Posts Tagged ‘hurricane’

As Hurricane Alex was swirling into Texas I had a vision from my childhood. In it Daddy is stepping up his pace, with focus showing in the set of his jaw and his shoulders. He climbs into his yellow Texas Highway Department pick-up truck heads into the storm. He’ll check for washouts at bridges and flooded spots in the roads. He’ll put up barriers and flares before anyone can drive off a bridge or into washed out pavement. And he likely won’t be back until the storm has passed.

I am aware he is getting a real adrenaline rush from being able to do something in a crisis, and actually enjoying his role. But Mother? She’s getting a different kind of rush. Now she is alone with three kids in a house she is certain will be either blown away or struck by lightening. For us kids the biggest fear is the embarrassment of Mother following through on her repeated threats to move us to the courthouse for safe shelter. No one ever invites us to go to the courthouse as far as I remember, but Mother feels welcome there just the same. Her courthouse vision kinda reminds me of the farm Lennie was always going to in “Of Mice and Men,” except the courthouse is real — stone and marble fortress real.

I don’t know it, but I am receiving good training for my future in Florida during hurricane seasons. From Daddy I am learning to take the bull by the horns, to prepare and help avert tragedies.  From Mother I learn situations are seldom as bad as imagined. To Mother’s consternation, my siblings and I also learn how funny over-reaction can be. It’s a wonder we aren’t sitcom writers.

I have a vision of a particular storm that shouldn’t be treated with gales of laughter, but is. This time Mother tells us we’ll be safer in our car with rubber tires to protect us from lightening strikes. She is even more afraid of lightening than the wind, but we suspect she has ulterior motives. So we run to the detached garage and pile in our ‘39 Chevy. We are thinking: This is it! We are on the way to the courthouse where workers will stare at us and point and laugh. If that is her intention, the Gods interfere. As we crank the windows up and lock the doors we hear a crack and the ground shakes as the mesquite tree crashes across the driveway behind us. We aren’t going anywhere.  Who needs canned laughter?


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Note: Please excuse technical difficulties below. I’m working on the gaps.)


Tropical Storm Fay dropped rain in our area for five days pretty much without pause. Rain counts were measured in feet. All around our county and adjoining counties, homes were flooded. The remark heard over and over was, “They had no flood insurance because they were not in a flood zone.”





















Our acre-plus plot of land includes a portion of a pond. Drainage flows into it from the street and the adjoining lake, then through a culvert on to another small lake. Thunderstorms sometimes take the water over the bank several feet, but it always recedes before rising the seventy feet more it would have to flow in order to flood our home. In thirty-two years and three hurricanes, flooding has not been a problem. Why do I mention this? Because we have flood insurance. We didn’t want it, didn’t think we needed it, but FEMA thought we did. How did they determine this? They flew over the county in a small plane pointed out areas near any type of water and said, “Let’s designate this an X zone.” Apparently there was no consideration for the fact that our area is built out, so no new constructions has gone on to change flood patterns. This is the case in many of the uninsured homes where owners are now sloshing around in their living rooms.


The result was that homeowners whom FEMA deemed in a flyover were at risk of flooding were required to purchase flood insurance – and at the highest rates. Why? Because no study had been done to determine base flood elevation, so FEMA policy is to assume the worst. Each of the little creatures they saw milling about below would be required to have a survey done. The purpose of the survey is usually to compare to base flood elevation. Aha, but base flood elevation had not been determined. Would they use surveys purchased by us to determine one? Who knows? There was no fighting FEMA. They say you are going to flood and you say “how high.” We all had to have flood insurance.


The good news is all on our street with property on the pond are high and dry. The bad news is we have collectively spent thousands on unnecessary insurance and surveys. Of course, a storm of the millennium could drop torrential rains on us in the future. Anything is possible, but we have taken steady downpours for five days and our little water way managed very well. Better than FEMA, I would say.

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It was entirely appropriate to celebrate fifty-one years of marriage with a leisurely trip to our favorite city, St. Augustine, while a possible Cat 1 hurricane was bearing down on Florida.  Marriages are like that. In times of greatest joy, there are usually winds of disturbance swirling at your feet. In fifty-one years you learn a lot about surprises, undercurrents and threatening winds, and if you are paying attention, you learn they are not unexpected and surprises at all. They are just part of the natural current. So you pack your bags and head to St. Francis Inn www.stfrancisinn.com , the oldest bed and breakfast in the oldest continuously operating city in America, St. Augustine, Florida.


The 217-year-old inn’s pleasantries were kicked up a notch this year by the congenial group of fellow guests. Breakfast, happy hour and dessert time brought us together during the days. We talked across the dining room and got to know each other. The crowd even endured my husband’s famously bad joke telling. Happy hours stretched on and dessert time (or any time during the day) the sitting room filled with guests kicking back and talking. Much of the talk naturally gravitated to the weather. Dull? I think not. Not with Fay doing the two-step around our state and some of our homes in its path, others wondering if the plane would fly or cruise ship take off. We would all be safest, no doubt, in our 217 year old building. It surely had weathered other storms. Also, St. Augustine has not been hit directly by a hurricane since the cross at Nombre de Dios was erected in 1965. Coincidence? the citizens ask.


Most guests lived in other parts of Florida, though one couple was from New Hampshire, another Alabama, and still others from Ohio and South Carolina. Those of us calling Florida home were, of course, overwhelmingly from another state originally. There was the young couple who had come to look for a home in St. Augustine. He grew up there and longed to come back. We all understood why.


The St. Francis Inn offers a Seniors Inn Love special in August, so it was no surprise several anniversaries were being celebrated. They spanned the years: 38, 41, 51 and 10. The couple married the shortest time had been married at the St. Francis Inn. They got extra points for that.


A group was celebrating the birthday of one of the three ladies. This is no Holiday Inn; this is a place you go to celebrate. Carole Drost Lopez, an Ocala artist, was among that group. She seized whatever light penetrated our courtyard on mostly cloudy days. Just a glint of sun on the red rocking chairs resulted in a beautiful pastel. We will watch her website for the results of yet another pastel of a charming statue in the courtyard. You might want to check out her website at www.artdrost.com. 


I won’t even try to say all that needs saying in one blog, so keep coming back for the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey says. Those will highlight the ancient city and even ghost residents in St. Francis Inn. And yes, “Lily” just may have made contact with me. Stay tuned.

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