The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Pain in the ass.

That's how I characterize the largest mandatory evacuation in Pinellas County history, ordered today, as I type this from my home in Pinellas County. Hurricane Charley (or, as I prefer to call him, Clyde) is coming, and the latest data has it hitting the Tampa Bay area square in the nose. If that holds up, it'll be the first direct hit the Bay area has had in close to a century.

I've been through this drill before. Evacuations are ordered, the major bridges to Hilllsborough County/Tampa are closed well ahead of time, and everybody gets more and more jittery as the barometer drops. Then, the storm du jour makes a left-hand turn and passes us by completely (except for the backlash of rainclouds, really nothing unusual for here).

Things appear more serious this time, although hurricanes and tropical storms are so unpredictable that Charley very well could miss me and hit either north or south of here.

The immediate results: My office is closed for tomorrow. We had to move as much stuff as possible (files, reference material, etc.) away from the windows, and put plastic wrap over our computers. Most places around here are battening down the hatches. The stores and gas stations are packing up with people as they rush to fill out their emergency supplies checklists. I got my stuff on two separate trips, last night and this afternoon (a girl in line in front of me was stocking up with two 6-packs of Bud; she said that was more fun to drink than water).

What will I do? I'm very much inclined to stay right where I am, even being practically on the water. I have the option of going to a friend's house in Tampa, where it's safer from immediate problems (flooding and direct high winds). Because of the bridge closings, starting at 10 PM tonight, I'd have to decide fairly soon; I could still get to Tampa after that, but it would have to be the long way. And I'd dread having to navigate in a hurricane-flooded aftermath.

Still, I see no real reason to go. If the storm does hit the area, we're all screwed. Power will likely go out regionwide, cellphones will be iffy, and forget about Internet. I'm on the second floor here, so the floods aren't going to touch me. The winds, on the other hand...

Friends and acquaintences are making plans, in a mostly laid-back way (most of them, like me, have gone through the motions before). My friends Kirby and Angela were flying out of town tomorrow anyway, on a week's vacation to Chicago, so they're lucking out and hoping that there's no huge mess when they get back. Another couple are in a similar spot as mine, only worse because they're on the ground floor; they may head for Kirby's house in Tampa, and if that's the case I might join them. A co-worker is at home alone, her husband out of the country on vacation, and she's worried about being at home alone more than anything.

Upshot, I'll hold out as long as I can. If the posting abruptly stops sometime tomorrow and doesn't resume over the weekend, you can assume I've been swept up. I'll return as soon as the storm dumps me in Cuba or Galveston, and I find an Ethernet hookup.