Richard Turen
Richard Turen

The last time, we fled.

I have previously written about fleeing with my family as Hurricane Irma headed for the west coast of Florida, hitting it hard in September 2017. We were fine, but Fifth Avenue, the main street in Naples, Fla., our home of 11 years, was not. It was flooded. It was bad.

But this time, we have something different. A stronger storm. And we will not run. There is no place to flee. The storm is predicted to land north of us. To the south, where could we go -- Cuba? In any case, Ian the hurricane is still somewhere in the Caribbean, so no worries.

Our governor now reassures us that Florida is the "Freedom State" so, from May through November, during our new, expanded hurricane season, we are free to wonder whether we are going to lose everything and shake uncontrollably as the predictions worsen and the warnings grow more ominous.

You see, that's the part of living in Florida full time that some of the travel articles never mention. Come here to live if you must, but beware that you will spend about five months of every year living in "Cone Culture."

The Cone -- the predicted paths of hurricanes -- looks like a large sock with a tennis ball inside. You might first notice one far off to the right side of the map on the evening local weather report. Now, if you plan to move to this part of the Freedom State on a full-time basis, you need to understand that weather reporting and storm tracking is a consuming passion down here. We give our local on-air sports reporters about three minutes of air time and the weather guy/gal gets a good 15. And you know it is getting serious when there is a large sock referred to by the meteorologist as "a cone of concern."

Over several days, we notice that it is reported that Ian has "potential," but it is all theoretical in the early stages. First, it headed for Cuba and wiped out portions of the island. Then, intensifying, it looked like it could be headed our way, but we're not thinking of evacuating because it looked like it's more likely heading to the Florida Panhandle. And no one in Naples knows anyone who lives there.

Just four days out, I start watching the cone seriously. It appears it will hit the west coast of Florida, but north of us, the experts say. Tampa and Orlando would likely get the brunt of it. But, they are predicting flooding and major storm surges.

Nine feet covers the first floor of the average home. The projections start showing 11-to-15-foot surges once Ian makes landfall.

At that point you flip to the Weather Channel to hear what the pros have to say. But you always need to place what you hear in proper context. To a Weather Channel reporter, an approaching hurricane is akin to learning that Paul McCartney is coming over for dinner. They get excited.

Now you are transfixed, and you start to see the strings from the big sock. This is tracking: models showing where the storm will go. The European model has Ian heading off to the right of Naples, passing over portions of the East Coast and then out to sea. But then there are perhaps a dozen other models, showing on TV like an overlay of pappardelle, leading straight from Cuba to north of us and then up to Tampa.

One day out, the models suddenly shift.

It is coming our way. 

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