Life & Island Times: A Few Parting Irma In(s)anities

Yes, another major hurricane is pushing its way westward across the Atlantic, perhaps it’ll make it to the US east coast. But if that occurs, it’ll be next week. So, let us briefly relax and review.

I used to think that the full moon brought out man’s inner crazy. While the police departments and the medical community have copious statistics that bear this out in terms of police calls reporting bizarre behavior, ER visits and such, Hurricane Irma graced us with some unusual crazy. Or maybe it was just Floridians doing their Floridian thing.

First, here are selected images of Florida storm humor that need no further explanation:
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A sign langauage interpreter in Manatee County Florida used gibberish during storm emergency update press conferences to warn of monsters, bears and pizza, including the phrase “help you at that time to use bear big.”

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In response to a 22 year old Florida man’s launching of a 56,000 member Facebook group entitled “Shoot at Hurricane Irma” (intended as a joke he later claimed), Florida law enforcement felt compelled to ask the public not to do so. For your information, Florida is a Stand Your Ground state.

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Meanwhile down on Big Pine Key they posted this warning to looters. I believe they are serious here.

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And lastly, as I discussed in an earlier post, there was at least one fellow who decided he needed to get severely Irma’d at Key West’s Southernmost Point. Thanks to the webcam across the street I can prove that I am not making this up.

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Right before

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Just after
For the video go to http://www.weathernationtv.com/news/man-bowled-hurricane-irma-waves-key-west/

Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat
www.vicsocotra.com

Life & Island Times: Strung Out and Allergic

Editor’s Note: Still strung out from an evening in the ER to start the weekend. Home and fine now, just…allergic to the the cure, perhaps. Marlow sums it up nicely in the wake of the temporal storms, and the more existential ones here in the Emerald City…We are not done with hurricanes this season, even if Jose seems to have lost focus and wandered north. Reminds me of someone i know….

– Vic

Strung Out and Allergic

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The famous Southernmost buoy in Key West shows Hurricane Irma damage (courtesy Gwen Filosa).

Key Westers will start returning to their island homes on Sunday September 17 2017. Power, water,
communications and sewer service remain spotty. Returninng residents were requested to bring
supplies for several days subsistence and warned that conditions will difficult.

Author’s note: I was listening to the car radio while running Hurricane Irma errands Tuesday before the storm struck the Florida Keys, when a thirty plus year old pop song came blaring forth. Addicted to Love became a raging hit in no small part due to the music video that rocketed it to the top of the charts. It memorably had slicked down, mannequin-appearing models who mimed playing a rock band’s instruments. This song’s hypnotic groove snarkily reminded me of today’s strung out politician-hypnotists and their subjects who are or should be allergic to their groove.

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We are the allergic ones

Their lights are on, but they’re not home
Were their minds ever their own
Their hearts don’t quake, their voices don’t shake
One more talking point, they think, is what it’s gonna take

We can’t sleep, we can’t eat
There’s no doubt, the crap we’re in is deep
Some folks are hungry, others can hardly breathe
More than just posturing and schmoozing is what we need

They like to think that we don’t see their truthy stuff
They ‘re so full of it when they tell us they’ve given us more than enough
When are we gonna face it, they’re strung out on their own fluff

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Screen shot from the Addicted to Love music video

We can see the signs, but they can’t read
Our suffering’s at a different speed
Our hearts’re breaking in double time
They blow us kisses, thinking we’ll be theirs, damn their one track minds

They can’t be saved
Adulation is all they crave
If there’re scraps they left for us
They never watch when we suffer and cuss

We like to think that we’re immune to their truthy fluff
It’s closer to the truth to say we can’t get enough
Sooner or later we’re gonna have to face it, we’re allergic to their stuff

Might as well face it, we’re allergic to their stuff
Might as well face it, they’re strung out on their own fluff
Might as well face it, we’re allergic to their stuff
Might as well face it, they’re strung out to their own fluff
Might as well face it, we’re allergic to their stuff

Their lights are on, but they’re not home
Their minds are plainly not their own
Their hearts don’t quake, their voices don’t shake
One more talking point, they think, is what it’s gonna take

We like to think that we’re immune to their truthy fluff
It’s closer to the truth to say we can’t get enough
Sooner or later we’re gonna have to face it, we’re allergic to their stuff

Might as well face it, we’re allergic to their stuff
Might as well face it, they’re strung out on their own fluff
Might as well face it, we’re allergic to their stuff
Might as well face it, they’re strung out to their own fluff
Might as well face it, we’re allergic to their stuff

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Strung out Capitol city addicts shout out “Yo!” to their subjects

Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat/Robert Palmer
www.vicsocotra.com

Life & Island Times: Storm Interview

Editor’s Note: The Cleveland Indians- are we supposed to say that these days?- have done something quite remarkable, and I enjoy seeing it. 22-straight victories, and they seem prepared to accomplish something Joe DiMaggio-esque in the next few as we roll into the divisional play-offs. We will see how they do. But Marlow has an account about the high inside fastball that Irma threw at his beloved Florida Keys this morning, and that is something to reach for the rosin bag for, and tap the clay from the cleats with your bat. Recovery is a bitch, even if you are not on the news any more.

I am not giving to the Red Cross this time. I am giving to Team Rubicon for Florida and the USVI.

I am not even going to start with the North Koreans and their rockets, or the idiots who thnk blowing up London Tubes is an act of free speech.

– Vic

Storm Interview

He was one of a midnight crew who never missed a fun night out on the town. Friday night happy hours after work were endless one-more-for-the-road times. No one ever got hurt at a hurricane party he was fond of saying. Last Saturday in the early morning darkness, he once again chose to stay.

He had enjoyed over thirty straight years of no-hitters in the storm game on that little island chain. No one ever chided him and the other stayers about their streaks or hanging out at near empty taverns with the other grizzled salts of the Keys, while hurricanes raged on outside. Even when declared, no curfew ever kept him at home. He never got hurt, but last Sunday was like Casey at the Bat in the bottom of the ninth of the seventh game of the World Series.

Somehow he sensed that this one would be an all night-long bus ride in a no-sleep world. He left Duval Street and hunkered down in his small place up the Keys. He chose to swing again for the fences and like Casey, he struck out.

No one couldn’t reach him for days. Some looked at his place on the NOAA imagery and saw the debris field that spewed forth from his home. Searches of social networks and bulletin boards found no mentions.

Then he appeared. He didn’t counterfeit fear or humility for the interviewer. He didn’t turn it on for the camera. He was himself – a thoughtful, slow-talking man. That’s the way he rolls. To those who knew him, he was struggling to keep to the usual routines of his now former life. There were no stems of wine to be knocked down, no laughs to be grabbed and he hit the sheets well before the curfew. He knew he wouldn’t get restful sleep but he had to try.

When asked by the PODcasting microphone guy, he said it finally occurred to him after they closed the Keys bridges that his no-hitter streak might be about to end. He couldn’t remember exactly when this thought took shape. But his description of the storm was riveting. He knew when he had to leave his soon to be surge-battered house for higher, safer ground in a neighbor’s empty, storm-spec, stilt house.

He talked about taking each hour, one at a time. There was no one around to consult for advice. Everything was now instinctual and survival training based on his long ago attendance at one such US military school.

In his neighbor’s house, he tried to start some new routines, certain things exactlty the same every hour. Yeah, some might say this was silly superstition, but sameness would lead to calmness and clear headedness.

Some say the last true superstorm to hit the Keys was on Labor Day 1935. He figured this one would miss him, since the destructive zone looked to be about 30 miles across and headed straight for Key West. But Irma threw him a slider-curveball or slurve. She veered right over him and his home plate.

At times I could sense how reflective he was. In several brief shots, he picked up his stuff and put the keepers in a small pile, while pitching the unsalvageable like a kid skipping stones across a river, so easy was his motion. Occasionally, he examined something as if it were made of crystal and could reveal the secrets of what was to come.

I saw him age as the video went on. I could feel the sadness of a suddenly old man who had desperately held onto his youth. He had squeezed everything he could out of life with his powerful hands, muscular arms, iron will and easy laugh.

There was none of the customary talk when the reporter asked him about the ravages of the law of averages regarding his decision to stay. He never second guessed others and he wasn’t about to do that to himself.

Irma threw him a high hard one inside. He bent backwards as its 130+ MPH winds smashed his house. He heard it explode he said. That is when he said to the reporter, ” STEEERIKE THREE!” The reporter was stunned into silence by this exclamation.

“I made the decision and I’m fine with it. Wouldn’t change a thing.” His words were gracious, unregretful, and unboastful. He wouldn’t bend to the reporter’s attempt to get him to say he had learned some lesson or such.

“This shows what can happen when you take risks.” That was as close as he came to suggesting that God is too tolerant with the margin of error he grants us mortals.

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Hurricane Irma as she struck the Lower Keys

I wondered if the reporter had asked him if he was satisfied with his decision and then edited it out from his piece. I suspected he would have said “How am I to be satisfied? You just got to adjust yourself.” It was all about the moment with a dollop of ill chance. In the end, people must forget what led them to where they are and adjust themselves to the outcome.

What I saw was a ghastly scene of devastation that would take most of those affected many, many months, if not years, to clean, repair and recover both physically and emotionally. Amidst the harshest reality, his losses were total, but his character was not just intact but strengthened.

Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat
www.vicsocotra.com

Life & Island Times: Waters High and Risin’

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Hurricane Irma destroyed many oceanfront businesses, such as this Islamorada bar. (Photo By Dan Campbell/The Citizen)

After providing documentation such as proof of residency or business ownership, Florida Keys residents started streaming back yesterday into the Upper Keys, including Key Largo, Tavernier and Islamorada. The Lower Keys, including the chain’s most distant and most populous island, Key West, are still off-limits, with a roadblock in place at Mile Marker 75 on US 1.

While the Keys are studded with mansions and beachfront resorts, more than thirteen percent of the people live in poverty. They face big obstacles as the cleanup begins. They are the ones who live on sailboats on the hook off shore or in low lying mobile home parks. These are the people who bag our groceries. They are the bus drivers, hotel cleaners, cooks, dishwashers, hair dressers, cashiers, and day laborers. They were already living beyond paycheck to paycheck. Many now have nothing left including jobs, since many small Keys buinesses have been utterly wiped out physically.

Irma shoved people beyond deparation. It may get crazy pretty quickly unless housing and income assistance arrive in the form of FEMA trailers and so on. With upwards of 25% of Keys homes destroyed and 90% having sustained some damage, Monroe County’s 79,000 people are at the precipice of a jobless and homelessness crisis. Most working class county residents did not have property insurance of any kind.

I learned long ago that good things come from adversity if we learned from the past.
After I joined the Navy I never saw much good in the flood waters when they caused me and mine to leave home.
But when the waters went down, I found that they had washed in a load of new challenges
across my family’s path. The following year we had overcome them and were stronger for it.

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Damaged homes in Key West’s houseboat row (Key West Citizen)

This is one of those moments . . .

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Islamorada Key trailer park wiped out by Hurricane Irma
(Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

How high’s the water?
Two feet high and risin’
How high’s the water?
Two feet high and risin’

After that first big storm we made it to dry land if we left soon enough
Cars couldn’t make it through flood waters – they just wouldn’t float
It’s already over all the sea oats by the road,
Three feet high and risin’

Well, the leaves are gone
We’ve lost the birds
Key West’s chickens are clingin
To the mahogony trees
Trucks floating by in water up past their wheels
Four feet high and risin’

Damn, come look through the window pane,
The buses aren’t coming to take us to the mainland
Looks like we’re stuck again with a lot more rain
Five feet high and risin’

Well, the road out of the Keys gonna get washed out north of town
We gotta keep heading for higher and drier ground
We can’t come back till the water goes down
Six feet high and risin’

Well, it’s didn’t stop comin’ until it was fourteen feet high and risin’
Cudjoe, Big Pine and the Middle Keys were picked clean across the horizon
Conchs will survive as we always do

Copyright 2017 My Isle Seat
www.vicsocotra.com

Life & Island Times: Key West: Where the Sidewalk Ends

Editor’s Note: Very emotional day yesterday, shared with a bunch of shipmates who also remember. The news coverage this morning, like the eye of a storm, has wobbled back to the usual political sniping. We had two really bad things happen from the Skies over the past two week, but this is not the catastrophe we were hearing about 24 x &. Of course, I don’t have to return to a flooded house or an overturned yacht. Of course, it is better to see it than not to be able to. Marlow, a long-time resident of Key West, has an appreciation on what happened.

– Vic

Key West: Where the Sidewalk Ends

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Pre-Irma Duval Street Key West

Author’s note: Key West has no phone service, power, water or flushing toilets today, even though it avoided a catastrophic blow from Irma. Not that the locals mind. By Sunday afternoon, as Irma’s winds continued to pound the island, two bars on Duval Street had already reopened. They were packed.

Meanwhile in other news, the Department of Defense announced Monday that all 10,000 people who chose to stay in the Keys during Irma might have to be evacuated until basic services come back. There are tens of thouands of Keys residents on the mianland who are chomping at the bit to go back to their island homes to see what is left and begin their island lives once again.

Key West is the place where the sidewalk ends
It is far beyond where roads begin
Its beach sand is soft and beige
There the sun is hot and bright
There Irma ground the trees bare
Leaving no shade to cool us, only the wind

Should we leave this waterless place where the winds blew everything away
Stark streets full of people’s stuff and debris
Past the gardens where our flowers grew
Shall we walk about slow
And maybe look for signs of where we should go
In this place where the sidewalk ends

Yes, Key West life is treasured and slow
But there’re no arrows that point where to go
Irma wiped clean our chalked path
But two bars just opened, they’re packed
In this place where the sidewalk ends

Copyright 2017 My Isle Seat
www.vicsocotra.com

Life & Island Times: Brinner

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Scenes in Key West as Hurricane Irma lashed the lower Keys on September 10 2017

Author’s note: Sketchy reporting indicates the Florida Keys and Florida peninsula, while pretty roughed up, dodged a bullet yesterday. Sixteen years ago, America wasn’t so lucky. The tragedies that took place in NYC, Washington DC, and a farmer’s field in Pennsylvania were horrendous. What joins those distant events to those still unfolding in Houston and Florida was how we came together as a nation, helping one another through the aftermath. America should never forget that as we carry on.
– – –

While looking online for recipes for quick hurricane meals, I discovered that brinner is all the rage. Thankfully the internet updated my woefully poor knowledge of modern food slang

Brinner is short for “having breakfast foods at dinner time.” Brinner can be all breakfast foods or a meal with dinner foods and breakfast foods. I had no idea that chicken and waffles (long a staple for me after a long night out on the town) was brinner. Savannah being Savannah, shrimp and grits is considered a brinner item.

To me, brinner is any meal that contains at a minimum scrambled eggs, cheese, bacon/sausage, and some bread product.

While I have always loved breakfast for lunch more than at breakfast itself, I am not a morning person. I tend to sleep in and require 30 to 60 minutes and a minimum of two cups of strong coffee to wake up.

Most mornings, my breakfast is that black liquid elixir, cut with some sweetener and half and half. When I am trying to be healthy, I have a cup of greek yogurt. I am too old to care if this make me unhealthy. Carpe diem!

Eating brinner came into my life when I courted W. I was shocked the first time I came to the supper table and saw a brinner casserole. It smelled divine and tasted even better. OMG!

Whatever resistance I might have had melted away. I have discovered that bacon, eggs, shrimp-n-grits and toast with jelly is a well balanced meal. I had my protein in two forms, pork and shellfish. Grits are a form of corn so I had a vegetable serving. A fruit serving came with a dollop of jelly on my toast. As an added bonus, my toast was rye, so I got fiber and grains. This is the ultimate in healthy eating.

Here is just one recipe.

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Brinner Sliders (courtesy of Teri Bell via Savannah Morning News)

Ingredients:

12 Hawaiian dinner rolls
8 large eggs, scrambled
6 slices pepper jack cheese
6 slices American cheese
½ cup butter, melted
¼ cup maple syrup

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Using a serrated knife, cut rolls in half lengthwise (without breaking apart) and place bottom half of rolls in an ungreased 9×13-inch baking dish; set tops aside.

Scoop scrambled eggs onto bottom rolls. Top with pepper jack, then place meat of your choice on top of pepper jack. Top with American cheese. Carefully top with top buns.

Combine melted butter and maple syrup in small bowl. Brush all of the mixture over tops of rolls.

Bake 15-20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and melted.

Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat
www.vicsocotra.com

Life & Island Times: Season of the Wicked

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Waves crash against the Southernmost Point in Key West, Fla., Saturday, last at night September 9, 2017. Hurricane Irma’s leading edge bent palm trees and spit rain as the storm swirled toward the Florida Keys Sunday morning. (Rob O’Neal/The Key West Citizen via AP)

Author’s note: Irma was so strong that national media reporters scooted from the Keys. The only images and reporting of Irma’s approach and landfall on Sunday morning were social media streamed video and local media forays into the storm.

Irma was roaring up Florida when out the corner of my eye
Caught a woman’s strong breath and tears bursting forth from the sky
She said to me “I never seen a man, who looks so worried and alone
Could you use some friends in peril calling you on the phone?
Pay my high price, I guarantee outcomes that’re nice.”
I fixed her with a glare, the blood in my veins became ice
I said “You’ve got such a pretty old timey name
Why’s hurting folks and breaking stuff your game??

Irma looked at me and this is what she said

“There ain’t no rhyme or reason for this season of the wicked
Plus I dont care much for trees with leaves
I ain’t about collecting sins-forgiven tickets
or giving needy mouths something free to feed
There’s nothing in this world that’s fair or free
No, there ain’t no rest for the innocent in this season of the wicked
Until my storm eye closes for good

Not even fifteen minutes later, after walking down the street
When I saw the shadows of storm bands sweeping into sight
And then they swept up from behind, their rain slammed my head
They made it clear they weren’t looking for a fight
They said “We’re taking all you’ve got
We want your stuff, maybe your life
If you try to make a move we won’t think twice”
I told them “you can have my things
But first you know I’ve got to ask
What made you want to live this kind of life?”

“There ain’t no rhyme or reason for this season of the wicked
Plus we dont care much for trees with leaves
We ain’t about collecting sins-forgiven tickets
or giving needy mouths something free to feed
There’s nothing in this world that’s fair or free
No, there ain’t no rest for the innocent in this season of the wicked
Until Irma’s storm eye closes for good

Well, now a couple hours past and I was sitting i my house
The day was winding down and coming to an end
So I turned on the TV
And flipped it over to the storm news
And what I saw I almost couldn’t comprehend
I saw a weather man in the surge’s grip, taking him down the street
His face betrayed he’d bet and lost, soon would be quite chilled
But even still I can’t say much because I know were all the same
Oh yes we all seek out to satisfy these thrills

“There ain’t no rhyme or reason for this season of the wicked
Plus I dont care much for trees with leaves
I ain’t about collecting sins-forgiven tickets
or giving needy mouths something free to feed
There’s nothing in this world that’s fair or free
No, there ain’t no rest for the innocent in this season of the wicked
Until Irma’s storm eye closes for good

Copyright 2017 My Isle Seat
www.vicsocotra.com

Life & Island Times: Hatch Battening

Editor’s Note: this is late this afternoon but important. I am a professionally certified crisis junky, and it kept me up late, then awake late, and then glued to the latest reports. As someone who grew up in Michigan blizzards and Detroit riots, these are important and validated tips for staying alive…pray for those in peril from the wrath of the sea. So far impressed by the Feds, State and locals in response…and the calmness of the five million who evacuated…

– Vic

Hatch Battening

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From space sensors, Hurricane Irma is the most perfect appearing storm I have ever seen.

We had futzed around and fitzed about for several days to see what Irma was likely to do. We had:

bought food, water, liquor, smokes, ice
filled the car tanks with gas and our wallets with cash
occasionally watched the Weather Channel for updates, preferring the serenity of cable TV’s jazz and blues music channels
inventoried the number and inspected the condition of our storm shutters and fasteners
initially planned our hurricane meals

I95 just west of us had been filled the past three days with mostly orderly Floridians motoring safely northward. Some were likely headed to Atlanta or Augusta while most were en-route the far western regions of the Carolina’s.

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Floridian traffic jam on Georgia’s I95, September 7 2017 (Courtesy GDOT)

Having been flayed for his lackadaisical response to last October’s Hurricane Matthew approach, Georgia’s governor erred on the safe side, pre-announcing early Thursday afternoon a mandatory Irma evacuation of all residents east of Georgia’s section of I95 commencing Saturday morning. That meant us just like last time.

Crap . . .

. . . I don’t like driving on clogged roads. On Friday morning with less than 72 hours to the commencement of Georgia’s Irma shaking, the storm eye tracking cone had swerved way left to the west and encompassed all of Georgia.

Double crap . . .

. . . island friends who had left two days ago to shelter with in laws in Atlanta were now is Irma’s crosshairs. Plus, Irma’s curvy hip-swerving eye track now was steering a direct course to our stayer island friends in the Keys.

Keys officials were blunt “If you stay, you are on your own . . . we will not risk the safety of our first responders for your irresponsibility. I can’t stress that any more; you need to leave.” 25 to 30 thousand residents had departed as of Friday morning with many longtime locals heeding the warning to leave the path of Irma.

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This is what weak Category 4 Hurricane Harvey did in Rockport TX
when it struck. (Courtesy Jeff Piotrowski via weatherunderground.com)

Monroe Country’s administrator said with undisguised awe “I’ve been around here about ten years, guys that have grown up here, the Conchs . . . I’ve never seen them react the way they have.”
Key West City Commissioner Billy Wardlow, a Key West native, said Irma is the worst storm he’s seen in his 63 years. “This is the biggest and the baddest that I’ve seen in my lifetime in Key West,” he said.

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Unusual sight: a lonely Southernmost Point buoy in Key West September 7 2017 (Courtesy Key West Citizen)

The weather guessers at Key West’s weather station had hoisted their storm flags and raised their hard wood shutters on their Category 5 proof station windows when they put out the succinct tweet:
***THIS IS AS REAL AS IT GETS***
***NOWHERE IN THE FLORIDA KEYS WILL BE SAFE***
***YOU STILL HAVE TIME TO EVACUATE***

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Battened down: National Weather Service station in Key West

I have never heard Conchs speak this way during the past 43 years. While sustained hurricane force winds will not reach the Keys until late Saturday, the county opened all four shelters of last resort early today. Some of our friends have decided to stay. In one instance, they will be caring for those who cannot be moved.—-
Friday was decision day for hatch battening here in the northernmost Coastal Empire. Projected storm intensity for the storm’s Georgia passover had varied from Category 1 – no big deal – to Category 4 – holy guacamole, settling more or less around a strong, sustained tropical wind smackdown.

Yay . . .

. . . in the garage would stay the ladders, the precut plywood boards, the nails, the hammers, the screws, screw drivers, drills, bits and socket sets. The weather gods had issued us a plenary indulgence from shutter prep and emplacement on second story windows that would have taken more than eight hours . . .

. . . a Category 3 plus storm winds prediction for our area would have made our scoot/stay decision simple — we would blow this popsickle stand and head in a generally westerly direction on state and local roads for the balmier climes of western Georgia. Not surprisingly, we could only find expensive shelter north of Atlanta and bargain shelter 340 miles away somewhere near Montgomery, Alabama. This was a binary existential call. Experience has taught us that hurricanes, when their centers are over warm waters, could leap upward two strength categories in less than four hours. So we tarried and watched Irma’s track intently a bit longer . . .

Casa de huricanes en Montgomery Alabama

Yay . . .

Not on the road again
we just hate to get on the road again
the life we love is cooking and eating with our friends
and we’re so glad to not be back on the road again

Not on the road again
Getting lost in places we’ve never been
seein’ things that we hope we never see again
and we’re so glad to not be back on the road again

Not on the road again
like a band of gypsies on triple digit highways
we’re the best of friends with TWC
and we’re so glad Irma kept churning northwest today

Hatches battened? A definite no on the left; a hearty yes on the right

Friday’s prediction: Irma’s eye track is bending towards the lower Keys and swerving hard left and west over Southwest Georgia

Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat
www.vicsocotra.com

Life & Island Times: On the eve of the Storm

Editor’s Note: So, like most of us, I have been preoccupied with weather porn (family and friends in the path and maybe us here in Virginia), NORK Nukes and all the usual political nonsense here In DC. Montana is afire and most have not noticed the tragedy in one of the almost square states.

Add or that, Mr. Putin’s “5th Generation Warfare” is apparently burning down villages in Ukraine. Every time I think this situation can’t get more nuts, I am proved wrong. Shoot, I thought I was a professional worst-case analyst. And it turns out Robert Frost was right:

Fire and Ice

“Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.”

As to the immediate threat of horrific weather, Marlow and I are on the same sheet of music in his story this morning. We shared the Cat 3 in Honolulu…it was pretty spectacular as the eye-wall came directly over the house in McGrew Point in Pearl Harbor. A few years before, our ship had to sortie into Super Typhoon KIP from Japan after flying off the Air Wing, and with the insouciance of youth, I just stood on the ship’s island and marveled at waves that shot green water high over the bow of the aircraft carrier Midway (CV-41). The power of the sea moved coffee cups around tables below the flight deck that were normally as immobile and still as the grave.

Marlow’s colorful accounts of life in the islands down through the years compelled me to visit the delightful, quirky world of Key West a few years ago, with a vague idea of becoming a local. We were out one night and ran into a local, totally un-named random rain storm that brought water to the top of the wheel wells of the car. It was, to a Mid-West kid, quite remarkable, and to Marlow quite as commonplace as an evening at the Green Parrot bar.

My thoughts and prayers go out to those in the path of the monster storm, both of which are worth exactly that. Or precisely a platitude. In a real sense it means that I have to pony up again to support the recovery from whatever is going to happen. I hope you do, too.

I wish I could volunteer for the Cajun Navy, who personify why America is a special place with amazing people. But for me, those days of deployment are long past. I donated to Red Cross for Houston relief in the last storm, but I will wait to see who gets hit and see if I can get my contribution more directly to State and local people who will have to deal with the disaster on the ground. I wish I could provide gasoline so people could get out of vulnerable areas. God bless the people of the Sunshine State and the Keys and pray for their safety.

Much as I dislike the Cuban government, put them in there, too.

As this unfurls, I will keep you posted.

– Vic

September 8 2017
What Happens During a Hurricane?

Author’s note: It is difficult to answer the question what happens during a hurricane unless you have been caught in one’s grasp. I have had the good fortune to live on beautiful but storm-tossed barrier islands and coral reefs. I guess I was toying with Nature then, since those are borrowed lands. They are on loan from the sea. Inevitably, the sea will return to claim them.

Over the years more than a few in my acquaintance, who have never experienced such a storm, have asked me in casual conversation. I never was able to adequately respond. After living through many of them and considering Harvey’s deadly flooding and Irma’s path ever rightward swerving towards the Coastal Empire, here is what I think.

– Marlow

The wind blows so hard
that the ocean rises up on its rear legs . . .
and Godzilla stomps right across dry land
While stayers huddle indoors singing

Rain, rain, go away

Little Irma wants to play . . .

I have heard hurricanes tearing off neighboring roofs
and seen them snatch onto people
The lucky ones flew around
in the wind until they were lucky to get a grip back on the earth

Once it starts to rain
it’s too late to go outside to close your car windows
You’ll likely get caught by monster winds
Not me, brother

I don’t want to be one
of the hundreds of souls washed out to sea
like the Labor Day storm did
in the Florida Keys in 35

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Damage in the upper Florida Keys from the Category 5
Labor Day hurricane strike in 1935 (Courtesy National Archives)

No one thought anyone would live there
after that
Time moved on
People forgot

A relief train was
dispatched from Miami
The barometer was down
to less than 26 and half inches — a world record to this day

Then that train
pulled into Homestead
The engineer backed his engine into a string of empty
coaches and pushed them down into the danger zone . . .

. . . and great hurricane winds and surge hit right when he arrived
Knocked those hardly filled coaches with WW I vets right off the tracks
Close to two hundred miles an hour
those storm winds blew

 

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Florida East Coast Railway Overseas Railroad relief train derailed near Islamorada, Florida, during the 1935 Labor Day hurricane. The train arrived at the Islamorada station on Upper Matecumbe Key at 820 PM. The hurricane eye arrived at the same time. Because the train was backing in, the engineer couldn’t see the station; the coaches and boxcars started blowing over.

Waves coming in from the ocean “went over the cab floor and shut off the draft to the oil burner. There we were.” said the engineer. “There were times we were unable to breathe due to the water breaking over the locomotive.”

A great wall of water nearly twenty feet high
swept across the Keys
Entire villages wiped out
Miles and miles of track were ripped up and washed away
Nothing was left

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Five Labor Day hurricane victims towed on improvised sled, September 5, 1935. (Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida)

More than 400 bodies as far north as Cape Sable and Flamingo on the mainland were recovered after the storm
And for months afterwards . . .
corpses were found in Keys mangroves
Survivors dreamt for years they had been blown out to sea

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An unanswered question 82 years later: How many more were washed into sea?
(Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida)

That was some hurricane
Many who couldn’t find suitable shelter . . . tied themselves to gumbo limbo trees
The storm howled so strong
clothes stripped off their bodies, their skin ripped raw

Stranger clung to stranger whenever they found one another
Sobs and breath obliterated by the winds
Tears washed away by the storm
There was no time for feelings

When the sun rose the following day
the air smelled of salt and sand
Then came a fresh wood smell from cracked-open trees
A day later came the stench of rot and death

There was no shelter
nothing to eat or drink for days in some spots
until relief trains and fresh crews arrived, and temporary tracks were laid
They were divine sights for salt-crusted eyes

Staying was like hanging out with a killer
No one should have remained behind
The storm waited till it got these innocents in its grasp
then killed them

Don’t get on that stayer boat
Don’t tell its captain that you’ll remain onboard or it’ll hurt you
When you get the warning, go
Get away — it might be your only chance, fellas

This is what a world-shaking hurricane is like.

Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat
www.vicsocotra.com

Life & Island Times: Bread, Milk, Toilet Paper

Author’s note: While cold, calculated, political cynicism was in plain sight inside the Capitol beltway yesterday, something else was the focus here in the southeastern USA. We have begun reaching out to our southernmost island friends to offer them shelter. Many are waiting to decide as they put up their storm shutters today.

– Marlow

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Bread, Milk, Toilet Paper

Yes, yes, yes. Everyone now knows — a killer storm named Irma is coming. Cue the rush to stock up on bread, milk and toilet paper at your local grocery store. In the Florida Keys, the rush was well underway yesterday. Those, who are stayers are adding beer, lots of it, to their supply list. Here in cocktail drinking Savannah, the Irma rush has not yet started, so shelves and coolers were full when I filled our larder yesterday.

In all seriousness though, there are some other important things one must have in an emergency kit to shelter in place. As someone who was trapped on an island by an unexpected southward turn of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, trust me. You don’t want to be sitting in your house like I was, thinking, “Oh crap. I should have planned better than this.” The island’s grocery stores and restaurants were indeed out of bread, milk and just about everything else for four days. I remember being happy as a clam at high tide after Katrina to be able to order a restaurant burger without bread, toppings or fixings along with some local wind dropped grille fruit as a side.

Honestly, as a sailor of the seven seas with one Cat 3 storm ashore in Hawaii, plus two Cat 4 typhoons in the Western Pacific and a huge North Atlantic storm at sea under his watchcap, I should have known better.

Should the center of the storm hit your area, common sense says to stay inside and off the roads during the event. This would seem like a no brainer. Sadly, every storm that hit Key West had more than a few beer-fueled numbnuts require first responder assistance while foolishly observing storm waves and surge at the Southernmost Point. Only in Key West did we have people hanging out seaside in the middle of a hurricane and getting wasted. I will never understand the allure of being repeatedly smashed by debris filled storm waves that always ended with a rogue wave picking up a soused observer and slamming him to the ground.

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2005’s Hurricane Rita

One shou;d have an emergency kit that includes a case of water per person and pet, bags of ice to chill food in the event of a power outage, flashlights, batteries, an alternate means to cook food (charcoal or LP gas BBQ grill), perscription meds, emergency medical kit, and a filled up gas tank in your vehicle.

Experts say to have food and water for you and your pets for three days. Recent storms like Harvey tell me fove to seven day supply is a better level.

Make sure your vehicle’s window wipers, headlights, tail lights and turn signals are working properly. If you’re in a flood zone, have a plan to relocate your car on higher ground. Parking garages are the best bet.

My Keys storm experience taught me that duct tape, plastic sheeting and enough screws and fasteners for window storm shuttering are also must haves. Duct tape saved me from serious flood damage on the grade level, first floor more than once.

Lastly, bourbon, wine, chocolates and good steaks are fairly unknown yet very well appreciated storm supplies, that you don’t hear about, let alone see, in stores during and after a hurricane.

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Underappreciated storm supply items

Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat
www.vicsocotra.com