HURRICANE IRMA: I HATE THE WAIT
"The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part."
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
[Note: Hurricanes are deadly serious, and the destruction they cause is painfully real. We've been in a tense and stressful situation here in Florida because of Hurricane Irma. One way to diffuse tension and stress is through humor. Here's a tongue-in-cheek critique of some of our Floridian hurricane preparation patterns, with the hope that this might lighten the mood for those who've been under the gun lately.]
I am in awe of the amazing weather and satellite technology that predicts days and weeks in advance where a tropical storm like Hurricane Irma may be headed. That early warning system is a good thing. It can reduce the damage from a bad storm. However, believe it or not, it is possible to have TOO MUCH TIME TO PREPARE.
In the case of Irma, the news media started projecting a full 10 days before her arrival that "the biggest hurricane on record" was going to smash the entire state of Florida to smithereens. "We don't know exactly where it's headed but if you're in Florida, it's coming after you, so you better start getting ready NOW!"
At that moment, coming on the heels of Hurricane Harvey and Houston, a large chunk of the populace panicked. The race for hurricane supplies was on! Whole grocery stores were swept clean in a matter of hours, even though the storm was still on the other side of the British Virgin Islands. It wasn't just the nervous newbies. Even experienced hurricane veterans, who should have known better, got sucked into the melee. The whole scene was so unseemly.
So, what's wrong with having too much time to prepare? Here's what:
1. With too much time to prepare, real life shuts down way too soon.
A full week before the first rain cloud was on the horizon, you stop focusing on work, cancel all your meetings and appointments, and become fixated on the hurricane. Normal life screeches to a halt. Seven days! Come on, folks, other than fighting two or three hours for bottled water at Wal-Mart or standing in line half a day trying to get the last few sheets of plywood at Home Depot, how could you possibly take more than a day to get ready?
2. With too much time to prepare, you end up spending a fortune at the grocery store.
First, you buy up stacks of staples like bread and tuna fish and other storm-proof stuff you'll never eat. And of course, hurricane snacks. You tell yourself you must keep up your family's morale during the storm. Then the next day, you go back because you "forgot a few things." You buy all the things on your list, plus - of course - more hurricane snacks, because "this looks like it's going to be a bad one."
You tell yourself this is your last grocery run, but then the next day you find yourself back at the store again. And the next day after that. Finally, mercifully, Publix locks their doors so their employees can get ready for the storm, and you are forced to stop worrying about how to pick up "just one more thing." Unless the local 7-11 or Wa-Wa is still open . . . .
3. With too much time to prepare, you blow your emergency meal plan completely out of the water.
Once you've cancelled all your meetings and your house is bolted in place for THE BIG ONE, there's nothing else to do but hunker down behind all that plywood and start binge-watching the Weather Channel and Channel 9's Senior Meteorologist Tom Terry. You can't afford to miss a single twist or turn of the approaching hurricane. The stress of watching the constantly-shifting spaghetti lines of possible tracks causes you to start raiding your cache of hurricane snacks early. Not good! You gain 10 pounds in the three days before the storm.
Then when Irma finally does arrive, you discover your stash of snacks is all but gone and all the stores are closed. You have nothing left to snack on except months-old Saltine crackers and raisins. You bought $300 worth of junk food and it's all gone before Irma even gets here? How is that even possible? You're forced to try to stomach that canned tuna fish.
4. With too much time to prepare, a two-day event takes a whole week out of your life.
And that's all before the first outer rain bands even approach your fair city. The waiting and worrying can seem far worse than the storm itself. Heaven help you if you have storm damage and are forced to deal with clean-up and reconstruction. There goes another week or two or three.
So next time, all you brave folks at the Weather Channel who get paid to stand out in 100 mile-per-hour winds to show us how bad the storm is, please wait to sound the alarm until the hurricane is somewhere off the coast of Cuba. We'll still be ready in plenty of time. We just won't have to suffer the agony of waiting. Because, to quote fellow Floridian Tom Petty, the waiting is the hardest part.