Hur­ri­cane Sea­son offi­cial­ly starts on June 1st and ends Novem­ber 30th. You real­ly need to know that the Nation­al Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter, thank­ful­ly for us based in Mia­mi, has some of the most knowl­edge­able and expe­ri­enced employ­ees you could want on your side — most are ‘lif­ers’! Which is why many of us here in South Flori­da knew that Hur­ri­cane Sandy was VERY LARGE! When it made land­fall just over a week ago on the beach­es of New Jer­sey we here in South Flori­da were still feel­ing the wind from the tail of the storm that dragged itself across Flori­da to make land­fall 1500 miles away.

Per­haps every­one in our fam­i­ly is a weath­er watch­er, sailors that most of us were? We evac­u­at­ed from our low-lying apart­ment for H. David in 1979 when our old­est son was just two years old — thank­ful­ly it blew by. Twen­ty years ago we stayed put in our sin­gle storey house, which sits about sev­en feet above sea lev­el, wait­ing for H. Andrew in late August 1992. Andrew dec­i­mat­ed areas of Mia­mi just 30 miles south of here. I remem­ber it well: at about 4 a.m. I woke the fam­i­ly and gath­ered us togeth­er, each with pil­lows, torch­es and radios, into our small cen­tral, pro­tect­ed-on-all-sides, hall­way. The three of them fell back to sleep (!) while I lis­tened to the wind thrash­ing our front shut­ter! We lost tree branch­es, some shrubs were denud­ed of all their leaves, and about four tiles came off the cor­ner of our house, but we were all safe. Our sons were 11 and 14 years old then.

We were so dev­as­tat­ed by what we knew peo­ple had expe­ri­enced in Mia­mi that we did­n’t call our insur­ance agent about the roof tiles — all agents were very busy aid­ing peo­ple in real need, most address num­bers and street signs were blown away so it was a very hard job. So we fixed our own roof. In the long run it was prob­a­bly a mis­take because short­ly after­wards we had to pay for a new roof out of our own pock­ets! But we made the right moral deci­sion at the time. Two months lat­er we drove to Mia­mi to vis­it Fairchild Trop­i­cal Gar­den since my moth­er was vis­it­ing. As we drove south the dev­as­ta­tion was still very appar­ent and my 11 year-old son said “Mum, we have to turn around, I can’t look at this any more”. He was right. 

More recent­ly we hun­kered down in late Octo­ber 2005 for H. Wilma which came ashore as a Cat­e­go­ry 5 storm less than 120 miles due west of here. (Sad to report our rear shut­ters are still cov­er­ing win­dows and doors from that adven­ture!). Wilma took the tops of many large trees in our gar­den, sev­er­al of which were well over 40 feet tall and had been so long before we moved in 31 years ago. The house was safe though, as were we. That was the year we got a gen­er­a­tor! It makes a huge dif­fer­ence main­ly because it keeps the fridge run­ning and we could have a cou­ple of lights on and a floor fan going as needed.

This pre­pared­ness thing comes from near­ly 40 years of liv­ing in this area and I sus­pect that we often aren’t as pre­pared as we should be. We all become a lit­tle casu­al about those fine, and more often than not, quite accu­rate hur­ri­cane watch­es and warn­ings com­ing from the Nation­al Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter. For heav­en’s sake, one of the mete­o­rol­o­gists from the Nation­al Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter is the ex-chief of the hur­ri­cane cen­ter and now on the pay­roll of one of our local TV sta­tions — why would­n’t we lis­ten to him and ben­e­fit from his years of knowl­edge and thought­ful exper­tise and advice?!

Being the for­tu­nate ones we are, after Wilma blew her­self away, we cut up our own branch­es and then to defer bore­dom and per­form a lit­tle com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice sev­er­al of us went out with the trusty chain­saw in one son’s hands and pro­ceed­ed to also clear branch­es from the roads. How else could emer­gency vehi­cles get to those in need? 

Here’s what I think the res­i­dents of New Jer­sey and New York did­n’t quite under­stand when H. Sandy was on its way ten days ago: With the guys of the hur­ri­cane cen­ter on your side and you pay­ing atten­tion to your local TV mete­o­ro­log­i­cal experts you have no rea­son to be con­cerned. But, you must pay atten­tion, take the pic­tures shown from the satel­lites seri­ous­ly (from our view­point the pic­tures alone told us H. Sandy was so obvi­ous­ly very large and about to meet up with a cold front com­ing down from the north!), pre­pare your house and your fam­i­ly, and move out if you are advised to do so.

For us Hur­ri­cane Sea­son has been a seri­ous block of time every year — six months of each year, in fact. I feel ter­ri­ble for all the peo­ple whose lives have been dev­as­tat­ed by Sandy but Hur­ri­cane Sea­son isn’t just for Flori­da any more, we’ve seen that over and over in recent years, and per­haps it is time to reform the build­ing code in oth­er sus­cep­ti­ble parts of the coun­try, just as we’ve had to do down here since H. Andrew in 1992. Oth­er­wise none of us will be able to afford to live in our own homes; insur­ance rates will sky rock­et everywhere.

Three weeks to go until the end of Hur­ri­cane Sea­son 2012. Be safe and be prepared.