The chaotic frenzy of Media, Hurricane Irma and the US Open

Editor & Publisher

Nothing is more difficult than waiting for either complete disaster or a God-sparing gift.


No, it is anxiety.

It is really not paranoia — it is not an irrational fear.

It is an innate response, the unleashing of an elemental force heading straight into your life.

And we all hate uncertainty. Like a difficult birth. Like a cancer scan. Like waiting for a college acceptance letter or a pregnancy test result.

I remember the mental drum roll in my mind as my wife would head to the bathroom with a strip of paper. And the “survey says” moment usually was a positive — after all we have six children together.

But protection from a hurricane is more difficult than from pregnancy.

And even the possibility of a direct encounter with a category four storm brings out a myriad of responses from panic-crazed anxiety, to endless list making, to expressions of machismo, to calm and rational leadership, to the desire for flight and avoidance.

I wonder how General Patton would fare shooting at the sky with his revolvers and slapping the frightened fathers heading up the highway in a minivan.


Irma and the underworld

Then there is the media.

I have a love-hate relationship with all media. I grew up and was a lit major so I have a prima donna contempt for most news. I think James Joyce got it right in Aeolus — a bag of wind unleashed on the world. Add that bag to Irma, which is its own swirling bag of wind, throw in newsman Don Lemon or Anderson Cooper and you have arrived in my underworld.

But I am American. I love to immerse myself in what makes me crazy. So I do watch the news while surfing the Internet and soon I, too, learn a thing or two and become a pop expert. Then that inevitably turns to hate and contempt.

The contempt comes in the over dramatization during hurricanes when newscasters pose as “people living dangerously” as they stand by a puddle that is lapping a few inches with ripples and the camera man tries his best make it look like Katrina in motion.

I like it when the reporter walks into the blowing rain to “give an idea what the storm is like.” If only that same reporter would do that during war in a rain of bullets is what comes to mind.


Anderson Cooper — a hurricane fashionista

Or what about the reporter fashionistas — the way the reporters wear the gear of the locals?

Reporters today seek to fit the situation as if they are method acting for all of us. None is more annoying than Anderson Cooper who has a fashion outfit in the closet for every situation — Afghanistan khakis, tight black t-shirts for Katrina rescue work and blue suits for Washington DC days.

If I hear one more hurricane newscaster on CNN like Don Lemon tell their reporters to “Stay Safe” I will wish the storm they are dramatizing circles back as a category 5 and lifts Anderson Cooper and his chameleon-like feigned social worker concern and deposits him in the middle of his Park Place condominium where he can reminisce about himself and his uber-wealthy mommy into perpetuity.


Tracking prowess…

But all of this is compensated by the interesting science. I love the hurricane tracking models, the cones and the spaghetti predictions.

Do you believe the European tracking model, the NOAA tracking model or the many interpretations and interpolations in between? I never realized the tension in the scientific community until this week over who tracks the best.

A co-worker declared Thursday morning: “The NOAA budget has been gutted and it is no longer accurate. I would only trust the Europeans. I read a whole paper on it and it is true. NOAA is useless.”

I thought her declaration strange and yet I spent an hour researching what the hell she was talking about. I Googled it and Google being the one large umbilical cord connecting all words and thoughts I found some of what she said to be somewhat true. I went around for a day saying the European tracking model is the most accurate. Someone asked me why, specifically and I found myself prevaricating like a meteorologist. Maybe I am the method actor I thought.


Vodka, the US Open and a hurricane

There is something strange about the act of having a drink — preferably vodka or Cava — in hand as you watch mesmerized the churning and circling Hurricane Irma as it slowly and inexorably heads towards Florida. It is akin to watching a replay of a car accident just before your head hits the windshield over and over and over.

I did just that as I switched between Hurricane Irma images and watching Federer collapse in the US Open to Del Potro in the quarterfinals. It made for a stinging blend of anxiety and despair.


Happy to spend more

A once-in-a lifetime moment was buying gas on Longboat Key Thursday morning. It marks the first time I was overjoyed to spend $0.20 a gallon more than anywhere else to fill my Land Cruiser up and my wife’s Expedition up at the BP station on the South Key. I thought, “Wow, I got fuel and it was less than $150 for both vehicles.”

Then I went to Publix and because I am American instead of simply filling large containers with tap water, felt compelled to buy hundreds of small plastic bottles.

I’ve never been so happy to see cases of Zephyrhills water and I’ve never bought 12 of them at one time. I went home feeling every bit a good provider and ate a bowl of pesto. It felt like it was a just one of my “last suppers” before the storm might come.


Winds of Love

I then reached out to my mother-in-law — which is akin to Hitler and Churchill high fiving. Next I called my stepfather — which is akin to Poland and Russia signing a friendship pact — and we rented a house on the mainland where we will all huddle if necessary for as long as necessary. It’ll be like Sartre’s “No Exit” if a storm swirls and traps us inside. We will listen to the sounds of the storm outside to only be rivaled by the swirling anxieties within.

But I am actually looking forward to spending time with my family. The days of life are so limited that I am grateful to have these hours together with all of us coming together and looking after each other. We were luck to have found a high and dry house on VRBO to stay in on the mainland.


What Would Joel Do?

If we had not rented a house through VRBO on the mainland to weather the storm, my other thought was Joel Osteen. I understand the benevolent Osteen has offered to open his church solely for Longboat Key and Lido Shores residents. The church is located in Houston and for a small donation you can get through his doors. But later I was informed he only is allowing owners of Gulf-front property in his church so we are lucky we went with VRBO.


Irma and the best of humanity

As for the reality of Irma, the real fact is we cannot be too cautious.

Another fact is we are in the best possible hands on Longboat Key. I am talking about professional responders who are available and accessible and go to any and every length to help our residents.

I want to thank Fire Chief Paul Dezzi and Police Chief Pete Cumming for being available for questions, concerns and information that my wife and I could use to write a story and help inform as best we can. They did that during this most pressing and busy time.

I also find it admirable that I have specific knowledge that they found people homes who may need them during the storm.

I also want to thank all the people in the community who came together and look after each other. I want to recognize the young guy who let the older couple at the gas line at BP in front of them to fill up their vehicle. Little acts like these have a way of establishing the best of humanity.

I also found the Town Commission impressive and thorough in making sure every contingency was being handled during a Thursday emergency meeting.

I often find fault with the Town Commission, but it was sobering to see the low level the Sarasota Commission operates at in its deliberations of major agenda items. My nine-year-old son exhibits a more searing intellect and could make better decisions on the issue of development, traffic and homelessness than the Sarasota City Commission.

Yes, Longboat Key is very fortunate.

And so my hope and most residents’ hopes are aligned — we all hope we are spared massive destruction and devastation. We hope our lives can return to our adventurous normalcy. We hope we can go back to relaxing and watching our favorite shows and going to the circle for Kilwins and Gelato.

Until then, keep an eye on the swirling inferno we call Irma. And most importantly, stay safe.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Longboat Key News

1 Response for “The chaotic frenzy of Media, Hurricane Irma and the US Open”

  1. Marilyn Rhinehart says:

    I have lived here 57 years, most of them with my darling husband and I always ran from them but after being in a 3 over in Kiss/St. Cloud and believe it was 2005 in a motel over there that excepted my (Cricket )Yorkie and the three of us hiding in the bathtub seeing crazy people coming and going with their pups, trucks flung into different units, roofs blown off and then after hrs. of waiting to try to get out onto the highway and seeing a War Zone out of the beautiful place, we use to live in St. Cloud on MIssouri Ave and 2 hrs. trying to get to the main rd. back to Pinellas County (Dunedin) which was still a havac , almost to get to Lakeland. I listened through the years to a wonderful woman who was on the radio in those days and she said don’t be so frightened to the people. If your in a house do what you can to protect what you can but you will be alright. God will take care of you. Also Bush was on the t.v. as they were still running in the motel and he was telling everyone. We will be there . We will take care of you. To me it was so soothing and then I thought of that woman so long ago in St. Pete. talking on the radio. I believe being I that awful Hurricane helped me , as I was one of the worst to face this situation. I have seen 16 of them in all these years sometimes heading to the Carolina’s but never again. I live in a villa and hope to be rescued by my son and as long as you have family or some one with you , All will be taken care of for us here in Pinellas County I believe. What scares most of us is some of those idiots in other t.v. stations who are using words that would scare anyone. Don’t listen to all the stuff.. there saying. Stick to your regular guys and gals that we have locally in Tampa/St. Pete. They are calm and I think they really know what there doing. Good Luck everyone and God Bless you all .

Leave a Reply