For days, every local television broadcast and radio program, and every newspaper article, has been describing with increasing hysteria how we’re going to be wiped off the map by Hurricane Fay. Every little zig-zag of its path was documented and debated, and on-location reporters in rain slickers stood there (even when there was no rain and they looked ridiculous) shrilly but passionately repeating the same shreds of non-information over and over. You’d have thought it was the end of the world and the Rapture was upon us.
Ever since Hurricane Andrew in 2002, and the trifecta of Charley, Frances, and Jeanne in 2004, every tropical depression been a disaster-in-the-making. A tropical storm required hourly break-ins with news of shelters that would accept pets, the elderly, and people in manufactured homes, and details about closures and where to pick up sand bags, and the latest high-tech radars showing the storm’s path. And if, perchance, one developed into a hurricane (as three did in 2005: Katrina, which missed us but devastated New Orleans, and Dennis and Wilma, both of which hit us), it was All Weather Panic, All The Time.
Hurricane Fay has, as of this writing, passed over us, except that it never became Hurricane Fay but stayed Tropical Storm Fay. (The picture above is its current image on radar.) Overnight it may become a Category 1 hurricane for a few hours, until it swings back and hits St. Augustine, when it will become a tropical storm once again. So they think. They change their minds every three hours.
We had a hell of a lot of rain today. Sustained winds with some strong gusts from time to time, but nothing shocking, except for the bulletins about tornadoes that this storm was spawning. One touched down in Barefoot Bay, twenty-two miles southeast of us, a community of mobile homes made even more mobile by the strong winds. I heard that fifty-one trailers were damaged.
So I’m getting Mom tucked in for the night, and we’re watching a few minutes of the Olympics, when the phone rings. It’s twenty minutes before midnight. The Caller ID says it’s a 911 Emergency Announcement from the City of Palm Bay.
We get these from time to time. Most often it’s an Amber Alert about a child who’s gone missing, or an announcement that we shouldn’t water our lawns during a drought, or a warning to stay off the streets during a bad storm. But after hearing about that tornado to our south, we feared this was the City of Palm Bay telling us to run for cover because a twister was heading our way.
Nope. It was an Urgent Announcement that the trash pickup would not take place Wednesday morning, so we were not to put out our garbage cans, or if they were already out, we were to bring them back in.
Twenty minutes till midnight, and a 911 recording is talking trash at us.
That’s life in Florida for you.
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7 a.m. update: Fay stalled on top of us all night. She’s moving, albeit very slowly, north along the coast, and is expected not to go out very far into the Atlantic (which is good, so that it won’t gain much strength), but will likely turn back inland and continue to drench us and our neighbors north of us for the rest of the day.
In Barefoot Bay, nine homes were made completely uninhabitable by the tornado, and at least two serious injuries were reported.