Think Positively

Staff Columnist

We had a hurricane in this part of the Gulf Coast recently.  Many of you, our readers experienced it.  I thought that I was no stranger to hurricanes and typhoons.  I had forgotten.  I guess that might be because the last hurricane to visit our island shores was more than ten years ago. Katrina was in 2005.  The last evacuation in Miami was 12 years ago.  I recall one evacuation from home here on Longboat Key.  So, you get rusty, and complacent.  This one, Irma, was probably a good refresher – if one needs that type of learning.

I had grown up on Long Island so I almost remember Atlantic Hurricanes.  We had water in the streets on Fire Island.  There were/are no roads there.  I actually recall observing a fine house sitting high on a dune – until t was carried to sea by a monster wave.  It was carried seaward, then thrown back towards the beach by a following wave in the cycle.  The difference was that the house returned towards its site in many, many pieces.  The ocean had destroyed it and deposited the remains on the dunes.  It really can and does happen.

I served on the island of Grand Turk for more than a year.  We lived in tents!  The folks on Grand Turk live with the sea and their environment.

There was never even a thought of evacuation.  Evacuate to where, how? Reality sets in pretty fast in the West Indies.  These people are hardy souls.  So were we Seabees!  A tent can be your fine home.  I suppose we were lucky.  Grand Turk was not so lucky earlier this hurricane season.

These memories launch my thoughts on hurricanes here on Longboat Key.  I’ve had a change of heart of storms, buildings, government, neighbors.  As I lead this piece it all comes down, for me, to accentuating the positive as the old ballad goes.

My memory of LBK hurricanes and infrequent evacuation is dominated by my memory of the previous Town Manager (a friend of mine whose tenure I supported).  I hold a couple of local details of those years which color my thinking.  The one evacuation from this Key I recall was actually covered by a sticker system on Residents’ automobiles to identify us on return.  OK.

Then there was the rather serious procurement exercise to lease or buy a helicopter to shuttle the Staff and Commissioners to and fro, but not the residents, of course.  This one went nowhere.  The stickers exist now only on older vehicles.  There will always be tension.  This year’s tension was magnified for the hundreds of good folks waiting on the Bridge while someone decided if trees had been cleared.  The sight of residents and guests of this rather fine community walking along GMD carrying their luggage says it all, at least for your humble correspondent.  At that point I was not  thinking positively.

Any After Action Report on our Irma operation must concentrate on the  task of removal and disposal of vegetative debris.  That’s trees and their severed parts.  Several parties participated in this effort.  My thinking started to change after a week or so of this effort.  The performance of many was viewed by me at least, positively.  FDOT, with its yellow equipment  stole the show for me.  Early on it had the right people, equipment, and will to succeed.  It did.  The several contractors doing similar work slowly got with the program.  Even FEMA joined in, after a request from our Senior U.S. Senator.

I got Positive about week three of this evolution.  I observed Floridians helping Floridians.  I must admit that my own long-held opinion that things generally are not done so well around here has changed,  I’ll put myself on the Positive Team from now on.  You are free to mark me on this change.

We got through it – this time, again.

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