I remember not feeling particularly lucky, but knowing that I was. Hurricane Andrew coincided with the start of my high school football career. It made landfall in South Florida the day after my 15th birthday; I was about to start my freshman year of high school, and football summer practices had already begun. The Cardinal Gibbons varsity football team, with a game just days away, could continue focusing on football. But we lowly JVs, less significant in general and with our season opener still several weeks away – we could be pressed into service.
And so it was that I became a temporary debris removal specialist for the Archdiocese of Miami. Two-a-day practices became exercises in lugging tree limbs to dumpsters and wood chippers. I came home sore and sweaty – but any complaints I might have had dissipated over the nightly news images of what was barely recognizable as Homestead. We, I understood, were the lucky ones. Hauling branches instead of doing blocking drills was not the worst thing that could happen.
Then last summer, we were the lucky ones again. I wasn’t living in South Florida during the quick double-punch storms of the mid-2000s; this was my first encounter since Andrew with a storm that was big, nasty and seemingly heading straight up my street.
Until, of course, it didn’t.
But as Mike Seemuth’s story in this month’s issue reminds us, luck never lasts forever when it comes to hurricanes. Mike’s story looks at all sorts of issues relating to hurricanes. There are the things we do well, such as Florida’s strictest-in-the-nation building code, and the things we could perhaps do better, such as our miles and miles of above-ground power lines, surrounded in many places by dense subtropical foliage. Also detailed are the effects of climate change and sea-level rise – which, incidentally, are real and no longer worth debating with anybody who wants to stake claim to a seat at the grownups’ table.
It’s a sobering ice bath of a story about perhaps the biggest looming negative of our sunny life by the sea. This is our oceans issue, and throughout it you’ll find stories about what makes our salty-aired home so special – from sea turtles to kayaks to the latest of our many oceanside restaurants.
But all that good can’t come without an “and yet.” We’re now getting into the heart of And Yet season.
I’ve got one or two more responsibilities now than I did when I was an aspiring high school football player. There’s the house with the eye-wateringly expensive insurance. The family that should either hunker down or hit the road. The parents who have seen more of these than I have and aren’t inclined to leave. The plans and research and preparation that’s never at the front of my mind until it absolutely is.
I sit back and think of the storms my 1940s house has already survived. I think of all the things we – the family and the state – have done to prepare.
But still, there’s the inevitability – all that preparation will come into play at some point, because this will happen. There’s no if with hurricanes here, only when.