Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Those winds blew some sense in me

"If a hurricane's coming," I said to my husband the other day, "I'm not leaving."
He turned toward me, laughed and said, "Oh, yes, you are."
"The house isn't that close to the water," I said, waiting for him to keep arguing.
But he was done talking. He wasn't angry but it was clear he thought the subject was too ridiculous to waste any more energy discussing.
I was talking about weathering a typhoon in the house we are buying in St. Petersburg.
If you've ever flown into the Tampa airport, you've seen St. Petersburg. From the sky, it looks like a teardrop -- made up of almost as much water as land -- hanging into the Gulf of Mexico.
In other words, almost all of it is close to water.
The city is mapped into evacuation areas. The areas that get evacuated first are given the letter A. That includes waterfront property and all mobile home parks.
Our new house is in Evacuation Area B -- second highest priority.
But I still thought it was OK to wait out a hurricane there. How bad can it be, I thought.
And then I met Ike.
The winds were just starting to pick up when I dropped my weekend-marriage husband off at the airport Sunday afternoon.
By the time I got home, the sky had a yellow cast and the wind was blowing down leaves and limbs.
My backyard looked like a war zone. Most of the potted plants were tipped over and ...
It's one of those canvas shelters that have screen sides that can be pulled shut but most of the time are tied in the corners.
It had been BOLTED onto the wooden deck but now it was in the pool -- like a dead dog in a cartoon with its four PVC-pipe legs sticking straight up into the air.
I've got to get it out, I thought as my head quickly filled with visions of those four pipe legs ripping holes in the pool liner.
I reached in the pool, grabbed one of the legs and pulled.
But the howling wind was pulling back and the water in the pool was lapping over the side of the canvas, filling it like it was a gigantic upside-down umbrella.
I yanked and pulled and rocked and tugged and eventually pulled it out.
Now what?
I now had an upside-down umbrella on land. It was no longer in danger of sinking but now it was in danger of blowing away.
I stood on the canvas to keep it from blowing away and I looked around for salvation that wouldn't come.
I pulled the legs off and dragged it next to the utility shed to shield it from the wind.
The wind was still gusting as I walked back to the house, satisfied I had secured the gazebo as best I could.
I stowed some lawn furniture and righted the plants that had tipped over.
And then I went in the house -- and finally had the chance to say, "Yikes!"
The wind was THIS strong 1,000 miles from where the hurricane made landfall.
How strong must that wind be in Evacuation Area B?
Don't ask me. I'm pretty sure I'll be long gone before I ever get a chance to find out.

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