A dangerous stalker approaches a community. Violent winds loosen window shutters, heavy rain, rising floodwaters and severe thunderstorms produce loud, deafening noise and dangerous lightning strikes occasionally brighten your room in the absence of electricity. The flashes provide brief glimpses of sight as you attempt to locate your flashlights or candles. Phone lines are broken by falling trees. You cell phone battery is dead. Now what? All of this makes a brilliant setting for a delicious murder mystery. But these are acutual conditions found in the bands of a hurricane. As Hurricane Isaac tracks north toward the Gulf of Mexico and Florida’s west coast, I hope all of you in his path will be safe and heed any advice to evacuate if necessary.
Living in Georgia, we get our fair share of hurricane scares. While living in Brunswick and working for the FAA at the Flight Service Station, weather alerts of Hurricane Hugo stalking the Eastern coastline gave us reason to pause. Hugo had already committed several crimes of damage and fatalities and now, the projected track had this killer moving toward my fair city. Most of the island residents voluntarily evacuated for higher ground but we determined to ride it out since our house was on higher ground on the mainland—26 feet above sea level. We brought out the heavy artillery AKA the generator, updated the communication devices AKA bought batteries for the boom boxes and flashlights, spruced up the Coleman camp stove and joined other brave (?) souls to buy out the grocery store. Friends and their children joined in on our hurricane watch and we settled in for who knew out long playing cards and board games.
We remained glued to the weather channel watching and waiting while feasting on fried chicken, potato salad and other Southern staples. Finally, the skies turned black as the storm passed by a great distance offshore and our anticipation was short lived. Sir Hugo produced just a little rain, moderate wind and a minor tidal surge. He slowly turned north and went inland over Charleston, South Carolina.
Interstate 75 through Georgia became a parking lot in early September 2004 when Hurricane Frances was the proverbial straw. She was the third major storm in just a matter of weeks and Floridians and tourists could take no more. My destination was the funeral home of my sister’s service and I somehow felt the loss of many of these travelers seeking a safe haven. We were all in slow motion as we crept along side by side.
When I worked for the FAA, I had the opportunity to go inside the Hurricane Hunter P3 temporarily located at the weather service station at Falcon Field near Atlanta, Georgia. The technology onboard was incredible and I found it fascinating to hear the pilot talk about flying into the eye of the storm. As their Website says, “Slicing through the eye wall of a hurricane, buffeted by howling winds, blinding rain, hail, and violent updrafts and downdrafts before entering the relative calm of the storm's eye, NOAA's two P-3 turboprop aircraft probe every wind and pressure change, repeating the grueling experience again and again during the course of a ten-hour mission.” Ten hours in a hurricane, now that’s a story!
Hurricanes are fascinating to watch—on the Weather Channel while sitting on the sofa enjoying a cup of coffee under blue skies like I’m doing on this beautiful Saturday morn in central Georgia. We’re forecast to get several inches of rain next week when Isaac comes up the Georgia/Alabama line. Be safe everyone, I’ve got to fry up some chicken!