OK, this is really happening. It’s not a drill. Hurricane Matthew is at our doorstep. And I’m dropping my critic’s fork and going back into the world of hard news again for the storm’s duration.
So what to do? I’ve lived in South Florida since 1989, been through Andrew and Wilma, and my advice is to greet Mother Nature’s awesome fury with respect and humor. Keep your wits about you, and don’t do anything stupid, such as windsurf or hunt for Pokemon during the storm.
Hopefully, if Matthew stays well off the coast and grazes us, we’ll laugh and yell at the frenzied media and forecasters for scaring us with a CYA Cone of Concern. But I’m also spooked by the memory of what happened with Hurricane Charley in 2004. Everyone pegged it to roar into Tampa. And then, Charley tore into Punta Gorda 100 miles south. Major hurricanes don’t know from forecast tracks and computer models. They often have a mind of their own.
Here now is an A-to-Z guide to Matthew:
A is for Andrew (1992), still the mother of all South Florida hurricanes and the barometer by which others are judged. Here’s hoping it stays that way.
B is for Batteries, which have been sitting on my shelf for so long, I pray they still work.
C is for Citizens, the state-run insurance company that has built up over $7 billion in reserves through these storm-free years. A few bad hours could wipe that all out.
All those smaller private insurers that have scooped up so many Citizens policies the last few years say they can handle a big storm. We shall see.
D is for Doughnuts, which I like to eat by the dozen when we’re in the Cone of Concern.
E is for Electricity, which we all take for granted until it's out for two weeks. FPL says it has hardened the grid since Wilma, which knocked out power to 98 percent of South Florida. Keep your flashlights handy.
F is for FEMA, the federal disaster agency. People who want to shrink government usually scream loudest when FEMA doesn't arrive quickly after a storm.
G is for Gamble, what homeowners such as me do when we don't install shutters.
H is for Hurricane Hysteria, the condition that strikes broadcasters when storm warnings are issued. For sanity’s sake, don’t watch too much TV too soon. But when the weather deteriorates, keep on top of information however you can (don’t forget an old-fashioned battery-powered radio).
I is for Insurance, which is ridiculously expensive and often seems a waste. But not today.
J is for Junk food. Goes great with hurricane hysteria.
K is for Krispy Kremes, one of my favorite Cone of Concern comfort foods (see D).
L is for Lowe's, which has lines as long as Home Depot's when big storms threaten.
M is for Max Mayfield, the soothing former National Hurricane Center director who talks us down as WPLG-Ch. 10's lead storm expert. If an asteroid were headed to Earth, I'd want to hear it from Mayfield.
N is for the National Hurricane Center in Doral, whose website is another essential: nhc.noaa.gov.
O is Oreos, another of my storm food favorites.
P is for Plywood, among the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse of prestorm purchases, along with bottled water, ice and gasoline.
Q is for Quiet, the kind of night we want Thursday.
R is for Renters, the most carefree people around today (they’re the ones throwing hurricane parties).
S is for Storm Surge, serious business for those near the coast. If there’s an evacuation order issued, heed it.
T is for Tums, which I chew by the bottle when my stomach is churning like the Atlantic.
U is for UKMET, one of the computer models used to predict the course of hurricanes. If you can name more than three, you lived here in the crazy storm years of 2004-2005.
V is for Vancouver, which sounds like a nice place to be right now.
W is for Wilma, the last hurricane to hit South Florida, in October 2005. My daughter was still in the womb for that one. This time, she’s hyperaware and more than a little concerned.
X is for Xanax, a prescription anti-anxiety drug. Used in a sentence: “Doctor, my heart is racing, may I please get some more Xanax.”
Y is for Yippee, the sound you make when a storm has passed and your roof is still attached.
Z is for Zantac, an antacid that comes in handy when you run out of Tums. Stay safe and good luck to all.
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