Saturday, October 8, 2016

Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew is the first storm that has actually had me outside in the weather putting up shutters and sealing up the house, at least since I've been a homeowner. We've had a good run for the last decade or so, with hurricanes missing us left and right and either heading out to sea to die, or unfortunately hitting our neighbors to the west, north, and south. The Caribbean especially gets hit by every storm that comes through, just because of where these things usually get created in the tropics. I don't know how they do it, but it seems like they're in a constant state of rebuilding, and for those of us that have family "back home" in Jamaica, Haiti, or the Bahamas, there's always a sense of dread until communications are back up and we can contact them.

The way that people talk about Miami, with its crime and tribalization and lack of manners, you would think that the city would just become the Purge or Marvel Battleworld during a hurricane, where all laws are suspended and normally sane people just run amok. The truth is, I've found the opposite to be true. In my neighborhood, I see people running extension cords to their neighbors across the street, heading out to put up shutters for the older people in the area, making grocery store runs for women alone with kids, and generally watching out for each other. I go to Publix to get water and other supplies, and the lines are long, but people are really chill, talking and laughing with each other, because even if we don't know each other, one thing we know is that we all go through this together. There was one guy in line complaining about the two-per-customer water limit, but then he was also saying that he had nine kids at home. While I had a hard time wrapping my head around that one, I did notice that the next two or three people in line who were not buying water all sent someone over to grab a couple to buy for him. I think he ended up going home with eight gallon jugs of water, plus two or three large cases of bottled water. I have pretty good shutters on my house - roll-down for the windows and corrugated pieces for the sliding glass doors - but we had to run through Home Depot for more nuts and bolts to hold everything down. The store was pretty packed, and they had run out of plywood and batteries, but even there, everyone was being really kind to everyone else, making room in line and helping less experienced people like myself find what they needed, since the employees were already jammed up. I even saw a couple of people showing real concern for the Home Depot employees, asking them when they were getting off work, and whether they would have time to take care of their houses.

Miami is a very special city for this reason. Like a family, we don't always get along, but we are usually down for each other when things get rough.

Then there's this one guy.

On Thursday night after we had buttoned everything up and sealed ourselves in, my wife and I ended up watching Netflix (literally, unfortunately) until about one in the morning when the lights went out. It did seem odd at the time, because the wind wasn't really that strong and we could hardly hear anything going on outside. Still, we figured we really couldn't judge, since we couldn't see outside the house - one of the strangest feelings, by the way, if you've never been through a hurricane.

In the morning, I went for a run through the neighborhood to the park nearby, which is kind of a tradition with me, ever since I was a teenager during Hurricane Andrew. I usually run through the neighborhood past some people I know or down past the church to see how things turned out for them. This time there really wasn't any damage to houses or even trees, until I got to the bridge over the canal a couple of blocks away from my house. 

The wooden utility pole next to the bridge was broken in two places, about three feet from the bottom, and again about three feet from the top. The top of the pole was hanging precariously by its cables over the corner, and about twenty feet of pole was just leaning against it, obviously the reason we lost power. The power company was already out working on it, God bless them, so I kept on running. 

On the way back, I passed it again, and this time I noticed some things I hadn't before, because the repair truck had been moved. First, I saw that the bottom part of the pole, sticking out of the ground, was bent over, away from the street, and the chain link fence on the other side of it was damaged too, but not by the pole, since it had fallen in the opposite direction. In fact, somehow, the pole had fallen toward the street while the base was bent away from the street, in opposite directions. And then I saw the tire tracks in the road. 

So the whole reason we lost power for a day was not because of the winds or anything related to the storm, really, but because some idiot driver tried to power through an all stop intersection, next to a bridge, in a thunderstorm, and lost control of his vehicle, slamming into a power pole hard enough to snap it in half. Then, presumably, he back up his vehicle, which I can only assume was either a clown car or a stolen van from the prison fleet, and left the scene.

At least the power was only off for less than twenty-four hours, and there wasn't any worse damage, although whoever owns that house is going to have to repair that fence that the guy ended up hitting as well. At least no one was injured, except maybe for the driver, who I kind of hope got just injured enough that he's going to be in pain for the next couple of weeks, but not too seriously. At least the kids, including the youngest, were able to sleep through the night, without being frightened by the storm. 

So, for everyone who's heard bad things about Miami, or has ever been afraid to visit, not all of the negative rumors are true. There are lots of good people here, and we do look out for each other.

The parts about the bad drivers, however, are all true.

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