Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Hurricanes are a serious threat to anywhere

In 1985, I was still smarting over a lost love when Gloria came into my life.

There was a song called “Gloria” that was popular on the radio, but the Gloria that everyone had on their mind was a tropical storm system that seemed to be headed right for Long Island.

I lived in Coram and worked for the post office in Garden City back then. I had a 40-mile commute each way but was doing it the reverse of the normal commute, heading west in the late afternoon and east in the morning.

Back in the days before the Internet and websites, newspapers, TV and radio were the only source of news about approaching weather, and you had to be pretty oblivious to not understand that this was a terrible threat. Gloria was a powerful storm and it seemed to be headed straight for Long Island.

I was living in an apartment complex, and felt pretty secure. I worried about my car, of course, but I didn’t own much stuff. I can recall going shopping and seeing an argument in the store breaking out, mainly because a very fat woman on line at the cashier was smoking a cigarette, and a man complained about it. She told him to f— off, and that it was allowed. Remember, this was 26 years ago, when smoking indoors was very common, though some places were beginning to put in place rules about smoking.

The folks who owned homes were very scared, and for good reason. A hurricane tests a home’s structural integrity to its limit, and back then the building codes weren’t like they are today. It may amaze people to see Florida homes, especially those built since the mid-1990s, are like fortresses, with concrete-block construction and hurricane straps to keep the roof on. In some counties, including Manatee, where my house is, aluminum hurricane shutters are mandatory.

It may seem like overkill, but I’ve been through two hurricanes in such houses and we came through fine. Still, there’s no defense against an embedded tornado, as happened in Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Whole neighborhoods were eradicated by the storm, and showed the folly of light building codes.

I believe that I was off from work on the day when Gloria hit Long Island as a Category 2 hurricane. Me and my cat at the time, Tiger, were hunkered down in the ground-floor apartment and I watched the weather deteriorate out the window. In the middle of the storm, there were people running around outside, which I thought was nuts. I was inside, and at one point someone rang the doorbell and asked if I would let in my upstairs neighbors and their dog, because the roof was coming loose from the apartment building. But they preferred to go with another neighbor, so I didn’t have to let them in.

The wind and rain lashed the complex, and soon the eye passed overhead and things calmed down. Radio announcers repeatedly told people not to venture out during the eye of the storm, but the people I saw did anyway, and it appears that the storm mostly petered out over Long Island and the other side was nowhere near as violent. Soon, the storm was heading across the Long Island Sound to Connecticut and we were in the clear.

We had lost power, of course, and had only battery-powered radios. I ventured outside and saw some damage, including a car that had had a tree fall on top of it. But we seemed lucky.

The trouble was that the power was off, and I even drove out in a traffic jam that developed in Coram. After that hellish experience, I went back to the apartment and stayed until I had to go to work again.

In Florida, we’re used to hurricanes for the most part, especially after 2004’s Charley, Francis and Jeanne. The latter two hit my house in Vero Beach and I managed to survive fine and move on to a new job in Sarasota. You can get through a hurricane OK, if you prepare and follow the path, something that’s a lot easier to do nowadays with websites and The Weather Channel.

Hurricanes are not fun, but they are definitely survivable. Just be prepared.

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August 26, 2011 - Posted by | Living in the modern age | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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