It no doubt started, as all hurricanes do, with the breeze from some butterfly flapping its little wings over the west coast of Africa. I knew damn well when I came to Florida that the state is a hurricane sink hole. In fact, Hurricane Ike was idling in the Gulf even as I was unloading the U-Haul last September. Of course, by that time, Ike had already glided harmlessly past Tampa en route to Galveston. Nonetheless, the state-run homeowners’ insurance monolith refused to sell me insurance while Ike was on the loose. I was not nonplussed in the least. In fact, I have rarely been so plussed. No hurricane has scored a direct hit on Tampa Bay since 1921. Even Hurricane Fay, which bounced around Florida last year like a fart in a bucket, never laid a finger on Tampa. So why, 11 months later, is the first tropical storm of the Atlantic season scrambling my eggs? Could I have been ill-advised in my plussage?
The seat of my discomfort may be all those hurricane supplies I saw stacked up at Lowe’s this morning. Lanterns and duct tape and rope and plywood and, right there in the aisle near the registers, a gravity-flouting Tower of Batteries. I came home after buying spackle - the kind that goes on pink but dries white - and counted my spare batteries (4 D’s, no C’s, 8 AA’s, 3 AAA’s and a 9-volt with terminals rimmed by an ominous excrescence of old battery). I don’t even know what most of these batteries go to, except that the six remote controls in my living room all take AA’s. When the big one hits, my survival plan has been to pillage the remotes. Since my spackle outing, however, I have had a few hours to contemplate the significance of Lowe's's none-too-subtle marketing strategy, and I am developing a potent craving to go back and buy too many of everything in the stack.
Tropical storm Ana is nosing around the Leeward Islands as I type this. One unheralded benefit of living in Florida is that its residents all know exactly where the Leewards are. No one in Connecticut has ever heard of them except one old salt at the Essex Yacht Club and the snotty weather guy on Channel 30. Well, surprise – the Leeward Islands is just an uppity way of describing the Virgin Islands, Anguilla, St. Kitts and sundry other paradisical places we all want to visit outside hurricane season. So named because they are downwind of the Windward Islands, of course. Sorry - I got carried away.
Ana is generating a measly 40 mph breeze right now. A zephyr, a sprightly freshet, a gentle flutter, a bit of a draft. But the Hurricane Experts have now sketched in the dreaded cone of probability, and – whoa! - guess where it targets ground zero. No, no - not Tampa. Key West. From Key West, however, Tampa is nothing but an eight-iron and a bad slice. Suddenly, 1921 doesn’t seem like all that long ago. I’m going out to buy duct tape.