“Hurricane season brings a humbling reminder that, despite our technologies, most of nature remains unpredictable.” Dianne Ackerman, American Poet

Consider that this column is written about six weeks before you will read it. The reason this is important in relation to the topic is that this story is about hurricanes and they can occur anytime; but most of all between June 1 and November 30 in the Atlantic area. So, by the time you read this a host of hurricanes and their issues could conceivably have occurred to pre-empt these considered opinions.

Having lived in South Florida, specifically Fort Lauderdale, for sixty-two (62) years, I have experienced many hurricanes during that time. I have been both lucky and fortunate to escape serious problems. But we also rely upon the National Hurricane Center for the latest and greatest information as the storms occur. Literally millions of taxpayer dollars are poured into the study, administration and execution of hurricane plans and evacuations, shelters and emergency programs to protect us.

When Hurricane Irma was announced last year as one of four major storms, I carefully monitored the situation and concluded that I had nothing to worry about. Through these many years the south Florida house had been as ‘hurricane-proofed’ as possible with anchors, tile roofs, impact window and doors, generators etc. Previous storm experience was scary enough, and with Irma being rated a possible Category 5, we did not want to experience either the ‘eye’ of the storm nor the near impact of the ‘eye’.

So, after family consultation the wife and I decided to ‘get out of town’ and opted to relocate to my Mother’s house in Lake Placid, Florida. This is some 2 hours north of our location and centered in the literal middle of the state. With the predicted path of Irma coming out of the Keys being a curve from West to North, it was expected to head West of Tampa. Even though the right side of the storm is always the roughest, the direct impact would be mitigated by time and distance.

By some miracle even though the power had gone down around eight PM in Lake Placid, my little portable power supply maintained internet service during and after the storm for several hours. My wife and I watched the computer in horror as the storm began following an almost direct line up U.S. Highway 27 from Fort Myers through Sebring. This brought the eye wall of Irma within ½ mile of our house. I had forgotten the abject fear from these monsters. But those memories quickly returned as the winds increased and the pulsation of the storm expanded and contracted the atmosphere as a balloon would filling and expelling air. The walls of the house felt as if they would collapse and then explode with each cycle. We prayed a lot.

For the next four hours the storm vented its rage. In 2016 we had installed hurricane shutters on this house we had owned as a summer get-a-way for twenty-five years. They saved us. In the bright light of morning we cautiously ventured out of the house and were overwhelmed at the sights and sounds of the storm’s passing; we had been spared, not so for our neighbors.

We spent the first two days touching base with everyone in the area to make sure no one was injured or worse. Very lucky there. Property resources, power systems, fuel reserves, food supplies were non-existent. But lives had been spared and that’s what counted. Everything else could be rebuilt. So, do your best to prepare. It is, after all the only way to have any chance of survival. At the same time recognize that weather predictors can and do fail; forecasters can and will be wrong. And you must take up the slack when these systems blow through. In the end Mother Nature does whatever she wants.

May you and your subscribers have a peaceful season for 2018 with all the right planning.

Bob Neely

Executive Director

Alarm Association of Florida