As much as I’d like that to be about the Whitesnake song or Strong Bad cartwheeling a mile in one of The Cheat’s animations, this is not about either of those.
Nope. If you haven’t already heard, Florida has another hurricane heading its way in a few days: Hurricane Ian. It developed about a week ago in the Caribbean Sea south of Cuba and as I’m writing this, it’s passing over the western end of Cuba and is quickly expected to strengthen to at least a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale currently used by meteorologists and hurricane experts (with maximum sustained winds of anywhere between 111-129 miles per hour, or 178–208 kilometers per hour for my readers in metric countries) before it’s expected to make landfall around Thursday morning. (Today is Tuesday.) Current forecast tracks have the storm making landfall somewhere Tampa and possibly Venice (which is a bit further south than Tampa but north of Ft. Myers), and slowing down its forward motion considerably upon landfall as it works its way north through Peninsular Florida over the next couple of days. The upside to this is that once it makes landfall, it will weaken significantly (since a hurricane’s power source is warm water, which doesn’t really occur so much on dry land). But still, two days of strong winds (at least compared to a normal day) will carry the potential of more damage, depending on location and how severe the winds are.
I still remember when Irma came through here five years ago. I keep hoping that we won’t be dealing with the same things we had to deal with when Irma buzz sawed her way up through Florida. But at least we’re prepared. With each hurricane we’ve experienced in the last two decades, we’ve learned more and more how to get through these storms and made adjustments over the years.
There are some key differences here from Irma:
- Ian is approaching from more of a southwesterly direction compared to Irma, which pretty much went from due south up through Peninsular Florida. This means that the strongest winds will likely stay west of where I am in Central Florida when Ian makes landfall. Good for the eastern half of Central Florida (where I am), but not so great for the Tampa-St. Petersburg metro area.
- Irma at its strongest was a Category 5 and made its first Florida landfall as a Category 4 storm in the Florida Keys. Ian at its strongest is expected to be a weak Category 4 storm and is forecast to make landfall as a Category 3 storm.
The biggest concerns I have are mainly wind damage and the potential for an extended power outage. But, as I’ve said before, we are prepared in the event of an extended power outage. We bought a generator after the three hurricanes that struck our area in August and September 2004 (Charley, Frances, and Jeanne aka “The Triumvirate”) and caused multiple power outages. We didn’t have to use it for an extended period until Hurricane Matthew. After Irma hit in 2017 (which resulted in us losing power for about 5 days, and you may remember reading about that when I posted about it in 2017; I’ll link to the relevant post for you to refresh your memory), my dad decided to install a transfer switch. A transfer switch is a device that is installed by a house’s utility meter and connects to its electrical panel in a way that a house can be safely powered by a backup generator in the event a house loses power from the local power grid for an extended period (such as in the aftermath of weather events like hurricanes). There are different types of transfer switches depending on what kind of generator one has (permanent or portable) and whether they just want to power essential appliances (like a refrigerator or a stove, as here in Florida electric stoves are more common than gas stoves) or the entire house. Ours is a whole-home transfer switch that connects to a portable generator (which is gas-powered). We haven’t had to use it yet. But if we do have to use it, it will be a significant improvement over how we powered our appliances last time: through power strips connected to the generator (which caused me some slight anxiety because that meant having to leave our sliding back door slightly open to accommodate the cords going into the house). The transfer switch takes away the need for the power strips.
(We also recently had a new electrical panel installed last month for unrelated reasons. The TL;DR version is that my dad needed to get a new home insurance policy after the old insurer went under. We were able to get a new policy on the house after a few days, but as a condition of getting the new policy in place my dad needed to have a new electrical panel installed to replace the one that had been there for at least 30 years. Electricians came in and installed the new panel. Needless to say, our electrical stuff is pretty up to date.)
Right now it’s a waiting game. There are still uncertainties about where Hurricane Ian will strike and how badly we will all be affected, but I think if we can get through this without losing power, then I think we’ll be okay. The storm is currently forecast to go northward through Central Florida, but by the time the center of the storm gets to Orlando, it’s forecast to be a tropical storm at that point. Tropical storms are still a little scary, but not to the point where I feel helpless.
I am a bit worried for some of my old friends and family friends that live out in the southwestern part of the state, but I’m hoping they are all taking the necessary precautions and doing everything they can to stay safe. I know of at least one or two friends who’ve already evacuated, and I think more of them will probably evacuate to safer areas as well.
I know many of you who read my blog will be feeling a bit worried about me once the storm hits, so hopefully this post serves as a little bit of relief for you, and I assure you once things are okay again I’ll try to make another post. Until then, I’m trying to manage my stress levels (and this is one of those events that tends to drive up my stress levels) and indulging in the Floridian equivalent of gallows humor: Hurricane Humor. Some people find it morbid or scary, but when one has been through as many hurricanes as my family has, the need for humor becomes kind of necessary and calming. The best one can do in the face of danger is be prepared as possible, and hopefully we’ve done that.
I don’t recommend doing what this dude in the GIF below is doing, but I think this sums up the spirit of Floridians in the face of hurricanes. I’ll hopefully see you on the other side of this.