Hurricane Dorian was forecast to hit South Florida on Saturday, August 31. I returned from Orlando on Thursday, August 29, and encountered the effects of panicked hurricane buying – gas stations without gas, grocery store shelves empty of water, ice, and other essentials, people frantically putting up hurricane shelves, and a kind of eerie uncertainty underlying everything.
Then Dorian’s arrival was pushed back several days. This enabled gas tankers to replenish stations, grocery stores restocked their shelves and limited the sale of water and ice to a certain amount per person. The delay gave procrastinators additional time to get ready.
By Friday, August 30, we were in good shape. Fridge and shelves stocked, 30 pounds of ice in freezer, full propane tanks for grill, enough bottled water to last until Armageddon, full gas tanks in cars, flashlights and batteries stocked, backup batteries for computers and phones powered up, our generator tested and ready to go in the aftermath.
Saturday, August 31, was a gorgeous day here in South Florida. I stopped by our local grocery store to pick up a couple of things and found the place nearly empty. I even found water! By Sunday morning, it was still beautiful here but conditions were predicted to deteriorate by Monday morning, so we started closing our accordian shutters. This should take about 15 minutes but the shutters were stiff – they hadn’t been shut since Irma in 2017 – and needed generous doses of WD-40. It took a lot longer than expected. We brought in outside plants and anything else that might become projectiles.
On Sunday, Dorian raked through the Bahamas with winds of 185 mph and gusts up to 220. It was a clear day here, hot and humid but I became obsessed with weather reports about Dorian. The hurricane still hadn’t made that predicted turn that would take it up the east coast of Florida and beyond and eventually out to into the Atlantic.
On Labor Day, Monday, September 2, we were going to head to the gym, but found out it was closed until Wednesday, same as the public schools. We had some rain, some wind, but nothing worse than an ordinary summer day. We monitored a local TV channel for updates, I downloaded a couple of apps I could access through wireless in the event we lost power. It’s now 1 a.m. on Tuesday, September 3, and Dorian is still pounding Grand Bahama Island with cat 4 winds, and it’s calm here. Dorian is still forecast to turn north along the coast, but…
Now it’s later on September 3. We’re still under a tropical storm warning, Dorian has started moving to the northwest at 2 miles an hour, and photos of the devastation in the Bahamas are surfacing. They’re heart breaking and stagger any concept any of us have about the power of nature. The Abacos and Grand Bahama Island experienced nearly three days of category 5 winds – and beyond. Winds at 185 with gusts over 200 mph. Cat 6 should be a new category. And the early aerial view of the Abacos looked like a junkyard.
In 1992, no one really knew what Homestead looked like in the wake of Hurricane Andrew until Dan Rather got there. The same is true with the Bahamas – only this time the truth came out much faster, thanks to Smart phones and social media and the Internet. By today, September 4, more images surfaced. Hurricane Dorian was nature’s destruction machine and the videos I watched made me cry. This could have been us, flattened neighborhoods inundated by the ocean, roads and homes, people and pets and families submerged, drowning.
What do you do when you’ve lost everything? One couple, who’d lived in the Abacos for 50 years, survived by standing on their floating machine. All they had left was the clothes they wore. How do you survive that kind of loss?
The bottom lines here are multifaceted. We’re in the midst of climate change and the destruction is going to be massive even if we ever arrive at a global agreement on how to deal with it. The paradigm is shifting and it’s doing so in dramatic, profound, and painful ways.
Meanwhile, we have a president who seems more interested in clinging to his lie about how Dorian would hit Alabama – a statement that brought a pro9mp0t correction from the National Weather Service, a president who takes money from FEMA – in the midst of a hurricane – so it can go toward building his stupid wall. We’re now living in an alternate universe.