I have lived on the west coast of Florida for the better part of 33 years. During that time I have never been a person consumed with what I consider unreasonable fear regarding hurricanes. That doesn’t mean I do not respect them, or do not pay attention.  It doesn’t mean we do not prepare for storms with adequate emergency supplies. It is just that hurricanes are, for the most part, survivable storms whose most intense damage comes from a relatively small area of the storm. The odds of having that section of the storm, the eyewall, pass over you is much smaller than experiencing the broader effects of a storm.

I guess you can say of the difference, that going through a hurricane is one thing; having a hurricane go through you is quite another.

There have been moments of great concern. Hurricane Elena in 1985, stalled just off our coastline for 36 hours, thrashing the area in which I lived with high winds and rain for what seemed like an interminable period. In 2004, we had 4 hurricanes impact our area within a 6-week period. That was indeed a stressful summer. The worst of those storms was Hurricane Charlie, which was supposed to make landfall here in Sarasota. Charlie took an unexpected right turn south of here, and crossed the state just east of us, sparing Sarasota almost completely.

Charlies eye was fairly small and tight, just six miles across. As an example of the phenomenon I mentioned earlier, we stepped out on our deck, with very little wind and almost no rain, while just 40 miles away homes were being destroyed in the angry tempest’s path. Of course, we were on the west side of the storm, which is where you want to be if you have to experience a hurricane.

And now we have Irma, on the heels of the unprecedented damage done by Harvey in Texas. The models have been consistently showing Florida in this storm’s path, with numerous models indicating a trek into the Gulf of Mexico, and potential landfall on the west coast in our area. Believe me, this is a storm that has gained the attention of the citizens in our state. 

It is almost impossible to know what is exactly the right thing to do. During Hurricane Charlie many people evacuated the Sarasota area and headed inland, where they got hit hard by the unexpected turn of the storm. Unless you are in the direct path of the storm, or are in a low lying area or on the water, you are almost always better to shelter in place. However, with a storm like Irma, where the potential track shifts with every update, you may not have a clear idea of the right solution until It is too late to make it.

And there are livelihoods to be concerned with. We spent part of our day Tuesday reviewing office preparations and contingency plans. A direct hit would not just disrupt personal lives, it can also potentially wipe out physical businesses as well. Balancing the needs of employees and their families with the need to maintain business continuity is a delicate but critical task.  

It is a frustrating conundrum, indeed. It was certainly weighing heavily on my mind as I drove home from the office last night.

It was on that commute I encountered something odd. I saw it as I turned onto my street. Directly before me was a rainbow, strong and bright, arching over my neighborhood. On points of the road where the view was not blocked by trees it was completely visible, and beautiful. It was the boldest rainbow I have seen in years. Strangely, it brought me a bit of solace, as a voice in my head told me that we are going to be fine. No doubt the lore of the rainbow, that it was God’s promise not to again bring destruction to the earth, played a part in my reaction to the sight. I would certainly like to think that it was a positive sign that our area was going to be alright against this threat.

 If you look carefully, you can see the double rainbow.

These pictures, taken from my driveway, really do not do it justice.

Then again, when I got to my house, I found in my mailbox a letter from FEMA, containing a Flood Insurance Claims Handbook and a Flood Insurance Policy Information acknowledgment form for our flood policy that renewed a couple months back.

I suppose that means I received two signs yesterday. It is a shame they are diametrically opposed. I think God is sending me mixed messages…..

A direct hit by Hurricane Irma on Sarasota will have a strong impact on the workers’ compensation industry. We have a large TPA based here, and a surprising number of workers’ comp insurers call this area home or have offices in the region. I am sure they, like us, have business continuity plans that will allow them to maintain operations or get back up and running quickly. Still, the impact on workers’ comp of a catastrophic storm will be felt far beyond our region. 

The most recent models show the storm turning north sooner than previously anticipated. That means the eye of the storm has stronger potential to pass to our east. That would be good news for the west coast, as we definitely would prefer to be on the west side of a hurricane. I’d prefer to be 1,000 miles west of the eye, but I’ll take whatever distance I can get.

The next few days will define exactly what is going to occur here. I think we are going to be OK. I received two signs yesterday, but I am pinning all my hopes on that rainbow.

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