We all know folks who stay on the Maine coast during our lovely summers, then flee south to Florida when the winter winds begin to howl.
Some move to posh condos in Naples, while others camp out in trailer parks. No matter what town they pick, the idea of warm sunshine and fair breezes in January and February is an attraction that is hard to resist, until now.
Last week, as a tropical hurricane dubbed Ian tore into Florida's west coast, I thought of the time my bride and I drove down to Washington, D.C. to put our car on a train, and relaxed in a sleeping car while the engineer highballed it to Sarasota.
After a leisurely drive down the coast to Ft. Myers, we crossed the concrete causeway that took us to Sanibel, then drove to a complex on Captiva Island. There we met two old and dear friends who had purchased one of the units in what seemed to be condo-land. We spent a week or so with them. We did touristy things, like wandering around the beautiful beaches, eating way too much fried food, and marveling at the manatees that lived amidst the boats in the marina.
Last week, it was hard to watch the TV news footage showing the destruction of that sandy sliver of an island.
Our friends who lived in condo-land got tired of the place and sold out several years ago. It seems other condo owners spent just a few weeks there. For most of the year, the other units were rented out. Our friends got a bit tired of trying to sleep as an ever-changing group of strangers hosted loud parties that seemed to go on and on.
The TV images of the Sanibel Island concrete causeway breached by the sea, and the destruction Mother Nature visited on that sandy sliver of an island seemed to resemble a village in war-torn Ukraine, not a posh vacation spot.
The bad news was the island suffered terrible damage. The good news was that hundreds of people survived.
Several weeks ago, another hurricane called Fiona hammered Puerto Rico, skipped out to sea, raced up the coast, and hammered Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. I think we dodged a bullet on that one. But the fury of Mother Nature has visited us in the not so distant past.
Here is some data from an internet slide presentation by M.I.T. professor Kerry A. Emanuel:
In September 1954, hurricane Carol hit the Midcoast, cut out all power to Portland, stripped the apple crop off the trees, and even toppled a tree in the front yard of the Blaine House in Augusta.
A few weeks later, a storm called Edna came ashore, taking eight lives and causing $25 million in damages. She brought 7.5 inches of rain, flooded the Androscoggin and Kennebec rivers, and washed out roads.
Hurricane Donna visited Maine in 1960 but didn’t cause much damage. Two years later, Daisy brought us 70 mph winds and dropped 9.5 inches of rain in Portland. Ginny visited us in October 1963 with 100 mph winds at the Rockland Coast guard station.
Gerda, a Category 2 hurricane, hit Eastport in September 1969. The big one, named Bob, made landfall near Rockland in August 1991. The Wiscasset weather station recorded 100 mph winds as Bob caused $1.5 billion in damage, three deaths and 170,000 lost power for a week.
Yes, Grasshopper, if Mother Nature decides to kick up her skirts and visit our beautiful coast, we could be at risk, too. So, Dear Reader, if I were to give you some advice, not that anyone would listen to me anyway, you might want to dig out your homeowner's insurance policy and check to see what might be covered.
And town officials might want to dust off their emergency policy plans and pay attention when regional and state planners start talking about what might happen if the, well, if the fit hits the shan.
We all saw what happened when Ian slammed Florida, flooding homes and entire villages. The hurricane knocked out a massive concrete causeway like it was made from melted butter.
Ian did provide us with a nugget of good news. For at least a week, President Joe Biden, a Democrat, and Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis put aside their bitter political wrangling as they worked together to coordinate federal and state emergency response assets.
As we watch the onslaught of political TV ads and listen to the out-of-state-funded political consultants trying to score mindless political points, it is good that for at least one week or so, some of our elected leaders are acting like grownups. But it probably won’t last.