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Waiting For The Hurricane

What's it like to anticipate a Category 4 storm? Read on ...
Waiting for a hurricane. That's how writer and Key West resident Theresa Foley spent the weekend of Nov. 3 when Hurricane Michelle made her way toward Florida. Below are the highlights, in the form of an E-mail she sent to family and friends.

Hey friends! Hurricane Michelle came and went, and not much really happened here. It was pretty much a lost weekend, with warnings of a Category 4 storm on Saturday (just under the highest possible with 135-mph winds sustained), and people (including me), spending money and many hours putting up plywood and cleaning the yard. This is a good thing for getting the yard clean, a chore that is often put off for other fun things.

Anyway, Saturday was spent preparing, Sunday waiting and listening to every scrap of news and minute by minute update. You stock up food, water, flashlights, batteries, think about flooding, etc. The house is cavelike because the windows are covered with plywood. Then you consider evacuating.

Sunday, the lower keys, all the way to Key West, were put under a mandatory evacuation order. They don't make you leave unless you live in an RV, mobile home, or on a boat, but even then I don't think they really make you. I decided against evacuating to the mainland at 10:00 a.m. Sunday. I was prepared to go, but it seemed likely that the storm would weaken and not hit Key West at that time, and thankfully that was a good call. Most of my friends stayed, too. It's very tricky: If you don't leave early enough, you can get stuck on the road, which is two lanes for 155 miles. The road's full of traffic and can be dangerous if the storm pushes water on the road.

You also have to think about your pets and the animals in the wild. My three cats were going to come with me if I left. They had to stay indoors for two days, so one of them is really mad at me.

Sunday, the waiting day, is spent lying around reading, or trying to get small tasks done. It's very hard to concentrate or do much but eat a lot, because you are sort of anxious and jittery. (Those in relationships sometimes find this a convenient time to have a disagreement about little things, or so I hear.) I used Sunday night to monitor the storm, fix a veggie dinner, drink a glass of wine, and watch two feel-good women's movies on Showtime, which was the right thing to do because it's a lot cheerier than CNN by a long mile!

Then I went to sleep, anticipating huge winds all night. It was gusty and still is, but nothing particularly frightening or damaging. I will ride my bike around the island later this morning and see if anything is amiss other than some coconuts being knocked to the ground. We didn't even lose power.

Today will be spent in post-storm take-down mode--calling the carpenters, trying to get them to take down the plywood, and then carrying the 400 pieces of yard ornamentation that I have (this is required for all Key West home owners to have) out to the yard. We may have some rain, and the seas are still high.

So the bottom line is: Thanks so much for all your prayers and thoughts. The magic worked, and my little island and all that I love here was very protected. The city and Chamber of Commerce is broadcasting the message that you all should come to visit because we want our tourists back ... So come on down! Now that our storm is gone, we'll be like paradise again in no time.

Take care,
Theresa

Theresa Foley is a freelance journalist who has written about telecommunications and satellites for 20 years for publications including Communications Week International, the New York Times, and Via Satellite magazine. She has written the novel Cetacea and is part of the upcoming short-story collection Mango Summers, the work of 15 Key West writers, due out next month. She can be reached at [email protected].