sense of sadness for those in its path — but, I can’t deny, relief that it missed New Orleans. I’d heard stories about Betsy, which wrecked houses in our then-new neighborhood, and wondered what would happen when a storm inevitably made New Orleans its target. And I read stories about Camille, about the people who allegedly hosted a Pass Christian, Mississippi, hurricane party in the face of one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the U.S. (The story later turned out to be a hoax, but the damage was very real.)

I’d long since left when Katrina hit, but even though it veered to the east  of New Orleans at the last minute, we all know what happened when the levees broke. A few months later I drove Highway 90 through Biloxi and Gulfport. That area, too, was still a long way from recovery, the road lined with debris.

Regardless of how serious Matthew turns out to be , it baffles and angers me how anyone can treat it lightly. I saw a piece on the Daily Dot about skepticism from Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge about the ferocity of the storm. Really, guys? I hope your coastal mansions managed to stay above the tide, because others might not be so lucky. Not that you’ll have any sympathy, I know.

In the meantime, it’s back to the Weather Channel.



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