(HURRICANES) A SIGH OF RELIEF

By Jug Varner

Except for tornado threats during the past week or so, there hasn’t been a lot of news to pass along on Keeping Apace, so I diverted my attention to more serious matters of the day here in Florida - preparing for whatever might occur when “Bonnie” and “Charley” came through our neighborhood.

They certainly were the kind of unwelcome guests you don’t want dropping in on you for a rowdy visit.

Hurricane Bonnie set the scene for us, feinting a pass our way, then skirting around in the Gulf of Mexico until she landed in the Florida panhandle, then continued her trip upward through the southeast with an overabundance of wind and water.

About the time Bonnie departed, Charley rumbled itoward the Florida Keys looking for a landing spot. The weather guessers at first thought he would head for the Ft. Myers area, then decided he might come in somewhere around Tampa.

Sarasota is roughly halfway between those two spots - so our fair city’s history of artfully dodging the hurricane bullet seemed highly likely to be in jeopardy.

We were getting set for a possible ocean surge of some 8 to 12 feet and winds in excess of 80 knots… and, of course, taking all the necessary precautions for food, water, taping windows and doors, and a lot of time praying that everyone would get through it unscathed.

Then Charley took a right turn and hit the originally predicted destination.

Normally when a hurricane moves over a land mass, it slows considerably and its winds radiate outward in all directions, spawning tornadoes and other heavy weather.

But Charley didn’t slow much - just plowed ahead in a tight coil, maintaining forward speed, wreaking havoc and destruction upon everything in his path to the Atlantic coast where he continued northeastward for two or three more days. He did spawn a few twisters and heavy thunderstorms, but never uncoiled in our area, thus preventing even more devastation.

Because of this continuance and containment, and despite coming within a few miles of us on the way out of the state, Sarasota was spared the surge, the heavy winds and a great potential for damage and loss of lives. Officials are still trying to add up all the destruction of what may be the most costly hurricane in this state’s long history of such storms.

So we breathed a huge sigh of relief and gave thanks for answered prayers.

Sadly, many victims in Charley’s path were not so fortunate. When you are close to these situations, you realize what a great difference a late or early turn can make in the landfall of these monster storms and the importance of doing everything possible to prepare and protect yourself against them.

The people of Florida have been great in donating money, supplies, materials and hands-on assistance to those many unfortunates who suffered losses from the storms.

If you would like to support the clean-up efforts of Hurricane Charley, click on
http://www.redcross.org/article/0,1072,0_312_3132,00.html or
http://www.volunteerflorida.org