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Tampa Bay, for the love of ... please get ready for Hurricane Ian
Now is not the time to hang out in the pool and drink margaritas.
Hurricane Ian is seen in this satellite image on Monday morning as it heads toward Florida.
Hurricane Ian is seen in this satellite image on Monday morning as it heads toward Florida. [ NOAA/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER | Orlando Sentinel ]
Published Sep. 26|Updated Sep. 26

Universal truths bubble around the edges of nearly any crisis, piercing tense air with relief. Hurricane preparation can be good for a laugh, especially for Florida longtimers who have been through this wet and windy dance over and over again. To wit:

  1. Why are there so many online hurricane guys named Mike?
  2. Jim Cantore: Grim reaper? Cool dude? Scion of disaster? Discuss.
  3. Are people still shooting bullets into hurricanes? Is that still a thing? (Don’t.)
  4. The people who pronounce it EYE-an definitely watched “Beverly Hills 90210,” right?
  5. What if I already ate all my hurricane snacks?
  6. Has anyone checked on Denis Phillips? Like, spiritually?

Joking felt better this weekend, a simpler time. Ian was still slumping around the Atlantic like a recent graduate who hangs out in the high school parking lot. Each morning, we awoke hoping his path would change. Each morning, it really didn’t. The European model, for example, has steadily plunged straight into my living room for days now.

By Monday, the storm wasn’t the only thing experiencing rapid intensification. The ha-ha funny laughs were replaced with anxious huffs and proverbial (or literal) cigarettes pressed to sweaty foreheads. Either that, or total denial. As I write this in my local Starbucks, I’ve overheard:

“Real Floridians drink during hurricanes! I’m gonna be drinking in my pool!”

And:

“I’m here for a good time, not a long time!”

A classic line, though maybe time to shelve it. Providing balance, I overheard the barista telling a new Floridian where to seek high land in Pinellas County. She advised what food to buy, how to care for pets, where to get cash and gas, all while foaming the tops of pumpkin lattes. It would be uncomfortable, she said, but we will be fine.

What an angel! Let’s all be like that barista.

We’ve been lucky in Tampa Bay so many times. It’s incredible how lucky we’ve been, and thinking about it gives me hives. We haven’t had a direct hit in more than 100 years, a factoid we chew on every time tropical weather sniffs around our coast. Until this storm is on land, we won’t know the full picture. Even if it doesn’t hit us directly, we will likely experience wind effects, storm surge and flooding.

Listen to the authorities, even if you hate authorities. Questioning authority can be a fun, punk rock endeavor for another time! These professionals devote their lives to determining risk and ensuring our safety so we can peacefully overeat our hurricane snacks. If someone official is on the television box telling you to evacuate, it’s time to go. It’s beyond time.

Same message goes to would-be heroes. Stubbornly staying in your house instead of going to a shelter does not make you brave. Think about the rescue workers who will have to retrieve your rear end because you wanted to have margaritas in the pool for web content. Have margaritas inside! Think of how much more time there will be for margaritas if you are alive and well.

One of these times, we won’t be so lucky. It could be this time.

Follow along here for the latest information, shelter locations, sandbag sites and more. Check on a neighbor. Help a friend. Text someone you love with the calm and authoritative demeanor of the barista. Take care of yourself and each other, and I’ll see you on the other side.

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