Hurricanes are fascinating creatures of habit – they are born, grow, thrive, and die in various paths in the earth’s oceans. The Atlantic hurricanes are spawned in an area near the Cape Verde Islands. The meso convective forces that trigger these gigantic swirling storms originate over the Sahel Desert and are connected in some way to the rainfall or lack thereof that impacts that area of the African continent.
Years ago, I lived in southern Florida – SoFla to Floridians – for about a year and a half – just long enough to see Bonnie and Georges come through. While I was not in a location directly in the path of the hurricanes, they swept over and near the coast where I lived.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia – Cape Verde Islands are off the coast of Africa.
Bonnie shinnied up the Atlantic coast, ultimately drifting out to sea as many hurricanes do. Her wispy bands barely grazed Palm Beach County where I lived. Georges, on the other hand, swept much closer and struck Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, and the Florida Keys with brutal force. We watched to see the “cone” of possibilities as to where Georges would strike.
The cone is simply that – something that reminded me of a Thanksgiving cornucopia basket or a megaphone. The hurricane itself is at the bottom of the cone and the upper ends widen out to show the potential path that the storm might travel.
Photo Credit: Discovery Channel
Growing up in Indiana with natural disasters such as floods and tornadoes, I had no clue how Floridians prepared for a hurricane, but I quickly learned. My boss and his wife were very calm and accepting of this phenomenon. They had lived in Florida for decades, and they were used to preparing for whatever lay ahead once the coming of a hurricane was announced. We closed the law office where I was working, and most of the southern Florida coast was bracing for some type of storm.
I lived just about a quarter of a mile from the Atlantic Ocean on what is known as the Intracoastal Waterway. A small inlet off the Intracoastal led to the apartment complex where I lived, and I kept wondering if I would be told to evacuate.
I watched residents scurry in and out of Home Depot and other builders’ marts to drag home heavy pieces of plywood for windows, flashlights and batteries for emergency lights, and groceries. I guess I really didn’t appreciate the seriousness of the matter because I had never been through one, so my mindset was “how bad could it be?” I didn’t stock up on anything as I anxiously awaited the arrival of Georges.
I wanted to see what the ocean and the sky looked like as Georges approached. I drove out to the beach, and I wasn’t the only one. Probably several dozen people were wandering around the beach, so I took my camera and strolled down to the edge of the water. I had already seen the news that Georges would be focused on the Keys, so I knew all I would be able to see would be the outer bands.
I truly was not disappointed. The winds were gusting maybe 50 – 60 miles per hour. The palm trees were bending over and the bands of gray clouds overhead were beautiful. The sun glinted through, and I kept thinking I probably should leave and go back to the shelter of my apartment. But I couldn’t – I was fascinated, and I was hooked on hurricanes.
Photo credit: Reuters – Outer bands of Hurricane Ike
At landfall, Georges was a Category 4 hurricane. The Keys suffered extensive damage, but I was fortunate. I was able to walk in the soft sands of the beach and gaze in amazement at the outer bands of Hurricane Georges as he thrust his force across the Florida peninsula.
All told, Georges killed 603 people, primarily on the Isle of Hispaniola. The storm surge that hit the Keys was 12 feet – some of the Keys are only 7 feet high and are easily flooded.
I will never forget the experience of being able to see the outer bands of a hurricane. And, although I have now been back in my Hoosier home for a decade since seeing Georges, I will never forget the awesome power of what I believe is the most destructive yet magnificent force of weather on this earth.