Hurricane Ian Reminds Us Again, You’re Never Really Ready, You’re Never Really Far From Disaster And That Helping Hand Might Be A Snake… Our Resident Bad-Ass In Raiderland, George Thatcher Ruminates On Hurricanes Past And Challenges Present.

Being Safe Out There

For those of us with friends and/or family in Florida, especially the Tampa Bay area, this is a time to hunker down and await the worst. Hurricane Ian may turn our to be the worst disaster ever for the Florida Gulf Coast, although it shows signs of veering eastward just enough to batter the Atlantic Coast as well. People who either won’t or can’t evacuate are left with few options, other than to prepare as best they can and ride it out. Outside of being bombed by hostile aircraft, this has to plant the most incredible fear in the hearts of all who must endure it.

The first year we lived in Florida was 2005, and within three months of moving into our new Pensacola home we were battered by Hurricane Ivan. It was a really nasty blow, and we heeded the warnings and evacuated to points north. Upon our return a few days later, we were greeted by the most incredible devastation we had ever seen. Fallen trees, wires, billboards and large hunks of houses littered most of the streets in town. We couldn’t even reach our home for a few more days, there was so much debris jamming the streets. When we finally were able to thread our way through the litter, we saw to our horror that an eighty-foot pine tree had been blown down on the rear of our house. There were cottonmouth moccasin snakes crawling around freely, as the ten-foot storm surge had displaced them from their waterfront dens. Coral snakes were in evidence as well, although they were a lot easier to spot, besides being minimally aggressive. But those were just minor irritants. Getting the house dried out and livable again took up most of our next week.

Hurricanes also bring out other kinds of reptiles: the ambulance-chasing, predatory types who look to capitalize on disasters by catching unsuspecting people at their most vulnerable points. We had any number of vultures come by the house, looking to give us a bid on removing the tree from our home. They were unanimously non-approved by any insurance company, and their bids were totally out of line. One day a scrawny little character came by the house looking for donations to a “firemen’s relief fund.” He had a sheaf of dollar bills and checks in one hand, and a marker pen-written sign in the other, proclaiming his authenticity. I asked him to wait while I checked out his association with the BBB. Of course, he was long gone before I returned.

And even a disaster can bring out the gallows humor in many folks. We passed one piece of acreage that had formerly been full of pine trees, and they had all been blown down. A large cardboard sign had been placed on the lot which read: “For Sale, Ready-to-Use Lumber for Log Homes.” You gotta admire the ingenuity.

My brother-in-law flew in to see what he could do to help us out. We didn’t especially need his services, but we had a nice visit. Upon landing he shared his amazement that so many folks in the Pensacola area had swimming pools. “Everywhere I looked while we were on our approach, I could see these blue-water pools in backyards.” It took quite a bit of convincing before he would admit that what he was seeing were blue tarpaulins covering blown-away roofs My wife and I have told that story at every family gathering since then, and the bro- in-law still gets red-faced at our little family joke.

Then there was FEMA, which established an office that never seemed to be open for business. But they accepted my mail-in application for a job, and even sent me a credit card. Weeks later, when I wanted to return it, I couldn’t find a working number that would give me a mailing address.

The ingenuity of the government produced several thousand of those FEMA-huts as emergency housing, which were allegedly placed on sites where the need was greatest. They never ‘fessed up that these hovels, made of plastic and plywood, had been largely bonded together with a formaldehyde-based glue. You know, the kind that asphyxiates people when they heat up. Other stories have highlighted such Keystone Cops bumbling as sending truckloads of badly-needed ice to Oregon. I’m sure the locals put it to good use in slowing down the glacier melt up north.

After this first-of-a-series experience with the awesome power of nature, we have since tried to respect her unpredictability in dispensing her wrath around the country. But just to prove that you can run but you can’t hide, we came to believe that Colorado would provide us a safe haven from natural disaster, so we moved there. After lulling us into a sense of security, Nature again turned into a mother, and unleashed a massive wildfire on us. We evacuated in advance of that one too, but now we’re wondering if these disasters don’t come in three’s, like aircraft accidents are rumored to do.

No matter. We now live in Lubbock, the safest community anywhere since 1970. And we have all the protection we need from disasters, like a fully functioning early warning system, to alert us to oncoming tornadoes.

Well don’t we?

George Thatcher September 2022

George is an American Bad Ass. He grew up in Jersey, flew B-52s in Vietnam, taught English, Spanish and other languages to children around the world, makes his own salsa, has been known to enjoy a beer or two and has called Lubbock home for a few years, just to entertain the locals. Welcome to Raiderland, Major. We are going to feature some of his writings going forward. Some new, some old. Some rhyme, some don’t. When it comes to George, there’s no box. So… enjoy our friend and enjoy his writings! – Hyatt