Hurricanes bring anxiety before they arrive.
“Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go, there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double”
These words by The Clash reflect the thoughts of Floridians in the days leading up to hurricanes. As hurricanes churn up the coast, our stomachs also churn, as we decide between the potential misery of evacuation and the potential misery of riding it out.
Controlled by high pressure systems, upper level winds and other Weather Channel terms, hurricanes seem playful as they tease us about their future path, while packing a Mike Tyson punch. The forecasters show the track of where it’s likely to go, and then a few hours later, show a totally different track of where it’s likely to go. And don’t even mention the spaghetti models.
It’s amazing how much they can talk about a storm that is stalled in the ocean. They should just say, "We're going to take a break until we know something." But the nonstop coverage increases the anxiety.
Many people have relatives or friends within evacuation distance, which is convenient. But good timing is required. Leave too late, you risk the traffic jams and stormy weather. Leave too early, you risk too long of a visit and bringing in Ben Franklin’s maxim: “Fish and visitors stink after three days,” meaning that, after three days the joy and newness of a visit subside.
Not only do hurricanes change direction on a whim, they speed up and slow down to make it even more fun.
I was living beachside in the storm-tossed year of 2004. Hurricane Charley made landfall on the Gulf Coast on Aug. 14, tore across the state and over my house and then blew out into the ocean the next day. We stayed because storms lose power as they cross land. It was interesting to listen to the reports of its approach on the radio, then begin to hear the wind, then lose power, then really hear the wind.
Later that year, in September, Hurricane Francis was in the Atlantic, threatening a direct hit on Volusia County before it turned toward the Fort Pierce area and slowly made its way ashore.
I emphasize the word, “slowly.” We had evacuated to relatives before the turn, and after the first night were quite surprised to find that it was not charging across the state like Charley, but still biding its time in the Atlantic Ocean. Then, after landing, it took a slow march across the state as a tropical storm. Not wanting to drive in a tropical storm (my mother was along) and not knowing its direction, we stayed longer than the Franklin-mandated three days. While we probably didn’t “stink,” I’m sure there was an odor.
I remember complaining to a neighbor about dodging hurricanes. She said, “C’mon, that’s what makes it fun to live here.”
She moved to Oregon the next year.
So, as a 30-year Floridian, I have no advice on whether to go or stay. Just remember, if you go it could be trouble, but if you stay it could be double.
Note: This column was written when Hurricane Dorian was over the Bahamas.