Eye of the Hurricane

My thoughts go out to everyone who experienced hurricane Sandy over the past few days.

Living in South Florida, one gets to see (and fear) the paths of hurricanes and tropical storms all too much.  August, in particular, seems to be the “nail biter” month.  That seems to be the month to watch out.

Though I’ve experienced my share of storm systems (including the devastating Andrew in 1992), one of the more memorable hurricane experiences I faced was back in 2005 with Hurricane Katrina.

Ironically enough, I was in New Orleans on a business trip about two weeks before Katrina devastated the city.  The trip done, I returned to my native South Florida and then watched as the weather reports indicated a tropical wave might become something greater.  Of course, it was August.

While many recall the devastation inflicted on New Orleans, Biloxi, and other areas in Katrina’s path, few recall that South Florida actually felt the first hit from Katrina.  Of course, at that time the storm was “only” a Category 1 Hurricane.

The thing that I most recall about Katrina was experiencing the so-called “Eye” of this particular storm.  I suspect most people are familiar with the term, but for those who aren’t, many well defined hurricanes have what is called an “eye” in their center.  This eye is often a circular tranquil zone where there are no winds or storms.  The eye wall around the eye itself, however, usually has the most severe weather attached to the storm.

Experiencing Katrina’s eye was an eerie experience.  Katrina, if memory serves, struck us during the day.  The weather rapidly grew worse with each passing minute.  Winds blew heavy and the trees around my house were shedding leaves (and branches) by the second.  Things got worse and worse.  The electricity was knocked out and rain splattered against the window like ball bearings.

And then, all of a sudden, everything was calm.

We knew the storm wasn’t done.  We knew we were experiencing its eye.  I recall going outside the house and feeling not even the slightest breeze.

I went back inside, knowing that this wouldn’t last.  Sure enough, the winds suddenly picked up and the storm’s fury was right back.  Maybe an hour or so later the winds started dying down and the bulk of the storm was passed.

It would go on, of course, across South Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico where it would strengthen into a devastating Category 5 Hurricane before eventually hitting land near New Orleans.

As inconvenienced as I was by Katrina and, later in that same year the more devastating (to us) Hurricane Wilma, it was obvious we were lucky compared to those in the Mississippi area.

Now with Sandy, I can’t help but feel for those who faced that beast.  Any hurricane, regardless of category, is something one must take very, very seriously.