Storm’s ‘a comin’

Deceptively calm

Shrill warning alarms blasted from the TV as dire predictions of the storm’s path and strength scrolled across the screen.

Panic was taking hold. Running from room to room, snatching photos off walls, grabbing precious toys from beds, she frantically tried to decide what would be left behind.

Water filled the bathtub as the oldest child helped wrap the freezer in blankets. The baby, barely two, sat on the floor with their pets, whimpering softly.

She jumped as he pounded the first nail into plywood covering bayside windows, hopefully keeping them from being broken by flying debris.

Opal was coming.

The 100 Word Challenge, a writing prompt created by Velvet Verbosity, takes a single theme to tell a story in only 100 words ~ no more, no less. This week’s theme is ‘Broken.’

* I first moved to Florida during the summer of 1995, moving into our new home in early September. Three, short weeks later, during the height of hurricane season, we were evacuating our home, our town, ahead of Hurricane Opal.

A monster storm, Opal reached Cat 5 status just prior to making landfall in the small harbor town across the bay from where we lived. Two-story dunes and a five-mile section of Highway 98 were wiped out by the 30-foot storm surges.

To give a little perspective, the Saffir-Simpson Scale ranks hurricanes by sustained wind speed:

Category 1: 74-95 mph
Category 2: 96-110 mph
Category 3: 111-130 mph
Category 4: 131-155 mph
Category 5: 155+

As we drove north, Highway 85, the main artery into the area, was blocked to any traffic south, and all four lanes were opened to northbound motorists. As we headed out of Florida, the car radio on for weather updates, we heard reports that all hotels in Georgiana, Montgomery, then Birmingham were full to capacity… we continued on to Chattanooga, near where my mother was living at the time.

The entire drive, I was near hysterical. Practically everything we owned had to be left behind. Once the storm hit, power was disrupted and would not be back online for more than two weeks.

Fortunately, with the exception of several trees lost, and a cracked skylight, our home was spared any major damage. A few of our neighbors were not so lucky, losing entire roofs, finding trees inside their living rooms, catastrophic flooding.

In the intervening years, we have evacuated for at least three other storms, and stayed for as many more. We have yet to sustain any structural or flooding damage. (knock on wood…)

Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30. We have prep down to a science. Beginning in early spring we begin to clean out the freezer to eliminate possible waste should we lose power for extended periods. We have numbered plywood planks for bayside windows, and jugs of potable water stored in the garage.

Our pets have prescriptions of sedatives to make their evacuation as stress-free as possible, and important papers are saved digitally, a precaution against water damage.

Storm names rotate every six years, and alternate beginning with male or female names. If a storm causes extensive property damage, or results in extreme loss of life, a storm name is retired. In the past several years, some of the names retired include: Opal, Ivan, Katrina, and Gustav.

2011 Hurricane names:


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