Hurricane veterans don't wait for `forecast' before getting ready

May 30, 2007|By Mark Dupuy | Mark Dupuy,Orlando Sentinel

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Already the hurricane hysteria industry is in full force, not even waiting for the official start of the season. The story is that we're in for a busy season this year.

Yeah, right.

I moved to Punta Gorda just in time for Hurricane Charley in August 2004. My family was watching it on The Weather Channel when it changed its mind. Originally, it was a benign Category 2 storm headed to Tampa. Then it was headed to Fort Myers. Then it turned right at my house and quickly upgraded to a Category 4. We got maybe 30 minutes' notice. The last thing The Weather Channel said before we lost power was, "Hunker down." The roads were too crowded to evacuate.

Trust me, it was bad.

Now the hurricane talking heads are trying to predict an entire season, and they couldn't even give us an hour's notice. So, how do Florida West Coasters prepare for the storm season?

There are a lot of garage sales going on, mostly to make room in garages to park vehicles so they won't be hit by parts of other vehicles parked on the street.

We get our generators out and give them a few pulls to make sure they work. (Yes, everyone here has a generator. For a month after Charley, before the power came back on, my neighborhood sounded like Bike Week at Daytona.) Oh, and we replace the gasoline, stocking up for a couple of days' worth of use. Gas stations not destroyed by a storm will have long lines and jacked-up prices.

You might think that we would take advantage of the tax-free status of batteries, flashlights and other hurricane items, but those things weren't hard to find afterward.

I make sure my brother's liquor cabinet is fully stocked. He still maintains a condo in Orlando, and that's where I'm taking the family, along with the equipment from the recording studio and all the instruments, if there is even a hint of a storm heading our way.

Others here in Charlotte County know enough about Central Florida and about how there are hotel rooms all over there at very reasonable rates. Expect the phone lines to be buzzing if another storm comes our way. Another bad storm headed for Charlotte County will automatically become a huge convention for Orlando. And we'll be ready to drink.

There is not much else one can do. Weather forecasters who try to predict a season are as useless as a television set without electricity. We know a storm is coming one day.

And we know what to do: Leave.

Mark Dupuy, a musician, lives in Port Charlotte. This article originally appeared in the Orlando Sentinel.

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