Sunday, August 28


As Hurricane Katrina nears the Gulf Coast, our prayers and thoughts go out to all those whose lives and homes and loved ones are in jeopardy. As a native northwest Floridian (though with family all up and down the Gulf Coast), I've seen hurricanes come and go. Some warnings we take more seriously than others. All through my youth my family would refuse to evacuate, and during Camille (1969), one of the few Category V hurricanes, my uncle, who stayed home in Gulfport while his wife and daughters left, was found in a tree near his roofless house, unconscious and with a broken arm. Since then my family has evacuated anytime they were advised to do so and now have a network of destination options developed. They've come to regard evacuations as mini-vacations.

I wish everyone had such options. For many without the ready cash, the prospect of leaving home, sheltering in a school and sleeping on cots discourages them from doing the sensible thing. But a Category IV or V hurricane is a killer and has to be seen to be understood. I remember driving out to the beach, about 10 miles from my home, after one such and seeing the reality so vividly the image has never left my mind. A beachfront apartment house owned by one of my close friend's parents had the beach-facing side completely ripped away so that one could see the appliances and furniture squashed into the doorways of the rooms of the four-story structure. It was a terrifying sight, visible proof of the power of surging tides that could lift and carry refrigerators, washers and heavy bedsteads and hurl them at will.

So please, if you're anywhere near the target area, get out and get out now. Make it an adventure for the kids, like camping out. And don't come back until you've been assured that it's safe to do so. Remember, most deaths occur AFTER the storm has passed.


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