Monday, August 27, 2012

Extreme weather

The hurricane season seems to be in full swing again. It rains intensely and it gets dark soon. This past week Floridians were bracing themselves for the arrival of Isaac, a tropical storm. Living as far north as Gainesville means that while it can get really nasty outside, I'm usually never in any real danger. The winds  will not be breaking our windows or flooding up the neighborhood. Still, I often get stranded indoors. Rain bands mean I have to cancel whatever it is I had planned for that day. Sometimes it's not even safe enough for me to get food. I'm not fast enough and far too exposed sitting down to roll around in the rain. It starts and it stops only to pick up again with no warning and for no apparent reason. In the past I had to deal with electricity outages for hours with food going bad and the refrigerator. These days I live by myself, so if something that extreme happens I won't even have a roommate to help me. Naturally, I prefer to be with other people. For as long as I lived in Gainesville, University of Florida has been converting some of the campus buildings into shelters, not only with students in mind, but also those in mobile homes and people who don't feel secure being by themselves. The ballrooms in the student union had reinforced walls and back up generators or so we were told. There was food, plenty of room to sleep and  safety- the police officers were with us if something bad was to happen. But the time to get there was limited. If the rain and gusts prove to intense the bus system suspends all routes. Also, a lot of times we've received warnings over the weekend, when transit goes out of service earlier anyway, so we needed to plan by anticipating what would happen anyway. I moved to Florida in 2004. Those who remember that year would say it was a pretty extreme hurricane season, if I'm not mistaken, we've had three in a row. That first week I was with my parents in Orlando watching blizzards moving down International Drive on TV, very close to the motel where we stayed. I was convinced it was just the irony of life- I flew in from Poland to die in hurricane just a few days later. As you watch the weather maps and things unfold on TV you really don't know if you should go hide in the bathtub already. It's a scary time for a foreigner with no such experiences. Plus, after you hear the stories of the elderly of people with disabilities getting injured or dying, you realize that being in a wheelchair puts you at risk if there's a need to evacuate for any reason. I can't run, I'm not as mobile, I will not be hiding under furniture or climbing through windows. Over the years, I've heard stories of apartments getting flooded, branches smashing windows and debris hurting people. It seems like Isaac was easy on us here, but still the intense cold rains make it virtually impossible for me to risk it and be outside. Seems like extreme weather is part of Florida's charm. Only last Monday I saw rains and winds so intense they were bending  trees and the world looking out of a window seemed to be behind a wall of water. I was outside only 15 minutes prior. Seems like batteries, flashlights and radios are things as obvious to get here as bread. And having mobility issues doesn't help. For that reason I will keep up with UF's monitoring the storm's path and if told I should seek shelter I will do so.

1 comment:

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