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I have a confession to make: I ...

Posted Nov 21 2008 3:09pm

I have a confession to make:  I jones for bad weather.

Not just your average cloudy day, cold rain or pretty snow flurry, mind you. Bad weather. Severe weather. Wrath of God kind of thing. A day full of crackly skies and swift wind tingles me all the way to my toes.

Tornadoes have haunted my dreams since I was a child.  One day I will see one in person. This is a promise I’ve made to myself. (Meanwhile, the Cabana Boy, who grew up in Oklahoma, assures me that a close-up tornado experience is really less than gratifying. He should know.)

This proclivity was what drove me to be the reporter who covered the tropical weather season while I lived in South Florida. I wrote the hurricane preparedness tab almost single-handedly every year. I was on a first- name basis with the National Hurricane Center staff. We hunkered down for a dozen storms during our time there, including Hurricane Dennis, Hurricane Barry, Tropical Storm Isidore, Hurricane Bob, Hurricane Floyd, and Tropical Storm Marco.  (Notice those were all male names?  So much for THAT theory…)

We were welcomed to the state in 1979 by Hurricane David, which was set dead on for Miami as it approached the state. Tearfully, I bundled up our little bundle of joy M, barely a year old, left my Air Force husband with his fellow airmen to man the base and drove several hours up the coast to my mother’s house in Vero Beach. Wouldn’t you know, the little devil took a dogleg and came ashore just south of Vero?  We spent a couple of days picking up branches and trying to find anywhere that had electricity before giving up and driving home–to find everything sunny and beautiful.

I’ve always been thankful to have left the Homestead area before Andrew came through in 1992. Most of the houses where we had lived were wiped from the land, as we saw later when we came back to visit friends who had stayed. The oddest thing was looking out toward the Redlands west of the highway and realizing how far we could see; the storm had literally stripped the leaves from the trees so they no longer blocked the view. Two of our kids came north then to stay, left homeless by the storm as well. But we were all safe.

Every year since, I’ve perked up as June 1 comes, awaiting the drama that is the Season. Friends who remained in the South have suffered though seasons like 2005 when Florida was devastated by repeat storms, not the least of which was Katrina. This one always had a bit of humor in that it crossed south Florida where my reporter friend Jim remained, then swung across the Gulf to catch our mutual reporter friend Hank in New Orleans, then took a northeast turn and ended up here. (Other than that, I know to this day, there was very little humor in that storm.)

This year, I’ve watched again, perhaps with heightened scrutiny because my daughter and her family have just moved to Pensacola.  This weekend, I studied all the maps I could find, waiting to see where Gustav would fall. I think they’ll take a hit, there on the northeast side of expected landfall, but at least it’s not a direct one.

Here in Pennsylvania it’s been a rather lackluster summer for bad weather, no major storm outbreaks, clouds rolling in, turning just that shade of green that let you know something’s about to happen. I’ll have to get my fix from a distance, watching on the weather channels on television. And you know, it’s probably safer that way.

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