The hurricane simulator.

One of the exhibits at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, Florida is the hurricane simulator. I had the privilege of experiencing it during my visit there years ago.

The hurricane simulator is a small room that seats about 10 to 12 people. Before entering, visitors must put on safety goggles and protective earmuffs. After taking their seats, the door to the room is closed and the simulation begins.

At one side of the room is a vent from which a powerful fan blows air. At first the air comes out as gently as the morning breeze. Then the fan gradually increases the airflow as a digital gauge on the wall displays the speed of the simulated wind. The wind in the room gets stronger and stronger and soon reaches Category 1 hurricane strength, strong enough to stir up the soft foam bricks from the floor and send them flying all over the room. A few minutes later the fan slows down to a stop as the simulation ends.

I don’t know how much the hurricane simulator has changed since my visit, but from checking MOSI’s web site, it’s still there and waiting for you. Have a seat, if you dare.

Surviving Hurricane Jeanne.

As a longtime resident of South Florida, I’ve been through many hurricanes starting with David in 1979, but none were scarier than Jeanne in 2004. Of course, that was the year when Florida was hit with not one, not two, but three hurricanes. Charley hit the west coast of Florida while Frances and Jeanne struck the east coast near where I live.

When Frances struck, I joined my parents in evacuating to a neighbor’s mother’s condominium in Boca Raton. There we rode out the storm while enduring a blackout and lullabies of howling winds. While we were sitting there in the dark, we heard something heavy fall outside. Spending the night was miserable as there was no air conditioning or working lights. The mess we saw outside the next morning was unbelievable with branches, leaves and a large tree that got knocked down.

But Hurricane Jeanne was the scariest storm I’ve been through. My parents and I stayed at a friend’s house not far from where they live. Not long after the storm arrived, the power went out. I was lying on the couch in the warm, dark living room while listening to continuous coverage of the storm on my radio. At the same time I could look out the unboarded window and see trees bowing and branches making frantic gestures in the roaring wind. I also saw flashing blue lights that I thought was lightning but turned out to be explosions from the power transformer. That remains the scariest sight I have ever seen in any hurricane I’ve been through.

Enough was enough indeed.

The calm before the storm.

It’s that time again.

As I write this, Hurricane Irma is churning towards Florida, prompting the usual frenzy of preparations that’s been repeated many times before. The last time we went through this was last year for Hurricane Matthew, and now it’s time to do this all over again. Sure, it may be calm now but things are going to get nasty in just a few days.

First, I need to stock up on emergency supplies. As expected, the water aisle is completely empty.

That means I have to wait in line for the water like everyone else. Can’t you just feel that frustration building?

Oh yeah, I gotta fill up with gas too. Problem is, there’s a long line there too.

No worries, though. I’ll just get up extra early and go fill up at 4 a.m. where there’s no waiting.

After the shopping’s done, it’s time to start putting up those storm shutters.

All this for a storm that doesn’t care how prepared you are. Once it passes, who knows what horrors and extra work await.

Thoughts on Hurricane Matthew.

This past week has been one of the most nerve wracking weeks in recent memory. As I prepare this post, Hurricane Matthew is inching up the Florida coast for a perilously close flyby of the West Palm Beach area where I live.

Much of the week has been spent watching the storm’s track and finalizing preparations in anticipation of its arrival. I sense the storm has cast such a huge shadow over our lives that nothing else matters at the moment, not even the election.

I work at a large home improvement store, which has given me a front seat view of the frenzied preparations in progress. Customers have been swarming in and raiding the aisles containing their treasured supplies. Not surprisingly, one of the top selling items is plywood. When the store ran out of plywood, there was literally a long line of customers in the lumber aisle waiting for the next shipment to arrive. Cases of water, batteries, flashlights and generators have also been flying off the shelves. Barbeque grills and propane tank exchanges have been hot commodities as well.

As the week wore on and the preparations continued, my store soon ran out of the supplies that were in huge demand. Customers looking for flashlights were greeted by the sight of empty shelves. Soon the shelves on the lumber aisle became bare as the demand for wood exceeded the supply.

And then comes getting ready for the storm myself. I too have had to shop for hurricane supplies and hope the store even had the needed supplies in stock. Often I wasn’t lucky. When I went to the bottled water aisle, I found it completely empty except for signs assuring more water was on the way. Wrapping up the stressful shopping were the long waits in line at the checkout.

I think the most stressful part of preparing for a hurricane is getting gas for the car. Every gas station in my area had extremely long lines of cars waiting to fill up. I became so desperate that I set my alarm for 3:30 in the morning and go fill up first thing after getting up. My scheme worked. There weren’t many cars at the gas station at that time of morning so I had no problems filling up. I was also at the store at 5:30 that morning and easily got hold of the bottled water I needed. The early bird gets the worm indeed.

And now here I am, home and waiting for the storm to pass. I did go into work this morning and assisted customers in loading their cars, staying mainly in the lumber area to help load plywood and bags of sand. Later in the day as weather conditions deteriorated, the store closed early and still the customers kept coming, only to be turned away by the hand written “CLOSED” sign.

I have my own house secured and ready for the storm. There’s nothing more to do now except keep track of the storm and stay in touch with loved ones. Oh yeah, and take pictures too. I’ll post the best one here. Meanwhile, I better post this while I still have electricity and Internet.

Hurricane Matthew is currently skimming along the southeast corner of Florida and will head out to sea before turning around and possibly hitting Florida a second time.

Isn’t life in paradise wonderful?