Hurricane season. It can affect you nearly everywhere, though some of us are more tuned in to it than others. Both fascinating and frightening, hurricanes bring out our realization that we are not in control; nature is.
I am in the camp of those fascinated by hurricanes, but I’m not chase-the-cane crazy. I’ve fully experienced only one. Others have affected me with drenching rains that start in the islands; worry about one home when I’m at another home; and mostly worry about friends in the TCI and Bahamas who are in the direct line of a hurricane. We’ve had property damage from hurricanes, but all that is minimal compared to the anxiety about the safety of other people.
Right now, with three storms blowing their way across the Atlantic, I am finding the various reactions to and knowledge about storms the fascinating thing, revealing differences in culture, experience and perspective.
I have talked with a number of older people on North Caicos who remember Hurricane Donna in 1960 (some of those folks are now deceased). It was, of course, pre-Internet and before North was much developed and had good communications with even other islands. From what I gather, there were no plans of preparedness or evacuation. People behaved much as other island fauna did, sheltering in the bush rather than in man-made structures, which were considered less trustworthy. Afterwards, they re-built homes with government assistance. These are those one-room limestone ruins that many mistake for older housing. As time went on and people could afford to build better, their hurricane homes were abandoned (or now, taken over by squatters and immigrants).
Today, with everyone connected and more aware of the storm season, there aren’t surprises. We can check the maps on the National Hurricane Center website daily and see disturbances forming off Africa and the various models of the meteorologists tracking them. “Can” and “do,” however, are two different things. Many rely on their local television stations instead of doing their own homework, and it is here that the differences in perspective really show up. A storm may have been building for weeks out across the sea, and it may have already caused problems for many other people, but if you wait until your station goes into “hurricane mode” (more like panic-mode), it seems like something that just sprang up.
Even The Weather Channel is prone to discounting storms until they threaten the continental U.S. I have so often wanted to shout at the TV, “What about the islands?!” as the meteorologist stands there, blocking a view of 22 North/72 West. Unless a hurricane is coming directly to them, the Turks and Caicos are rarely shown on a map, and references to them have to be gleaned from phrases like “the southern Bahamas” or “the north coast of Hispaniola.”
That’s why I rely on the NHC website for my hurricane news, and why I am often so out of sync with my American neighbors on the weather. “Goodbye, watch out for Florence,” said a friend on Friday. It took me a while to “remember” Florence, focused as I am now on Helene and Isaac. Oh, yeah. Florence, coming to Virginia if they are correct. But what’s going on with Helene? And how are those people in the Windward Islands coping with Isaac coming their way?
That’s the toggle of hurricane season. One island’s “Whew!” is another island’s “Help!” So we watch, and wait, and prepare when we need to, and help others when we can. I’m all in, and I’m prepared to use my Facebook page again to try to connect people and information … even if I still can’t type the word “meteorologist” without making a spelling error!