my personal blog

August 26, 2005

Thirteen Years Later…

Filed under: personal — Alfonso Surroca @ 10:53 am

Almost exactly thirteen years ago, I found myself barricaded in my home behind pounds of exceptionally strong aluminum, family members rushing about keeping themselves occupied, the weather radio blasting its garbled play-by-play. Behind the galvanized aluminum fortress and above the chatter in the house, you could still hear the rain and the wind pounding on the house. At the outset of the heavy winds, the power went out, with the timing of a suspense film, because as we all know, the suspense in every sound you hear increases tenfold when you can't see the source of the sounds you're hearing. And thus, for all the brutal force Hurricane Andrew had, I could see none of it.

Hurricane Andrew changed the face of South Florida, rather, it wiped it clean off. That was thirteen years ago, yesterday. Since then, we've been through countless tropical storms and numerous hurricane situations, culminating with last year's four back-to-back near-misses. None have ever come close to Hurricane Andrew's tour de force. Tonight, Hurricane Katrina becomes the latest in line to batter the Florida peninsula. Florida sticks out into the ocean like a sore thumb (or other appengage), fully exposed to every whim of the tropical weather system, and we've come to accept it.

Tonight, I'm sitting in the dark, just as I did thirteen years back. And what a darkness it is! Once you start hearing the sounds of various objects being thrown around outside, you do a quick mental inventory of what the landscape looked like a few hours back. What was that "klink" noise? Was it a gardening tool a neighbor forgot to bring in? That "thud"? Did a satellite fall? Are the powerlines coming down on your street? Are projectiles being lobbed at your home from a nearby construction site? You have no way of knowing until hours later, until daylight, when you can set foot outside your house.

Except, when you do get to see anything, you find you've stepped out into a world similar, but all to different than the one you left when you locked yourself up in your home the previous evening. It's eerily the same as you left it, except with changes in the landscape you could never have imagined unless you'd seen them in person before. Houses you saw a thousand times in passing are simply not there, previously handsome tree-lines streets are now barren. Hustle-bustle roadways are stagnant. There is no sound.

This hurricane, it's a huge storm, but at the same time it's nothing compared to the wallop that was Hurricane Andrew. Nevertheless, a hurricane is a hurricane, regardless of category, and even the weakest one can rip the landscape apart, flood an entire city, and bring life as we know it to a dead stop. No one is on the roads, businesses are closed, the elictricity is out all over, and everyone is cooped up in their homes waiting out the inexorable movement of the storm. Tomorrow morning, I'll see what mark Hurricane Katrina left upon the landscape.

But, right now, it's silent. The deep growl of the hurricane-force winds are gone, and in its place the casual "drip drip drip" of the raindrops, not unlike the sort you'd hear in a relaxation tape. It's just the eye of the storm, it's just a momentary lapse, and the part of the storm where most deaths occur. People, deathly curious by nature, and tired of being kept in the dark for so long, wander out into the momentary calm, and get impaled by debris carried by a sudden gust of wind electricuted by downed powerlines, and so forth. I know better.

technorati tags: hurricane, journal, miami, oped, naturaldisaster, society

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