In the cone

Hurricanes are strangely lifelike things. And not just because of the names. They eat. They move. They have moods and ambitions.

Hurricane Matthew is now feasting on warm air and moisture a couple hundred miles to the southeast of our West Palm Beach home, trying like mad to become a Category 5 buzzsaw — to become epic, historic, and permanently lodged in nightmares.


It’s already left its mark on us.

The yard has been denuded — no more toys or tables or chairs. I piled them in the garage. There is only empty grass and patio tile. The kiddie pool fence has been pulled up and stored.

The house is shuttered and dark inside during the day. The shelves have been stripped of their photos of smiling babies and good times. Stuff that’s normally outside has been pulled inside. The potted plants, the porch chairs we never really use, even the charcoal grill, now sit next to our couch and book shelves and TVs.

Orange and purple bins with mismatched black lids — hey, this is a cluster, not a beauty contest — are everywhere. Photo albums, paintings, documents, and Quinn’s entire precious Lego collection sit inside them, just in case a window blows out, a wall caves in or the roof blows off and everything gets soaked. But somehow not blown away? Yeah, right. But you never know, maybe they’ll have a chance.

The people — we’ll be safe. Jen will be covering the storm for the paper at the Emergency Operations Center, basically a concrete bunker. Inside, you don’t even know a hurricane is hitting — I’ve been there, done that.

I’ve fled with Quinn, Sawyer, Amanda, two dogs and a cat to Jen’s parents’ house in Broward, a little farther from where the center is likely to strike.

The decisions to be made in advance of a hurricane are fraught with imprecision and doubt. Nobody knows just where the thing will end up. Leave three days ahead of time? Safe, yes, but if the thing turns the other way you feel foolish and have uprooted your family for nothing. Stay? Are you ready to roll the dice?

Jen and I basically rode the middle line — the forecast path and the circumstances allowed it. We were going to stay at home — all of us — and ride it out. Then, the National Guard being called in got to be a little too freaky. We left, and arrived safely an hour south just ahead of the first rain bands. Jen will be in the bunker.

Hopefully at some point tomorrow, we will make the surreal drive back to our house to see what got busted out, cracked open, destroyed. My guess? Minor damage. But we don’t know. We’re only dealing in probabilities, which is what makes these things so maddening. It could loop around and hit again in a few days. Crazy? Yes. But possible.

Amanda, my 19-year-old who has always been excited by the prospect of a hurricane but is now steeling herself for a life of cold showers and no smartphones, asked in disgust, ‘Why do people live here?’

I paused, and gave her some answer like, ‘The weather is good a lot of the time. People like beaches.’

It seemed like a pretty pathetic response.









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