Oh man, here we go again.
Are your hatches battened down? Secured the lawn furniture? Buy enough gasoline to drive to the moon and back?
It’s hurricane time.
Of course, I have thoughts. In no particular order:
— I’ve never met a single person named Idalia.
— Speaking of that, you know what drives me up the wall? TV reporters who assign pronouns to hurricanes.
“Idalia was headed for Crystal River until she took an abrupt turn to the west and fizzled out. That’s the last we’ll see of her!”
No! No! No!
Hurricanes are weather. That’s it. Wind and rain. The National Weather Service names them as a point of reference.
Hurricanes are neither she nor he. They have no feelings or emotions.
Glad we learned something today.
— I took a pre-hurricane drive Monday afternoon through Inverness, Hernando, Crystal River and Homosassa. Life looked…normal. Gas stations had some lines but nothing major. Didn’t see anyone boarding up windows. The sandbag site on S.R. 44 didn’t have a single car there when I drove by at 3:30.
Not sure what to make of that. Are we complacent? Already prepared? Kind of numb to hurricanes at this point?
If Monday's forecast holds up, expect much of Citrus County to shut down by Tuesday afternoon. That’s what happened in 2016 as Irma approached and we all had the absolute certainty that a major hurricane was going to slam us. Highways 19 and 44 sat eerily empty on a Sunday afternoon.
— Irma, thankfully, skirted right around. Citrus had wind damage and power outages but nothing like was forecast.
So, a funny tale.
Deb and I never told anyone this, but we spent Irma night in the former Chronicle office in downtown Inverness. We had an air mattress in the conference room, a little DVD TV, and enough Ho-Ho’s to last three Irmas.
We also brought our cat Molly who was not having it. Eventually, Molly calmed and we all enjoyed the evening.
Until I heard Deb say, “Molly, do you want some Cheez Whiz?”
Well, somebody has to take charge.
“Nooooo!” I cried, eyes bulging from my head.
Nervous cat…closed space…hurricane roaring outside…no place to escape…Cheese Whiz.
Fortunately, we survived that. And the storm wasn’t that bad either.
— Looks like this will be a nighttime hurricane. Hermine and Irma were nighttime storms and I recall certain details of each vividly. You just read about one.
Hermine, in 2016, was a scary storm. It (not she) crept up the Gulf Coast aimed at Crystal River. Instead, the eye stayed off-shore as it continued north but the coastal storm surge was devastating.
I got a call around 1 a.m. from Larry Brock, then with county public works before his retirement.
“It’s ‘no-name!’ It’s ‘no-name!’” he said very excitedly.
Larry, in Crystal River on U.S. 19 in water up to his thigh, was referring to the March 1993 “no-name” storm. Excuse the pun, but "no-name" has long been the high-water mark for any significant storm surge.
(Sheriff Mike Prendergast told residents Monday on a Facebook video that the projected storm surge from Idalia could top both Hermine and “no-name.” Let’s pray that doesn’t happen.)
When the Hermine flood water receded, left were thousands of homes west of 19 destroyed or significantly damaged. I spent weeks at the Chronicle writing those stories of rebuilding.
Yet, here’s the thing about Hermine. The nightmare of dealing with insurance and FEMA and trying to rebuild lives in Crystal River, Ozello and Homosassa lasted months. But if you lived east of C.R. 491, Hermine was really nothing more than a windy night. I had to constantly remind people that a third of our county was knocked off its keester by that storm.
— Hurricane Ian was headed our way last year when it turned right into Fort Myers Beach. Not knowing that, we anticipated an evening of significant tropical weather.
Just Wright Citrus World Headquarters on the shores of Big Lake Henderson has survived many a mighty wind over the decades but trees, you know, they’re unpredictable and can be temperamental.
So, before the hurricane was to make its arrival, I went out and had a little chat with the big trees that surround the yard just to make sure everyone’s happy.
I expect to do the same thing Tuesday afternoon. Never hurts and the trees appreciate it.
— Check the Just Wright Citrus Facebook page throughout Tuesday for updates or other tidbits. Keep the sheriff’s Facebook page handy as well for the really important stuff.
And please, friends, stay safe.
Join the discussion on our Facebook page.
Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.