By Jeff Childers
Good morning, C&C Army. Two and a half million Floridians are out of power this morning, but not me. I am writing to you from North Central Florida, just now reaching peak winds, around 20-25 miles per hour, which means its weirdly cold outside and every tree in sight is writhing like an electric mixer.
But this is nothing compared to the 100+ mph winds that Southwest and Central Floridians experienced yesterday and throughout the night. Right before impact, Hurricane Ian’s track shifted south, and instead of hitting Tampa, it landed three hours’ drive time away, in the normally-idyllic Fort Meyers area, just south of Sarasota, and just north of Naples.
They didn’t have enough warning to prepare for a direct strike.
When the storm landed on Florida’s shores, it was practically a Category 5, only two or three miles an hour under the official definition. Fatalities are already reported in the hundreds.
As I write this, the storm has rampaged across nearly the entire width of the state. It took the long way, traveling diagonally northeast in a line across heavily-populated central Florida, and in two hours or so should dump itself into the Atlantic. It’s still a Category 1 hurricane, despite having been over land for so long. That almost never happens. The storms usually start unwinding as soon as the winds encounter the hard friction of dirt.
As a lifelong native Floridian, I have grown somewhat jaded when it comes to most hurricanes. Most hurricane seasons only produce two or three false alarms, where the weather channel desperately strives to win an Emmy, local reporters pretend to drown in puddles, and newbies descend on Publix and Home Depot like Old Testament locusts, turning the battery racks into little forests of empty pegs, and scouring the beverage aisle, leaving only empty shelves behind. Forget about trying to find diapers.
Meanwhile we natives, like the alligators, blink at all the commotion with gimlet eyes and swim quietly into the tall bushes. Haha, just kidding. It’s Florida! We’re ‘Florida man.’ We make snapchat videos showing off how unworried and defiant we are by bolting a barbecue grill onto the roof. Just in case we have to live up there for a while.
In other words, natives have time for hi-jinx because natives are ALWAYS ready for a hurricane. We don’t NEED to raid Home Depot. That’s for amateurs.
But natives and long-time Floridians know hurricanes can trick you. Some storms are just different. In 1992, I was in Miami as a presenter at a major tech conference the day before Hurricane Andrew deleted Homestead hamlet. I grumbled, but I evacuated; we all just knew. The turnpike was so congested with evacuees it took 16 hours to drive the five hours home. The widespread damage was so bad that, after the storm, my small-business clients in South Florida armed all their employees, and hired retired marines to protect their businesses from looters in the weeks after the storm.
In 2004, Florida had a tough hurricane season. Four major storms hit Florida that year. Hurricane Charlie, one of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit the United States, crawled up the middle of Florida until it got here, to Gainesville, where I live. During the tranquil ‘eye of the storm’ interlude, my wife and I sat on the front porch, cooling off and taking in the eerily quiet and amazingly fast cloud displays. The power had been out for hours and we’d just got our first baby to sleep in his crib.
Suddenly in the quiet afternoon we heard a booming CRACK! and then a vast noise and a rush of air just like a jet airplane makes when you’re standing next to it on the tarmac. I grabbed Michelle and shouted … something … probably “run!” … and we raced into the house a split second before a massive tree’s canopy crushed the porch, the chairs, and most of the roof on the front of the house. Michelle was freaking out.
I remember that I never saw it coming. All I can recall is a flat wall of green rushing towards us at around 100 mph. We were attacked, in our own home, by a water oak. The police report was priceless.
Like Andrew, Hurricane Charlie was one of those different kinds. We remember them all, every one. The last one was Hurricane Irma, which in 2017 turned Mexico Beach into a sandy patch.
It’s pretty clear Hurricane Ian will be scratched onto the Devil’s list of storms Floridians always remember and discuss for decades. Even now, as the storm is still blowing, everyone knows somebody in a hard-hit area. One of my best friends owns a place on Sanibel Island, which was smack dab in the middle of the crosshairs. Or maybe I should say, “owned.” (Fortunately he and his wife are out of town.)
The preparations for the massive relief efforts are already underway. Meanwhile, useless political types are already plotting how to use the storm to further their climate change agenda and slander the governor for his allegedly incompetent preparations and response. (He’s been doing terrific, by the way.)
But even now, as the massive storm polishes off its work, Florida’s natural defiance remains undamaged and untarnished. We’ve been through this before, many times. We will rebuild. We won’t be frightened off our beloved peninsula.
Writing this, it occurred to me that Florida’s defiance toward nature is part of our love for nature and the reason why Florida became the “Freest State” in the country during the pandemic. We stubbornly and doggedly insist on clawing our way back into nature’s bosom whenever she chucks us out. In other words, we don’t let anyone — not even nature — push us around. Not for long, anyway. We value independence and self-reliance, which you have to have sometimes, to live here and be happy.
The Governor even has a website where folks in the emergency zone who refused to evacuate can let the state know where they are.
In other words, the state’s evacuation order wasn’t MANDATORY. Not really. They let citizens decide for themselves. Even if we refused to leave, the state government will come help us out. You might agree with that policy or not, but the state of Florida respects our freedom, and doesn’t substitute its judgment for ours.
Here’s what the spirit of ‘dependence on government to save us from a pandemic’ has produced:
I humbly suggest to you that what the country needs right now, nay, what the world needs right now, is more of the courageous, tenacious, and defiant Spirit of Florida.
Hang in there! C&C’ers in hard-hit areas, help is on the way. Everyone else, stay safe and well and keep an eye on the skies. I’ll see you all tomorrow.
C&C is moving the needle and changing minds. If you can, I could use your help getting the truth out and spreading optimism and hope: https://www.coffeeandcovid.com/p/-learn-how-to-get-involved-
Truth Social: @jchilders98
C&C Swag! www.shopcoffeeandcovid.com
Emailed Daily Newsletter: https://www.coffeeandcovid.com
© 2022, Jeff Childers, all rights reserved
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal Florida.