The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

We Interrupt This World Series to Bring You Hurricane Wilma

Barley twenty-four hours ago my focus was on the White Sox and the World Series. I wasn’t a happy camper when my television signal went out and I wasn’t able to watch the game. I followed along on the radio – and what an exciting game it was. I still haven’t seen highlights of the game. I suppose that I will soon enough. Maybe I won’t though. A lot of the basics of modern life that we take for granted aren’t a given right now. 2% of the people in town have electricity right now. You can count the number of open gas stations or open food stores on one hand. Trying to find an open restaurant is a hopeless effort. There’s even an 8 PM curfew in effect – for everyone. It’s really weird. All of that will probably keep me from seeing the game for some time.

Waking up this morning was the weird part. Yesterday morning, the storm was going on. There was no sleeping through it. The wind and the rain pounded away at the windows. The howl of the wind, which sounded like a train surrounding you continuously, was pretty much everywhere.

This morning was different though. It was quiet, peaceful, and tranquil. The doors and windows were open all night, so that some air would circulate. The only noises to be heard were from the frogs down near the (normally there anyway - storm or not) water.

But upon waking up, reality sets back in. There are places to be and things to do. You’re supposed to have a normal day today. But the light switch isn’t working. The refrigerator is warm. No water is coming out of the faucet – not even water that the county might insist that you boil somehow (you know, without power).

So you need a shower. Luckily there are plenty of supplies. That a shower requires cups, candles, and flashlights is weird. There’s plenty of improvising from there, but I’ll spare you.

Driving around town is weird too. Most of the major roadways have been cleared – by the people, like me, who went out and about yesterday. There are police officers in the major intersections now too. That’s a huge help, as hardly anyone in town (despite having had many occasions to learn the rules and to practice them) understands that when the traffic signals are out, intersections become four way stops for everyone. Sadly, it seems, few folks adhere to this because most folks are in a hurry and/or more important than everyone else. What a pain.

The fun and excitement was yesterday though. First the storm wailed and howled. I really thought that the windows, particularly in the living room, were going to come in. You could see them bending in an out from across the room. Then the power went out. I figured we were done for awhile. Then the power came back. The worst of the storm had passed by then and there was power. I figured I’d have power the rest of the way. I was elated. The house had stopped swaying (it does that by design, as all modern high-rises do, but it’s still disconcerting to hide out in your closet and to see your clothes swinging around and banging into your wall) and there was power. Everything was looking good.

Then the backside of the storm came. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the front end, despite what the weather people had told us to expect. I suppose that may be because it was pounding the other side of my building. I went outside and took some pictures on my balcony during this point in the storm. I had wanted to do this earlier, but it just wasn’t possible. Then the power went out. This time for good.

There’s still no power. There might not be any power for up to a month. We will see. Last time this happened, during Katrina, my power came back within a day, after they’d warned us that it could take a week for power to be restored.

Amazingly, the one thing that worked throughout the storm was text messaging. Not cell phone service – which was, at best, iffy all day, if it worked at all (it seemed to vary wildly depending on your carrier and location). People began texting each other before 7 am, when the storm was already going strong. I sent a friend an invite to meet at Denny’s for breakfast. Another friend on Miami Beach invited people over to his house, where he said he’d be hosting an outdoor breakfast. It’s all a sick form of humor that helps you get through a pretty stressful situation. There was obviously no going out for breakfast at that time. At that point, everyone was just hoping that the outside wouldn’t be brought inside.

Then the eye of the storm passed, or we got some sort of a respite. I’m really not sure what it was. Regardless it was a break, but anyone listening to the radio or television, or who had read the paper (and speaking of the paper – they delivered on Monday morning, but there was no late news or sports, so what’s the point?) knew that the storm wasn’t over yet. Still some fools were out on the roads driving around. I hope they made it back to their homes safe and sound. I could see at least one car that didn’t make it back home. They ran off the side of the road and got some of the first emergency attention that I saw after the storm broke.

After the quiet period ended, the storm picked back up. From my perspective at least, it was much less intense. I wandered outside and took the storm in. There were even some birds outside, which I thought was reassuring; if the animals were comfortable being around, it must not have been as bad as it seemed.

Even though it was a little calmer now, clouds and wind were moving in multiple directions, and if not that, they were certainly moving exactly opposite of the direction they were headed in just a few minutes before. That’s always the weirdest part of these hurricanes. And yes, you could effectively see the wind – if only because of how thick the rain was or because of the waves it was creating in the water.

Once the storm ended yesterday, the eerie quiet began. There was the occasional sound of a generator. Once in awhile you’d hear an emergency vehicle of some sort go by. Battery powered radios worked, but nearly every station carried the news and that became insufferable pretty quickly. Media people talked about destruction in grand terms – mostly using analogies like “war zone” and “looks like a terrorist attack took place” for the areas that were hit hardest. In some cases that sort of talk may have been fair, but for the most part such talk was overused and only served to upset people who were already devastated.

The saddest part of all, at least for me, was that the one radio station that I could find that was playing music seemed to be having a Backstreet Boys/Paula Abdul marathon – even sadder than that was that I was happy to hear it. Luckily for me, I didn’t have Fishfan’s MP3; if I did, I might have jumped off the 12th floor balcony. Thankfully my XM radio is also battery powered. Between baseball talk and the comedy station, there was some good stuff to distract you.

Eventually I went out to find some friends. We’d hoped to grab lunch at a restaurant. There’s always somewhere open after a storm. When the typical places weren’t open, we knew this was serious. Eventually we bbq’d at my place. Technically that’s not allowed, but I can’t imagine that anyone’s going to be a stickler for the rules at this point. We’ll see. I didn’t see many of my neighbors cooking on their balconies though. We’ll see. Maybe I will be in trouble.


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