It’s The Calm Before The Hurricane Prep Day

When I got up today, it was 4:15AM.  All was silent.  I closed my eyes thinking I can probably get more sleep.

I got into that Lets Open The Eyes And Check The Clock Every Ten Minutes thing.

Didn’t work, got out of bed before my normal Stupid O’Clock at 4:40.

Then I pulled my earplugs out of my ears and started getting ready for the dog walk.

It still was silent.  The house was quieter than normal.

Getting out the front door before 5AM there was no wind. Nothing.  Still as a Tomb.

Rack, the McNab SuperDog (TM) pulled me out onto the front lawn.

Still.  I looked up.  Very few clouds.  Stars.

After the weeks, and more than one, that we have been having, not seeing clouds in the skies felt odd.

Oh sure, I could find my friend the hunter.  Orion still had his belt to the South and East of the house.  A bright star was shining at me from the lower left of Orion.

But No Clouds.

Very strange.  I was looking for that “Bow Shock” line of clouds from Hurricane Matthew that was at that point just leaving the far eastern point of Cuba, but nothing.

This is that last day.  One last brilliantly clear day that you get before a Hurricane.  The storms seem to pull all the air toward it, the barometric pressure begins to drop, and you have time.

I already got Propane and Gasoline.  With one I can cook, even bake bread.  With the other I can drive out of South Florida if I have to or simply run the generators to keep the fridge going.

Mentally, I have noted that since the highs have already dropped below 90, it will be annoying, but we can make do with windows open.  After all, living in a three story “Farm House” in Philadelphia for years with no Air Conditioning, we made do, and sometimes it hit triple digits.

Think 40C or 104.  Once.  In Philly Humidity.  *SHUDDER*!

So I am hoping the winds won’t knock out the power.  We still haven’t tested generators to run the house, only individual appliances.

There is more than the expected water. Three cases of bottled water plus four gallons of water in one Quart Mason Jars.  I emptied my canning supplies and filled them with filtered water.

We’re expected to get “Hurricane Force Winds”.  Something more than 73MPH.  110KPH give or take a K.

After all, I am only 2.2 miles West of the ocean.  3 Km.   I could walk it as long as I had comfortable shoes and time.

Many others are not prepared as well, and my heart goes out to them.  My immediate neighbor’s house has no storm shutters and “regular” float glass windows.   I expect to hear that he will have broken windows.  More than one.

With luck his roof won’t end up in my swimming pool.

Besides, the fringes of a Hurricane bring with it “Embedded Tornadoes”.

The weather radio has been an endless loop of hurricane preparation hints.  Most of them have been done here.

I hope that if you are reading this and will be effected, anywhere from the Florida Keys to South Carolina, you have made your preparation and will be finishing soon.

As for me I have a very few things to do:

Finish the laundry since no power means no clean clothes.

Get Aunt Betty’s table and chairs off the front porch and tied down since plastic table and chairs make wonderful flying objects.

Move the last few prized plants under cover like Larry’s Bonsai.

Finally publish this and put together for the blog next week, a “warrant canary” to say Yep, I’m still offline.

Good luck South Florida.  Matthew is an unwelcome guest.  At least this storm will stir up the ocean enough to make the next hurricane much less vigorous.  Cold water will be brought to the surface and this should be the end of the season, or close to it.

But I keep thinking that no matter what, it won’t matter.  What will happen will happen.

Since my 446 day Duolingo streak will probably end tomorrow or the day after,

Qué será, será. What Will Be, Will Be.

I Hear You’re Having Another Snowstorm

My cousin posting a picture of bougainvilleas on Facebook got me thinking. 

No, it’s not another rant about how bad the weather is up North.  This would be the week I traditionally would take vacation.   I would haul my bulk into the Jeep, get out of Philly for a week to 10 days, and thaw out.

Literally.  By this time of year, I’d have a nagging “winter cold” that was my body telling me with a stopped up nose, that I was not designed for standing on an elevated train platform in 15F temperatures day after day waiting for the R7 to roll.

The second week of February is the coldest one of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

Ok, so it’s plus or minus seven days either way of February 7th. 

It’s been warm this winter though.  We got our two weeks of “cold” already, and I am hoping it happens again.  It helps reset the environment here and gets rid of those ex-pets that snowbirds abandoned thinking they’ll do alright outside.

Lets just call them “Invasive Species”.

My weather applet says it will be 83 today, my pool water is at 70 and holding.

My concern is that the pool should be down into the high 50s by now.  It’s not heated and the deep end is still way too cold for my tastes.

Since we’re also three months from the great stock up month of May, and four months from Hurricane season, I’m thinking that it’s a bit warm for this time of year.

I’ll take a cool February.  It usually means that hurricane season will be weak.

We are overdue for another near miss.

I’m still getting rid of the last of the bottled water and Mac and Cheese from last year.  There’s still canned ravioli on the Kitchen table that got co-opted as a pantry.

So believe it or not, while I despise cold weather, I’d welcome some of it now.

In the meantime, go have a swim.  The water’s a little cool for us down here but you’ll think it’s fine!

Hurricane Supplies Have Taken Over The Pantry

June 1 starts Hurricane Season.

June 1 also starts the time of year that I get claustrophobic in the Pantry.

It’s a small cramped room to begin with, probably not much more than 8 feet wide and 20 long.

The room has all that “utility room” stuff in it.

It’s my laundry room and pantry so along the wall are all the soaps and cleaning supplies as well as the washer and dryer.

It now has the explosion of food that comes into the house every June.   In fact, we’re still drinking last year’s bottled water to “get rid of the stuff”.

Two weeks of food and water for two adults, a dog, and a rambunctious parrot take up a lot of space.

The carnage near the door is coincidental.  There’s a stain on the concrete that predates our owning the house, most likely water from Hurricane Wilma back in ’05.  I left the dog’s toys there because that’s where he was playing with them.  Now I have a claustrophobic crime scene with a blinded Chuck Norris doll and partially disemboweled pig doll among all the chaff.

We should have cleared the kitchen table of the excess supplies before hitting the Warehouse Club for the water.  It won’t be used until some time around December as a result. 

But we’re set.  Two weeks of food and water.   Just squeeze by if you have to use the washer!

It’s part of the price of living in Paradise.  There is no place in the US where you don’t have some sort of life threatening weather.  If there’s ice and snow, good luck standing outside in it for a day without a heavy coat.  Earthquake zones have furniture bolted to the walls and there’s a strong preference for “ground floor apartments”.  Tornado Alley homes usually have storm shelters that double as a basement or storage.

In our case we’ve got large corrugated steel shutters, a roof that is strapped to the house, concrete block walls with stucco, and the usual low slung architecture.  Build tall here and you’re waiting to get slapped down by an errant flying coconut tree.

Pull up a chair and grab a bottle of (last year’s) bottled water!  So, how are your hurricane preps going on?  Got everything you need?

Now they’re naming Winter Storms? Give Me A Break!

This morning, through all the web chaff I wade through, I made a stop to check the local weather for Fort LauderdaleThe Weather Channel‘s website went through a recent redesign to make it more social.  The problem is that it made it less useable and more difficult to actually get the information that I want to see on it.

I’ll work around it.  It’s not pretty but it will have to do.

The problem was that I loaded the page and my heart did that usual little flutter it does whenever I see that “Warning Will Robinson” red stripe at the top that screams there’s something to watch out for.    Reading it and dreading a late season Hurricane, I saw these words:

Breaking News:  What Will Winter Storm Brutus Bring?

I will tell you, it’s going to bring me laughing at The Weather Channel and refusing to take it seriously.  The Weather Channel is the channel that brings you all hype all the time, I realize that.  After all it had that bobble headed blond Jen Carfagno call the King Kamehameha Hotel in Hawaii the “King Kammey Hah-hah-hah” hotel, as well as quite a lot of misinformation when the Tsunami disaster happened in Japan a year back.

You basically want to hit the weather channel when they do the cut away every 10 minutes for the information and turn to something else when the bobble heads come back with their “news”.  My suggestion would be to turn to your family and talk about current events because the hype machine would roll on regardless.  I guess it drives Ad Revenue but frankly it feels a bit irresponsible, in my opinion.

The National Weather Service has just put out a message telling their people not to use these Winter Storm Names because they are not a part of their “product”.  It’s a pretty good idea not to.  All those names do is give more fuel to the hype machine.

My own reasons are pretty basic.   I lived in Metro Philadelphia most of my life.  I’ve been through countless winter storms.   Some of them were pretty scary and dumped more than two feet of snow on the roads.  I don’t want to minimize things, they can be dangerous.  But adding to the fear of preparation, such as going to the supermarket and “buy Milk, Eggs, and Bread” with your whole zip-code, is irresponsible.

No, really that’s the going joke.  Winter Storm is coming, you have to buy Milk, Eggs, and Bread and stand in line for hours.  After all, all your neighbors will be making French Toast the day of the storms because the cities have finally learned it makes more sense to close the main roads so your first responders can clear them and get to people who really DO need the help.

I think I’ll make French Toast later, come to think of it…

So I’ll be looking for a better place to get the weather information.  I’ve had quite enough of The Weather Channel’s hype machine and screaming red bars for a storm that basically works out to be a strong Tropical Storm and rarely, maybe once a year, a weak Category 1 Hurricane equivalent.  I want to know when the storms will form because I want to know my sister, her husband, and my nephew will be safe in New Jersey.  That goes for my cousins in New York City and The Island too, but the hype has got to go.

Time to change some links I guess.  The Weather Channel has rendered itself next to useless to me.   Since I stopped watching their blather on cable, I’ve found that I am actually better informed.  They’ve become the Fox News of Weather Forecasting.

And Friends Don’t Let Friends Watch Fox News.

Hurricane Sandy’s Gone, All’s Quiet in Florida

The wind finally has stopped

After three weeks of rain, a near miss by Hurricane Sandy and the outer feeder bands, and just general blustery days, we’re in winter.  Winter for us is a high in the 70s or the low 80s.

There’s no wind.  No rain.  No clouds, OK maybe a few Simpsonian Clouds floating by in the distance but that’s it.

Having gone out to unlock the fence and give the yard one last pass before the arborists arrive to repair the landscape after the storms, the overwhelming feeling here is nothing more than normal.  The strangest thing about the neighborhood today is that I roasted coffee earlier so my back yard has the smell of a fine Costa Rican roast on the general Floridian organic scent.  It’s even cool enough to have had Iguanas falling from the tree, but none of those green monsters are around.

No complaints, Normal is good.  After all I could have been at the Jersey Shore or that neighborhood in Queens, NY that burnt to the ground due to the power station that went up in explosions and flames.  

For us, this was the storm that got away.  At least here, it’s a good thing although Fort Lauderdale’s Beach got chewed up and flooded which is very rare normally.  Having grown up in South Jersey, I know what a rogue storm like this would bring.  Neighbors of my old home in Philly said “meh. no big deal.  Let the roads drain and back to work”.  I’m still waiting to hear how it went closer to the shore.

Here in Florida, we are used to a storm like Hurricane Sandy coming through and being annoying.   The soil is like sand in a colander.  It is actually hard to call it anything other than the Beach Sand it will be again.  Trees have evolved to let the wind flow through them.  When they let go of their foliage, they’ll grow it back.  Trunks are in general softer wood so they’ll bend before breaking.  In the Northeast, trees don’t get storms like this often although the Nor’easters are getting more powerful each winter.   The Ice Belt has moved North and we were saying that winters were more like North Carolina than South Jersey.  I never saw an Ice Storm before the 90s, now you expect one or two a year at the beginning and the end of Winter. 

That Ice causes its own problems.   The Northern forests end right around Philadelphia.  50 miles North or South, the forests are a different mix of trees.  There is a blending there and you can actually still grow certain Palm Trees in sheltered conditions, although the only people who do are obsessed individuals who want something different.   Those hardwood trees like the Pin Oak and the softer trees like the White Pine tree would get glazed and snap under the weight of the winter coat.  Since it is warmer, once past the ice, the snow cover isn’t quite as dry as before and there is more of it.

Of course that’s all a falsehood since, as the Republican Party says, Global Warming doesn’t exist.  It’s “Climate Change” now.

Whatever it is, things are a changin’.

Even a Small Storm Does Some Damage

The Key Word Is:  Some.

Oh sure, an 80 mph Hurricane Sandy could have ruined our day.  It could have shifted the 120 miles westward and put itself right over top of the cities of South Florida.

It didn’t.

It was a rain event.   Some winds.  Feeder bands here or there.

But past that it didn’t wake me up in the middle of the night. 

It was a late season weak hurricane that hit right at the same week as Hurricane Wilma had 7 or so years before it.  That was another “weak” Hurricane that parked itself over top of Fort Lauderdale for three solid days or so and caused a lot of damage.

So basically they all should be watched. 

I didn’t spot any damage to the house until well after I got back from the dog walk.  The sun had to come up and show me what happened to my Bougainvillea. 

This picture is of the trellis behind the house.  The Bougainvillea was picked up like a giant blanket during the night and pulled forward off the trellis and the roof.  A few limbs broke, but the plant will survive.

Yep, could have been worse.  But it wasn’t.  The plants here evolved to take it, and there’s a reason why when you move here you want a 1 floor Old Florida home.  Those taller Mc Mansions will take the brunt for you and act like windbreaks, especially when they’re built shoddily like the ones a block away from me.

Oh well, I guess we get to be landscapers this weekend.   I’ll chill some drinks and have fun outside in the yard.


It could be worse, then again it could be Monday

I’m writing this Sunday Morning and I am editing it Monday Morning.

The storm has come and it is lingering, but nothing more than a random shower.   Basically a normal Monday in the wet season.

Sunday Morning, I was awakened by the sound of gravel being thrown against the storm shutters that are bolted to the bedroom windows.  It actually was a squall line coming through.   We had been having rain for about a full day at that point, off and on.

The rain had stopped as quickly as it started.  One of those Hollywood Movie Set things where some unseen stage hand has flipped a lever on and off.

Hauling myself out of bed to check radar, I get started feeding the dog.  That in itself takes time since she has to have soft food, and doesn’t like that at all.

While I’m sitting in a kitchen Captain’s Chair, scooping wet and warm dog food out with my right hand and proffering it to the recalcitrant pooch, another line hits.

I knew it was here when Oscar flapped his wings and said hello, then laughed.

There is no joy quite like a parrot who thinks he’s going to dance among the rain drops.

I finish feeding Mrs Dog thinking we’re going to get wet.  Listening for thunder, and hearing none, I grab my portable lightning rod.  When the winds gust over 30mph, the umbrella would be useless.  I knew that.

She walks between the cars and over to the lee of them to empty out.  Any other Sunday at that time she’d avoid that spot.  The irrigation had started and the sprinklers were adding to the wet.

Hmm, got to fix that Rain Sensor.  For now, the water we were pumping out of the ground was watering the grass, about a block away once it stops being pushed West on the gusts.

We headed out to the street.

Not as bad as it could be.  The rain had almost stopped.

As she went to do her business, a gust of wind caught her as she was balancing and she went down in a stumble.

It was an interesting couple of days.  Not as bad here as in Key West or when it eventually makes landfall up in the Gulf, but interesting none the less.

At this point, the storm is in the Gulf and strengthening.  It is forecast to make landfall somewhere around Gulf Shores Alabama or westward toward the mouth of the Mississippi.  Lets hope it doesn’t turn into another Katrina.

That picture pretty much says what it did to us.  The dog slept through it all, once or twice getting up and sniffing the air, then using her toys as pillows.  No Big Deal.  It could have been worse, and will be when it makes landfall as a Category 1 or 2.  The best thing it did was to fill my pool and wash away some used tea bags in Tampa at their Republican National Convention.