Thursday, September 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Hurricane Guide

Carlton: The destructive, unpredictable whim of a hurricane

Here’s what a lot of us think, truth be told, every time those computer models start stretching their colored tentacles toward the place we live:

Please not here.

Please not us.

A fierce and powerful hurricane hurtled toward the East Coast this week, another monster storm with another deceptively friendly name — this time, Florence.

And this time, not us. But we know something about how it feels for the people who live there.

We know the rush to get ready or get out. We know the dread and the weird quiet beforehand when there’s nothing left to do but wait. We know wind that sounds like no other wind.

You hope that the times in your adult life when you are actually afraid will be few, but a hurricane bearing down on your town is one of them.

By now a lot of us have prepared for, fled from or hunkered down for a hurricane. They are the dark side of an otherwise pretty good life here, like fiery red ant bites you will suffer if you live here long enough, or sinkholes, or alligators that turn up where you would rather they not, or stepping off our famous sugar-sand beaches into the surf and getting a jolting sting from a ray. It’s the stink and burn of a Red Tide algae bloom that leaves behind a stunning amount of dead marine life.

It was not good news that the politics of disaster were boiling over even before Florence hit land, before we got any glimpse of how well government will handle it.

But President Trump was already having his own Brownie’s-doing-a-heckuva-job moment, calling response to the disaster that left nearly 3,000 dead in post-hurricane Puerto Rico an "incredible, unsung success" and accusing Democrats of ginning up the numbers to make him look bad.

Get ready for a whole lot of that after this one.

Back in 1992 it was Hurricane Andrew slamming into my hometown of Miami, Charley hitting our west coast in 2004 — a terrible year — and Wilma hurtling across South Florida in 2005.

And one year ago this week, it was powerful Irma hitting Florida, tracking for us.

It is our ritual: You wait in line to buy your bottled water and canned tuna and batteries and you tell other people good luck and be safe. Things that mattered, like whatever the politicians were yelling at each other about at the time, suddenly don’t. The world goes basic: where to go, what you need, whether people you care about will be okay. If you are the least bit smart, you leave when they tell you to.

And you wonder what the world will look like afterward.

Irma left destruction, but by some whim of fate or piece of luck, Tampa Bay was largely spared as we hunkered down and the storm passed to our east.

The next morning outside my window were frogs that had been croaking in a chorus during the storm — hundreds of frogs, still going, lusty and loud. I’ve never been so happy to hear frogs. And even so, a massive tree lay across my neighbor’s crumpled roof, all the other houses untouched. A hurricane is mindless, deadly power.

You hope your neighbors — right now the ones on the East Coast — get to step outside afterward and take in the damage and start thinking about how to rebuild.

Because that’s what we do.

Comments
'You gotta take care of home': Michael Jordan donates $2 million to Florence recovery efforts

'You gotta take care of home': Michael Jordan donates $2 million to Florence recovery efforts

As Hurricane Florence slammed into the Carolinas late last week, bringing with it torrential rain and flooding, the news was grim: Towns were transformed into islands cut off by floodwaters, the number of storm-related deaths increased daily and hund...
Published: 09/19/18
Noah's Ark except it's a school bus: Truck driver rescues 64 dogs and cats from floods of Hurricane Florence

Noah's Ark except it's a school bus: Truck driver rescues 64 dogs and cats from floods of Hurricane Florence

There is nothing like a meal at the Waffle House after driving more than 60 animals from the South Carolina coast to southern Alabama inside of a school bus. Tony Alsup can attest.Alsup, a 51-year-old trucker from Greenback, Tennessee, was parked at ...
Published: 09/17/18
Fearsome new stage begins as Florence floods inland rivers

Fearsome new stage begins as Florence floods inland rivers

NEW BERN, N.C. — As the death toll from Florence mounted and hundreds of people were pulled from flooded homes, North Carolina is bracing for what could be the next stage of a still-unfolding disaster: catastrophic, widespread river flooding.After bl...
Published: 09/16/18
Now a tropical storm, Florence spreads watery mayhem across Carolinas

Now a tropical storm, Florence spreads watery mayhem across Carolinas

CONWAY, S.C. - With a plodding pace belying still-unspent fury, Tropical Storm Florence pushed deeper into the Carolinas on Saturday, inundating homes, toppling trees and pushing rivers far beyond their banks as rescuers rushed to keep pace.More than...
Published: 09/15/18
Hurricane Florence: First Deaths Reported in North Carolina

Hurricane Florence: First Deaths Reported in North Carolina

Tropical Storm Florence continued to thrash the Carolinas on Friday evening with fierce winds, driving rain and catastrophic flooding. Downgraded from hurricane strength after making landfall near Wilmington, North Carolina, the storm had killed at l...
Published: 09/14/18
Carlton: The destructive, unpredictable whim of a hurricane

Carlton: The destructive, unpredictable whim of a hurricane

Here’s what a lot of us think, truth be told, every time those computer models start stretching their colored tentacles toward the place we live:Please not here.Please not us.A fierce and powerful hurricane hurtled toward the East Coast this week, an...
Published: 09/14/18
Weakening winds from Hurricane Florence approach the Carolinas

Weakening winds from Hurricane Florence approach the Carolinas

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — The outer bands of wind and rain from Hurricane Florence began lashing North Carolina on Thursday as the monster storm moved in for an extended stay along the Southeastern coast, promising to drench the properties of 10 million p...
Published: 09/13/18
You’ll know Hurricane Florence is bad when the Waffle House Index hits code red

You’ll know Hurricane Florence is bad when the Waffle House Index hits code red

Everyone is preparing for Hurricane Florence, which continues to barrel toward the Carolinas. Residents are evacuating the area, FEMA is getting supplies, Weather Channel reporters are breaking out their strongest windbreakers - and the Waffle House ...
Published: 09/13/18
NASA images show how massive Florence is

NASA images show how massive Florence is

Hurricane Florence is so enormous, astronauts in space had to use a super-wide angle lens to capture a photo. German astronaut Alexander Gerst took to Twitter this morning warning coastal residents to "watch out.""Get prepared East Coast, this is a n...
Published: 09/12/18
Hurricane Florence decreases to a Category 3, could still bring ‘life-threatening’ storm surge to Carolinas

Hurricane Florence decreases to a Category 3, could still bring ‘life-threatening’ storm surge to Carolinas

WILMINGTON, N.C. — Florence has decreased to a Category 3 storm, but could still bring life-threatening storm surge and rainfall across the Carolinas. According to the National Hurricane Center, the storm’s peak winds have decreased.Communities along...
Published: 09/12/18