As I write this, I'm sitting in my home in Cape Coral, Florida and watching the weather reports on Hurricane Matthew. Matthew is projected to hit the east coast of Florida sometime tomorrow with winds up to140 mph. Since I'm on the Gulf coast, we're not expecting much in the way of either wind or rain. I probably won't be heading out in my boat, though.
I've been through several substantial hurricanes on Cape Cod. The first I remember is Donna in 1960. I was eight years old, and I still remember my mother driving us around Hyannis when the storm was over. There was flooding everywhere. As we drove down Ocean Street, we could see boats that had washed up and were left stranded in the middle of the road. Trees and power lines were down throughout the Cape. Heading to the beach, I saw an ocean I can only describe as angry.
The next big one to hit was Hurricane Gloria in 1985. Lots of downed trees around my home in Dennis, and we lost power for several days. I remember looking at my family in the dark and thinking, Well, it could have been worse.
1991 brought us Hurricane Bob. I was living in Amherst, Massachusetts at the time. I remember speaking with my mother on the phone before Bob whacked the Cape. Right after the storm, I called to make sure she was okay. She told me they had no power and not much food. She's an old New Englander, and we don't make extra preparations, we just tough it out.
I loaded up my truck with water, flashlights, batteries, and food, and took off to be a hero and rescue my mom. Upon arriving at her house, the first thing I noticed was that the two massive apple trees in her yard were lying on their sides. Apple trees are not supposed to lie on their sides. After bringing in the supplies, I took a drive around Hyannis and simply shook my head at the power of Bob.
My father had a slightly different attitude about hurricanes. He owned a motel in Yarmouth right on the beach. When Gloria was about to hit, I drove by the motel to make sure everyone was safe, only to find that my dad had organized a Hurricane Party to wait for Gloria to hit. Sitting on the seawall and watching the dark clouds and rain bands approaching, it somehow seemed the perfect time for a Bloody Mary. I seem to remember the local police coming by to ask us to evacuate to a safer location. My father's response? Get the officer a drink, we ain't going nowhere. And we didn't. The officer politely declined our offer of libation, shook his head, and drove off. We continued our celebration and symbolically thrust our middle fingers at nature.
It's been twenty-five years since I've been in the middle of a good hurricane, and while I can appreciate the danger and damage they can cause, it's also an exciting time. Go to the store and get water, food, and flashlights (why don't we just always have flashlights in the house?). Throw all the outdoor furniture in the pool so it doesn't blow away. Full tank of gas in the truck. Make sure we've got coolers and ice in case the electricity goes out, which it always does. Oh, yeah—bourbon, vodka, wine, and tomato juice for the hurricane Bloody Marys and get ready to sit it out.
I would look forward to it if we could just have some winds, rain, and a few downed tree limbs. I don't want to see people killed and hurt and lots of property damage, but I have no control over that. So here's my hope that people heed the warnings and understand how dangerous a hurricane can be, and that they take the right steps to protect themselves.
I'm reminded of the Sergeant’s warning on the TV show Hill Street Blues at the beginning of every shift: “And remember people, let's be careful out there.” Be safe, and I'll talk to you all again when it's over.