Hurricanes I Have Known

The crazy trajectory of Hurricane Wilma. When it began,
the liklihood of hit hitting Florida was almost zero.

DATELINE: October 19, 2005 — On this day Wilma became “the most intense hurricane on record with a minimum pressure of 882 mb.”

Everybody remembers Katrina, but Wilma has always been the bridesmaid. But, it should be the other way around. Here’s why from the WikiWhackyWoo: “Hurricane Wilma was the most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Atlantic basin. Part of the record breaking 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, which included three of the six most intense Atlantic hurricanes ever (along with #4 Rita and #6 Katrina), Wilma was the twenty-second storm, thirteenth hurricane, sixth major hurricane, fourth Category 5 hurricane, and second-most destructive hurricane of the 2005 season.” 

At the time I had just moved to Florida and wondering what the hell I had gotten myself into. All the news stations down here were going crazy with hurricane coverage and were saying that such an active hurricane season might be the “new normal.”

CLICK TO ENLARGE: Top left: One of the building’s roof peeled off by the wind;
Top right: Trees took the brunt of Hurricane Wilma; Lower left: A neighbour’s
car after the roof was peeled of its roof; Lower right: Roof where it don’t belong.
That yellow thing is the ‘igloo’ where we put our recycling. They became airborne.

While a couple of hurricanes had skirted by Florida prior to Wilma, and Hurricane Katrina crossed the state much farther north, no one thought that Wilma would hit Florida.

It formed as a Tropical Depression, as they all do. But, rather than getting organized in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, it formed in the Caribbean, near Jamaica. Two days later it became a Tropical Storm and received a name: Wilma. A day later it was already a monster Category 5 hurricane.

Then it moved over the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, where it simply stopped moving. Hurricane Wilma churned over the Yucatan for almost 2 days, as tourists in Cozumel and Cancun hunkered down as best they could. During those 2 days Hurricane Wilma lost much of its energy, decreasing to a Cat 2 when it entered the Gulf of Mexico. Then the fucker made a right turn and headed straight for my condo.

My condo’s on the east side of Florida. First it made landfall in Cape Romano as a Category 3. However, it also picked up lateral speed, moving across Florida faster than it had the Gulf of Mexico.

Top left: Why trees didn’t do well. Roots have a hard time going down in sand, so
root systems grow outward. With not enough purchase, winds just push them over;
Upper right: Same car. Lower left: Pops giving the ‘thumbs down’ to the tree my
mother, who had recently died, planted when the condo was new; Lower right:
A totally different tree which shows the horizontal extent on the root system.

Pops was an old hand at hurricanes. He’d ridden out many since moving to Florida. In fact, during Hurricane Andrew in 1992 I was working in the CityPulse [sic] Newsroom on BreakfastTelevision. [sic] Through sheer luck of the draw, it fell to me to write up the Hurricane Andrew Story™ that morning. While it was on my mind — and I had free long distance at my disposal — I called Pops in Sunrise to check up on him. At the time I didn’t really know Florida geography and didn’t realize that Homestead, which took a direct hit from Andrew was almost 60 miles away. While on the phone with Pops, who was hunkered down with my mother in the interior closet, Producer Bud Pierce asked if he’d be willing to do a live phoner during our newspacks, which is how he ended up on the air 3 times that morning.

As I said, Pops was an old hand at hurricanes and nothing was going to budge him. That’s why we remained in the condo as it took a direct hit. However, rather than hunker down in Pops’ closet or my bathroom (the only 2 places in the condo that doesn’t have windows), we wandered around the condo, occasionally looking out the windows to watch huge things fly past. We were crazy and lucky nothing happened.

There was one point when everything calmed down and I walked outside in the eye of the hurricane. It was beautiful and clear and one couldn’t even see the eye walls. That lasted only about 15 minutes. Then it all started going to hell again, with the wind coming from the opposite direction.

These pictures are just a small portion from my facebook album Hurricane Wilma Damage.

BTW: We were without power for 18 days after that. People ask me how that was. It was like camping, but with more comfortable furniture.

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Headly Westerfield
Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.