Florida is… Hurricanes.


25 years ago a #hurricane came barreling into my hometown at 168 miles an hour. It came out of nowhere… 48 hours earlier, the #Category 5 monster hadn’t yet been classified as a hurricane.

They gave it a name.

And told us to take cover: Under a #mattress. In the #bathroom. Find the safest room in the house. A bunker, if you had one. Hide.

#Storms are named in alphabetical order. Their way of bringing order to irreparable chaos… This was the first storm of the 1992 hurricane season; so its name started with an A.

A as in August. As in too early, too soon, too quick. As in Alpha.
Beginning, Commencement…

Catastrophe landed at dawn, lifted our rooftops and swirled into our living rooms.
Destroying buildings, even killing some.
Exiting in the Gulf a few hours later, property damage was the largest in American history.

Gripped us before, during, and, yes, after.
Hurricane Andrew.

It changed many things; everything, actually.
Just as much as it destroyed, it gave opportunity for renewal.

Many people took stock of their lives. Who they were. What they meant to one another.
Neighbors saw each other in a new light. Without electricity, water or security, they looked out for one another, helped each other.
Openness, new beginnings.

People began reimagining a new future.
Questioning past building practices and developing new, safer ones.
Rebuilding community.

Sea-level rise is the new threat on the horizon. It magnifies the threat extreme weather events will bring to our shores. In the future, the water may not recede. Neighborhoods may forever be lost. Insurance may not be able to cover the damage. Folks may not be able to ever return home.

Together, we must remember who we were on August 24th, 1992 –neighbors helping neighbors, as we manage to chaos to come.

Understanding that when one of us suffers, all of us suffer, we need to take stock of everything that is at stake and begin making the right decisions. Communities must be engaged. Policy-makers must be proactive.

Vigilant, as we face an uncertain future, we must do all we can to better understand. We must be science literate. We must be able to understand, communicate and listen to the science.

We must summon the courage today to make the right choices for tomorrow’s reality. Choices that strengthen community and build equity as we face an uncertain future.

X, Y and Z aren’t letters used in naming Atlantic hurricanes. We usually don’t get past W… But Hurricane Xavier, Tropical Storm Yolanda, and Hurricane Zach may soon come into our lexicon.

You can expect more extreme weather events with warming seas. Future hurricanes will be more dangerous, more erratic and more frequent. Their storm surge deadlier, and their damage costlier as we insist on building closer and closer to the water’s edge.

Zooming towards Texas, Hurricane Harry is in the Gulf of Mexico today. It appears to the first Category 3 storm to hit the US mainland in a decade. It is a serious threat. It’s the eighth named storm. And its only August 24th.

August 24, 1992 brought Andrew as the first. That felt bizarre enough.

Back then.

Florida is… Hurricanes.

by Xavier Cortada

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