Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Big, bad, and ugly...hurricanes BLOW! [link]

Hurricane Wilma is now a scary Category 5 storm with winds in excess of 175 mph and the lowest pressure ever recorded for an Atlantic tropical cyclone.

Weather forecasters at NOAA predict that the storm will weaken in the next few days. If it heads towards Florida, as seems likely according to storm track predictions, it will probably drop down to Cat. 1 with winds just over 75 mph. Not fun, but not a killer.

I always get a sentimental feeling during hurricane season. I spent 1995 through 1999 on St. Thomas down in the Virgin Islands. I had my first initiation to a hurricane season in the tropics in 1995 when Luis, a monster of a Category 4-5 storm, churned its way near St. Thomas right after Labor Day weekend. I did not have a real web browser in those days, I listened to the radio and wrote down the latitude-longitude numbers, and plotted the storm center on a map. Luis was making a straight line towards St. Thomas and the outlook was grim. Fortunately, the storm veered north a few hours early and the island was spared the brunt of the storm (though we still had a dozen hours of hurricane force winds).

My stuff was all packed in plastic storage boxes. Since I was scheduled to fly off island for two weeks of litigation training with the IRS two days later, I just left my stuff in the boxes. Good thing! A week after I left, a small Category 1 storm named Marilyn came ashore during the evening of September 15, 1995 and devastated the island!

The ferocity of this storm was a surprise to everyone, including the Coast Guard. That was a major OOPS there!

I got back on island ten days after the storm. My apartment survived ok, but my Suzuki Samurai got a smashed hood, a broken driver's side door, and a tree limb through the windshield.

Here it is with the damage fixed...sorta. I think the dented hood adds character. Don't you just love the new door? I hand carried that door on a Delta Airlines flight back from Columbus. Such fun!

Still, I was luckier than most. We ended up going two MONTHS without electricity (and my apartment was one of the FIRST to get plugged back into the power supply) and three months without phones!

So, my heart goes out to everyone in the path of this storm (as well as to the survivors of all the previous storms that made landfall this season, especially Katrina).


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