On the Storm Front

On the Storm Front

Those of you who follow my blog know l live in Fort Lauderdale, Ground Zero or pretty close to it for Matthew, a Category 4 hurricane and the worse to hit the continental United States in decades. I am writing this around noon on Thursday where everything here is strangely peaceful with only the growing breeze a reminder of the possible devastation just hours away.

It’s like sitting on a time bomb.

Growing up in Jersey, l remember hurricanes, which l guess were the remnants of the much larger ones that had hit further South, as something of a fun experience. That vision changed with Wilma which hit here in 2005. I was now already living in Lauderdale three years. The wind rustling under the hurricane shutters was an eerie sound I’ll never forget, and when it was all over, while damage in my neighborhood was confined to some loose roof shingles and downed branches, the fence between my property and my neighbors was history. We had no water for two days and resorted to the water in the pool to flush the toilet, and, worse, no power for three weeks. The gas stations had no generators, the grocery stores without refrigeration were stripped, and everyone returned to the farmer’s life of old when folks went to bed at 8.

My biggest priority? Charging up my phone and laptop. My neighbor who had a gas generator let me use one of her plugs.and l felt like civilization had returned to my life.

Wilma ended being classified as a Category 2, and l thought then if a Category 4 ever hit us, it would be the end of South Florida. Now strangely after an eleven year stretch of nothing, that is exactly what we are facing. Looking out from my screened in-patio as l write this at all the beauty that makes living here so special l realize it is as fragile as a glass menagerie and in a matter of hours from now could literally be gone with the wind.

And a lot has changed in those eleven years since Wilma. Florida is now the third most populated state in the country and millions of people, including many gays, have moved down here since, not aware how bad a hurricane can be. We also now live in this age of high technology where many have done away with their landline phones. That’s fine, but what if the cell phone towers are blown away? I have kept my landline more because I am an old-fashioned boy, but I also bought at the dollar store a cheap plug-in landline phone which
could come in handy when all else fails. I don’t know if all of you are aware of the fact that the phone is powered by the phone line itself so regardless what happens at Florida Power and Light, l could still communicate with the outside world.

Despite the dire predictions from officials that Florida is in for it no matter where you are, largely because of the sheer size and breath of the storm, some guys and a few neighbors l’ve been in touch with think nothing will happen. Taking the better safe than sorry strategy, l filled up my car earlier in the week before the long lines and “out of gas” signs materialized, and had most of what I needed in the way of canned stuff and water to get by while the grocery store shelves grew empty. I have one of those portable butane stoves campers use to heat things up, and this morning I microwaved what could that l can reheat later on my little stove before the power goes and the stuff ends up in the garbage. I’ve got my old fashioned can opener, and my lantern and battery operated radio, but discovering just yesterday the C and D batteries l had stowed away after Wilma were corroded, l spent several hours searching in vain for any store that still had some left. My neighbor managed to find some on her way home from work – after waiting an hour in line for gas.

Also yesterday morning l went down to our town’s public works department for free sand bags which l picked up for myself and my two neighbors. We live on a canal but its height is largely controlled by the city. It’s the street level front and side doors we’re concerned about if the torrential rains expected flood us. That’s why l carry flood insurance, even though l’m not in a flood zone.

And unlike some of my compliance neighbors who still have their patio furniture scattered about their backyards, my shutters are up, lawn stuff and plants brought in and stacked against my house inside my screened-in pool enclosure (that who know’s may also become history), and now all l can do is wait for the inevitable.

I originally parked my car in my carport, but then concerned the roof of the carport might collapse, l moved it to my driveway away from any possible trees. I placed important docs in my car figuring if l and my three doggies would have to make a quick getaway everything would be right there. But my neighbor, always ready with the what ifs, (“What if your car got crushed?”) convinced me to transfer the stuff to a bag l could grab along with some clothes if we had to make a quick getaway.

But a getaway to where?

One of my fuck buddies, who lives in a seven hundred dollar a month efficiency apartment, texted me, said he was trying to get a few guys over and would l want to join in. But sex is the last thing on my mind right now. There’s my house l want to be here for, of course, but l worry more about my three dogs than even myself. If the roof is blown away and we all go together, fine. But if l survived and they didn’t, l don’t think l’d wanna live. They’re with me right now sitting beside me as l write this, blissfully unaware of what may be ahead for all of us.

If all our twenty-first century technology or l are blown away, this may be the last message l’ll be able to post. If not, l’ll try to be back here tomorrow on the other side of Matthew.

In the meantime, I will take what will probably be my last hot shower for a week, have some lunch, get depressed by the latest advisories on TV while l still got TV, and just cuddle up with my dogs.

And wait.

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