Last year, during Hurricane Isaac, I wrote a "hurricane diary." It was a tale of this northerner's first experience with a hurricane other than those big red drinks that you get at Pat O's.
Up north in Ohio, what we fear are tornadoes. Every school kid has to practice the "tornado drill," where an alarm goes off and you form a line with one of your textbooks and go to your designated windowless room, sit against a wall cross-legged, bend over toward your knees and put the book over your head. Like a textbook would ever prevent a tornado from swallowing you up.
It was terrifying.
Combine that with a shrill, blood curdling tornado siren that goes off and can be heard all over the city, and you can understand where a kid might grow up to be afraid of them. It's like a siren that tells you bombs are about to go off, that there's been a nuclear meltdown, that zombies have taken over and they're going to napalm the streets. And they test the siren every Wednesday at noon to make sure it works right if or when there is a tornado. It always made my heart skip a beat. That's how serious people are about those damn things. And I've often wondered what would happen if there ever was a tornado on a Wednesday at noon, but I guess I'll never have to find out since I moved to hurricane country.
Anyways. Last weekend we had Tropical Storm Karen to contend with, and in the tradition of my hurricane diary from last year… l will now share my tropical storm diary.
Thursday, Oct. 3
I had the day off so I sleep in kind of late and by the time I wake up, my husband has claimed the television and is watching "SportsCenter" and re-runs of "The First 48," so I don't watch any news. I don't really read anything online either because I'm avoiding having to see idiotic ramblings about the Affordable Healthcare Act, so I'm mainly just playing games on my computer. Bubble Witch Saga. Candy Crush Saga. Solitaire. It's a great day of not having to think about anything. But in the evening my husband says, "Oh, hey, there's a tropical storm in the Gulf." I nod and go back to shooting bubbles.
Friday, Oct. 4
I had completely forgotten about the storm by the next morning and went to work thinking it was just a normal Friday. One of my bosses is like, "The storm! IT MOVED!" He goes to the store to buy a generator and fills up several big canisters of gas. I see this and start to panic a little, chastising myself for being so nonchalant about the whole thing. I mean, I remembered Tropical Storm Lee from a few years back and it wasn't really that bad, just a bunch of rain and the power never went off. I read the news on my phone and it looks like there's mandatory evacuations in Plaquemines Parish and the mayor has declared a state of emergency and said everyone could park their cars on the neutral ground. I know shit gets serious when people start parking on the neutral ground.
I call my husband and say, "THE STORM MOVED. We need batteries! We need water! We need a three day supply of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!"
And he's like, "Yeah, I heard that the bottled water is all gone from the stores but I don't think it's gonna be that bad. People are buying all this stuff for nothing." But then I'm thinking, shouldn't we always be prepared? Isn't it better to have bought cases of beer and nothing happens than to not buy cases of beer and have to go through a big storm sober?
I devour news. I download a hurricane app to my phone and check it constantly. It looks like the storm will hit on Saturday.
We decide to chill out on buying a bunch of supplies as Orleans Parish doesn't seem to be in much trouble. If the storm is worse the next day, we'll swing by the store for a few things in the morning. Though we cancel any ambitions of going to Gretna Fest as it's sure to be a rainy mess (it was fine).
Saturday, Oct. 5
When I wake up, the "threat level" on my hurricane app is still at a level 3, but the storm has slowed down and shouldn't be hitting until Sunday morning. My Weather Channel app says it's going to rain all day. It doesn't.
I was thinking about going to the bar to watch THE Ohio State Buckeyes beat Northwestern (we did, but it was ugly), but I didn't want to get caught in the impending storm of doom. I stay home to watch it but keep flipping the channels back and forth to National Treasure because the game is stressing me out. I can't believe how bad of a movie National Treasure is, but it entrances me anyway. I'm so entranced that I end up watching National Treasure 2 and by the end I'm kicking myself for not going to the bar. It never rains. I could have been having fun with my friends but instead I'm watching Nic Cage movies. Is there anything worse? At least it wasn't Drive Angry or Bangkok Dangerous or Ghostrider or The Wicker Man or Ghostrider 2. Wow, he's been in some bad movies.
Sunday, Oct. 6
I wake up expecting it to be storming like crazy. I go outside and the sky is blue. I'm so puzzled. The tropical storm isn't a storm anymore, it's a "depression." Hell yeah, it's a depression. I was expecting a gloomy and doomy weekend and instead I could have been working on my October tan. I look at the hurricane app and it's still at a level 3. I guess the storm is now even slower? It was supposed to hit Saturday, then Sunday, then not at all. Later into the day I hear that even the "depression" term has been dropped. Tropical Storm Karen is no longer. The threat level is at a big fat 0.
Okay. So I know it's best to be prepared for tropical storms and hurricanes or even just a gust of wind with the way that Entergy is so efficient at restoring power. And I know that these storms are nothing to sneeze at. Isaac taught me that first hand. But like with Lee a few years ago and now with Karen, all the news and all the hurricane apps and all the hoopla are making people paranoid as hell, and when nothing ends up happening, it makes people think it's going to be like that all the time. A fizzle. And then when something actually does happen, it's going to smack us in the face. It's the storm that cried wolf!
I admit I can be naive, but I didn't think anything of this storm until I heard about the mayor telling people to park on the neutral ground. I stayed at home all weekend thinking that if I dared to leave the house, I'd get stuck on a flooded road and my car would float away. Instead I now know that the founding fathers wrote a treasure map in invisible ink on the Declaration of Independence and that you need a pair of 3D glasses to crack the code. I'm not even kidding. 3D steampunk glasses.
I just feel like in an effort to be super responsible, or in the effort for viewership or page hits, these storms are getting sensationalized. And I'm sure that in some parts there was some bad weather, and of course that needs to be covered, but here it sprinkled a little bit. People do not have the money to stock up on supplies and buy gas for the generator and board up their houses. That kind of thing can break someone living paycheck to paycheck. If they sacrifice like that, there should be a reason.
I'm lucky. We can go buy a case of water and batteries and still be able to pay our bills at the end of the month. And I have a husband who grew up here and has a sense for what is serious and what is not. Some people are not so lucky. And I was also lucky that all we had invested in Tropical Storm Karen was a plan to stay home for the weekend. All we had to deal with was a little tropical depression from watching Nic Cage movies.
Meh. Maybe it wasn't so bad after all. I always enjoy a movie where Sean Bean gets to live in the end.
Monday, Oct. 7
There isn't a cloud in the sky. It's 72 degrees, there's a cool breeze, and it actually feels like fall is on the way. I can stop pretending with all those pumpkin spice lattes! I'll take it.