Sunday, September 12, 2004

Ivan Update - Sunday

We're remaining alert, but we're feeling pretty optimistic about our chance of missing Ivan altogether or, at worst, getting an edge brush with wind and rain. The National Weather Service and NOAA just now issued a tropical storm watch for the Keys, as Ivan continues his czardas* to the west.

We went to breakfast at Harpoon Harry's this morning, joining a number of other locals who were doing likewise. We sat next to a city crew who had parked their street sweepers outside. One good thing about Ivan: when people do come back, the streets are probably going to be cleaner than they've been in a long time.

We've actually been looking forward to spending some time at the Butterfly Conservatory. The promises of company, a friendly poker game, and the opportunity to learn more about the Conservatory and its operation, all held the hope for an interesting experience, and now we may not have it. On the other hand, we'll be able to sleep in our own beds, remain online, and come and go as we choose. Janet is going to check in with them this morning to see if their might still be a party of some sort in the offing.

At the KeyWestFlorida newsgroup, the whining about an "unnecessary evacuation" has begun already. The Keys remain closed and still under a mandatory evacuation order, so those who left aren't yet able to return. Are they less likely to leave the next time? I think so. Yet, there was a piece in Key West The Newspaper this weekend which, I confess, made me think twice about our decision. In the end, I think we'd do the same again. Life is meant to be lived, and experiences are to be experienced. Life is never without risk.

The article was first published by KWTN in 1994. It was written by David Wiseman, a former hurricane consultant for the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services. The complete article can be read here.

Here's an excerpt:

The few local people who thought something might happen busied themselves with candles, bottled water and Spam, but with little or no thought of evacuation. Many Key West homes had not yet completely removed their storm shutters from the drill three weeks ago or the month before that. With no plans, local school kids, let out early once again for a hurricane emergency, goofed off and lazed around, feeling some justice for the lack of snow days enjoyed by their counterparts up north.

Conchs old and young reassured themselves and newcomers that hurricanes never hurt Key West thanks to the reef and the Madonna. The fact that the reef and the shallow surrounding water depths raises the dome of approaching storm water was lost on them, as were the hundreds of hurricanes that have washed over this cap rock in the 500 years of recorded history. Most Key Westers were bone weary of hurricane warnings that never amounted to anything.

Besides, it was a beautiful day, 84 degrees, and dozens of boaters were heading out after work for Western Sambo following a report of voraciously hungry Mutton Snappers.

In 24 hours, over 17,000 Key West residents would be dead. Later it would be determined that an additional 7,500 tourists were killed, with 3,500 more missing and presumed dead. It was to become the greatest natural disaster in U. S. history.

* Czardas: an original Hungarian Dance also popular in Russia. Czardas translates as "Inn keeper". This dance begins slow and easy and then ends up in a fast whirling and turning.

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