Posts Tagged ‘hurricane’

Some You Win, Some You Lose

September 14, 2008

My mom lives in SW Florida. A few weeks ago Tropical Storm Fay hit her area from the south. There was no mandatory evacuation and my 78-year old mom rode out the storm alone in her one-story, built-to-take-it, concrete and block Florida-style home. I love that tough old lady and I love that tough old house too. I grew up there, on that three by seven mile barrier island, with nothing else around except narrow asphalt roads, sand – and a massive capillary network of canals. A few homes stuck up here and there like mushrooms growing up from a manicured lawn. Back in the day, we endured good old Everglades thunderstorms that caused more damage than Fay.

Even so, when Hurricane Gustav started to look like it wanted to follow Fay on her heels, I decided to make one of my many “hurricane week” visits to Mom. In her garage, leaning against a wall and covered with cobwebs, was a familiar stack of old, heavy, difficult to install, plywood hurricane shutters. I still have no idea how many times I put those up only to take them down again. My father made the original set just after the house was built in 1978 but we ended up wearing them out. (I guess it would be more accurate to say we “weathered” them out.) Have you ever heard of someone weathering out their hurricane shutters? That says a lot.

About ten years ago I made a new set, and there they were, still stained with my sweat and my blood. I sighed and looked slowly away in resignation. As I glanced across the street at one of the two-story monstrosities that now populate the island, I noticed the lovely, lightweight, aluminum storm shutters across its many large windows. An idea immediately formed in my mind and I was off to Home Depot.

Do you know how many 86-inch aluminum storm shutters you can put in a 1999 Chrysler 300M? A bunch. The hard part is getting the 12-foot pieces of track in there without them sticking out the back too far. Oh well, that’s what the little red flags are for.

As Gustav was cutting into Cuba with hurricane force winds, I was cutting aluminum with a fine-tooth radial saw, drilling holes in concrete and fastening countless tapcons. The sweat and the blood still flowed, but now I was smiling as I thought, “No more plywood.” The plywood shutters required two people and several hours to install but the new aluminum ones can be installed in about an hour by one person. I feel much better knowing I can swoop in there, shutter the house, and get Mom the heck out quickly, all by myself. I guess I did this as much for myself as for her.

Thankfully, Gustav passed us by. A few days later, with Hurricane Ike bearing down on us, I thought the new shutters were going to get their first test. Ike decided to ravage Cuba instead, as it passed well south of us on its way to strike Galveston, Texas.

Some you win, some you lose.