Photo: Hurricane Wilma
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November 2005

Photo: Nick's haven

In West Broward Wilma’s eye opened in passing, clipped us in calm, and I walked the gravel path from the shuttered house down to the open pavilion. In the lee of a fixed wall I’d left a chair nestled between the parked cars, and I see the chair is still standing. Not the most accurate safety gauge, but enough for me. I can no longer die young.

Since Cleo came through in ‘64 people have been telling me, “Don’t play outside during the hurricane.” The people that say it most are meteorologists. They say it most often while outside. During a hurricane.

I’d love to see just one television station put a rain slicker on a crash-test dummy and let it stand outside in the storm instead of on-air talent. It would be a better message. As it is now I am asked to trust and follow the judgment of trained scientists who do not know enough to come in out of the rain.

Photo: Traffic lights blown down

The wind picks up again, the broken branches stir, and I settle in for the show. Too late now to go back up to the house. I sat out here through Katrina, but that was a dry breeze compared to this. A howling begins, the high-tension lines humming like bowed strings, tightened and stretched then scraped with water, a constant steady pitch, changing in volume only. The water does not rain down but rather scours sideways, as though an angry God cranked up His Power Washer and put on the 10 degree tip.

Trees fall, softened by the earlier assault, every limb is stripped, shredded from driven water held in the churning air then shoved through screaming and pushing, an aerated waterspout pounding the canopy into kindle. The barn is solid, my haven holds, the storm clears, changes into a sunny afternoon.

When the damage was tallied The Miami Herald headline read, “A Category One Did This?” My friends on the weather channel blame microbursts. From sitting out that afternoon I can say that an aspect of their measuring is missing. Do this, meteorologist. Stand in front of a leaf blower. Then stand in front of a power washer.

And think about the crash test dummy.