spending the day with Tropical Storm Fay


I have lived in sunny Southwest Florida for over 30 years.  I have seen a lot of weather come and go.  One year recently we had 4 hurricanes blast through in the span of a single month.  Hurricane Andrew was one of the most costly hurricanes on record back in the 90’s and while Katrina gets all the recent publicity, few people recall that she blew through Florida first.  Tropical storms are no slouch either,  we get pelted with raindrops in monsoon fashion and have gusts of wind that cause all but the hearty (a.k.a. foolhardy ) to stay indoors.

We Floridians may not like the cold, ice and snow of the winter months up North, but we are hard pressed to allow a little wind and rain to keep us down.  (or indoors)  So this morning I was determined not to let the inconvenience of little Fay keep me from my appointed rounds, i.e. having breakfast at my favorite restaurant.

Like everyone else I had been following the news breaking reports of the impending spectre of swirling doom approaching us at 10 mph from the south and decided to call off work.  Last night as Fay sashayed into our area, we opened the windows and turned off the air-conditioning; allowing the cool, evening breezes to sweep out the musk of summertime stagnation.  Imagine my dismay of waking up in the middle of the night having the gusts of wind cause my Casablanca movie poster to come crashing down and also discovering rain blitz through my open bedroom window. Ah, such is life in the sub-tropics!

Anyway, so this morning I got to sleep in a little and watch the wind strafing H2O bullets through the palm trees.  I contemplated laying low as the Governor of the late, great Sunshine State had recommended or defying all odds and trying to find a place for tea and sympathy.  I chose the latter.

Some of the cool things about going out in an area the local weatherman describes as torrential:

1)  Finding an open gas station. 

I discovered too late that my pick-up truck was on empty so the first thing I had to do was to find a way to replenish the liquid that has become more valuable than pearls.  The Hess Mart people were good enough to get up and brave the storm in order to be there for absentminded souls such as myself who wouldn’t sit in line yesterday to fill up.  In the mid-morning of the mid-tropical storm there is virtually no traffic out on the streets except for: police cars, firetrucks, emergency vehicles, power company trucks and mail carriers.   So I didn’t have to wait, which made me feel very smug.

2)  Finding an open restaurant. 

So what else are you going to do on a mid-week day off, watch T.V.?  Not this cowboy.  After gassing up I braved U.S. 41 South and headed over the  Caloosahatchee (yes, that is the way it is spelled) Bridge towards downtown.  They usually close the bridges here when the sustained winds pass 40 miles per hour so I was confident that I could forge across without mishap.  Though the increased blasts of Fay were peaking at 60 mph, the key word here is sustained  winds.  Bravely and alertly I pressed on, imagining my favorite beverage (hot tea) being served up with a wink and a smile by a server who had defied the elements and shown up for work just to serve me.  Imagine my surprise when I found my sanctuary closed.  Ugh!  If I could be out why couldn’t they?  As I drove away broken hearted I consoled myself with the thought that they had lost an incredible sale consisting of eggs, potatoes and toast.  Miss too many of those and it will be hard to keep the lights on. 

It is always good to have a back up plan in these states of emergency and of course, I had one.  I found an open establishment which served me quite well and leads me up to the third cool thing about being caught in a tropical storm…

3)  Keeping the lights on.

When Hurricane Charley blew through I did the smart thing and followed the advice of local, State and Federal officials.. I evacuated.  Living in S.W. Florida and having the menace traveling North by Northeast I shot due East across the State and stayed in Cape Canaveral.  But Charley was hot on my heels and knocked the power out there.  I returned home the following day and spent the next 9 days without power.  Hurricane Charley struck August 13th (affectionately known as Charley the 13th amongst the locals because it was on a Friday) and that is the dead of summer.  No electricity means no A/C and the heat, humidity and the subsequent mosquitoes made life very testy.  So while there were incidents of power outages caused by Tropical Storm Fay here in S.W. Florida, our meter continued to spin. 

4)  Looking through a window, drinking hot tea and being glad you aren’t out in the nasty cavalcade of blown debris, biting rain and swirling anarchy of natures wrath.

You have to be careful in these situations because you never know what lurks beneath standing water.  With a tropical storm dropping 4 to 8 inches of water (or more) there are always “puddles.”  Puddles that can encompass the entire parking lot of Wal-Mart.  You’d be surprised how many people forget that off to the side of the highway are these things called “ditches.”  I don’t know how many times I’ve passed cars that have rear ends propped in the air and their noses buried beneath torrents of sheet flow because the driver missed a drive way and plunged into a culvert.  There have been incidents of standing water deep enough to conceal a Winnebago.

5)  Surviving a tropical storm can put you on the fast track to respect and admiration from your friends and relatives up North.

Something about the Weather Channel showing those circling bands of moisture on their radar screen has people outside our area thinking that the entire State is engulfed with a massive storm that is threatening to suck us off the map… which is, of course, ridiculous!  There are sections up in the Panhandle that won’t even get a drop of rain.  But seriously,  outer bands of moisture do not entail the brunt of the storm.  Following the eye and that immediate circle of say, 30 miles or so, is where the most ferocious winds lie, or blow… as the circle widens, the degree of wind velocity lessens.  So people in say, Orlando get much less wind and rain than we do when the eye is in the Florida Keys.

So… am I disappointed that Fay remained fairly calm and did not become a regular hellion?  No.  Nature’s wrath is not something to be taken lightly as everyone is well aware of.  When I spoke to my lovely wife up in Canada her concern for my safety was very evident and I assured her that I am not one to bravely press on when danger is eminent.  Some folks try windsurfing because of the increased swells out in the gulf waters, some throw hurricane parties, but I try to err on the side of caution.  (in small increments)

Much the way people live with the dreaded winter months, the tornado belts, the forest fires, the floods, the arid summers or any weather conditions conducive to their region; we live with tropical storms. 

Today was not typical but inevitable,  it is just one of the many ways that from June on into November, we try and reason with hurricane season.




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3 Responses to “spending the day with Tropical Storm Fay”

  1. Charles Nickalopoulos Says:

    Yes, these tropical storms can be messy, and inconvenient. I am thinking of warm milk, and sleeping through this one that is forecast to come through Jacksonville, but I am probably giving my age away.

  2. marge Says:

    thanks for the story on how you spent your day.
    I was thinking of you and big sis Cyndi said you were doing alright.
    Glad to hear it.
    Love you

  3. msdane Says:

    Yes, and big sis Cyndi didn’t even get mentioned in your story and I checked up on you too. Hmmm.

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