Thursday, September 09, 2004

Paradise Lost?

Could this be the big one? We are dead in the track of hurricane Ivan as I write this on Thursday morning. We're making plans to evacuate as soon as the forecasters and Emergency Management people say that it's time to do so. I just now heard that the mandatory phased evacuation begins at 7:00 AM tomorrow, Friday. The problem we have is that we aren't sure where to go. It just doesn't appear that there's anywhere safe in the entire state of Florida. Monroe County ordered an evacuation of tourists and non-residents just a few minutes ago. Mandatory evacuation for tourists and non-residents went into effect this morning.

Once again it begins. Janet volunteered to take a day off today, as business has fallen off to the point that many businesses are having to drastically scale back operations and expenses. I doubt that she'll be back to work any time soon.

So, what happens if a category 5 storm comes directly across Key West? My guess is that it all goes away. Levelled. Flattened. Start over again -- if there's any land left above water here.

Each time this happens, I think about the 'legend of the grotto'. As local tradition has it, no hurricane will devastate Key West as long as the grotto of the Blessed Virgin at Mary Star of the Sea on Truman Avenue remains standing. Here's what the church's web site has to say:

The grotto containing the statues of Our Lady of Lourdes and Bernadette was dedicated on a bright sunny day May 25, 1922, the feast of the Ascension and the 25th anniversary of Sister Louis Gabriel's entrance into the religious profession of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. Sister Louis designed this artistic structure, made of natural rock gathered on school grounds. Contributions that came from her many friends in the community made the construction possible.

Sister Gabriel had survived three major storms since her arrival in Key West on August 25, 1897, the 11 October 1909 and the 17 October 1910 hurricanes and finally the 12 September 1919 storm. Because of the devastation and heartache she had witnessed as a result of these terrible storms, she had a deep desire to keep Key West and its residents safe from future storms; thus her passion to build the grotto to seek protection from Our Blessed Mother Mary. Tradition tells us that Sister Louis Gabriel is said to have remarked that day, that as long as the grotto stood, "Key West would never experience the full brunt of a hurricane." And as all residents can attest, there has not been a severe storm on the island since the erection of the grotto in 1922. She died peacefully on September 13, 1948 and was buried in the nun's cemetery on the convent grounds.

We're making our evacuation plans now. We'll probably leave tomorrow morning -- destination undecided yet. The landlords are boarding up the building today, and they plan to evacuate as soon as they are done. We'll likely leave in the morning so as to avoid driving Route 1 in the dark. Speaking of Route 1, it was shut down yesterday from 11:30 AM until 4:30 PM due to an overturned tanker with 2000 gallons of fuel on board.

It looks like tough times ahead.

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