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Patricia C Behnke

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Hurricanes Taught Lessons
by Patricia C Behnke   
Not "rated" by the Author.
Last edited: Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Posted: Wednesday, February 09, 2005

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Jeanne and Frances blew through north Florida leaving more than a few limbs down.

Jeanne pounds outside my window as I write this column. Most of the time when I write, I forget all else around me, but I find today I am often brought back into reality as rain slashes and gusts of wind swirl around my house.

Reminds me of the hurricane of September 2004. Wait a second — this is September 2004 and all that has passed is three weeks since Frances also knocked at my door.

An air of disbelief surrounds us this weekend. I refused to look at weather reports on Jeanne until Friday, Sept. 24. I visited a friend at Oak View Middle School in Newberry that afternoon and when I walked into her office, I saw her computers all bundled up neatly in plastic.

“You really take leaving the office on the weekend seriously, don’t you?” I joked as I sat down.

“We’ve been told to prepare to be a shelter,” she said.

And then I remembered — Jeanne — that unpredictable storm swirling in circles out in the Atlantic.

When I shopped at the local grocery store on Saturday I once again bought items that would not require refrigeration but would give us plenty of food to prepare in case we once again lost electricity for seven days.

“Not again,” became the familiar mantra as water and batteries filled carts. And of course no hurricane-weary vigilant would be complete without those other essentials: Doritos and chocolate.

And once again the weather channel became my best friend as I attempted to predict the right moment for my daughter to evacuate St. Augustine. She stayed put through the previous three and now she just takes it as a matter of course when I call and say, “Get ready to come home and don’t wait too long.” She assures me her bags are packed.

We managed without electricity last month, but then Frances blew through right after we had published September’s Observer. Now here is Jeanne, and we have so many versions of the October issue saved on different computers that it will be a miracle if you are now holding all 36 pages in your hands with jumps making sense and articles appearing with their appropriate photos.

I spent last weekend in the Port St. Lucie area. As I drove south, the horror of what 100 mile an hour winds can do hit me smack in the face.

In Cocoa Beach a crew of roofers from north Georgia worked repairing roofs. They thought they would be away from home for five days. I talked with them on their tenth day, and their boss predicted they had another week of work. I wonder if they made it home to the families they missed.

I met a couple who had been living in their driveway up until the day before. They finally gave up and decided to max out their credit cards until FEMA came through with some funds for doing the repair work.

The husband told me, “We have a concrete house, but if you lose the roof, you lose everything.”

These hurricanes have something to teach us.

We are powerless under the awesome energy of God and nature. A friend told me he would not leave his mobile home during Frances because he wanted to be there to save it if necessary.

I picture him spread-eagled on the roof of his home as winds whip around him. How did he imagine he could save his house against the forces of nature?

There are times in our life when we must turn it all over to God and rest assured that the outcome — while not pleasant on the surface — may bring us something better in the long run. Will worry or attaching ourselves to the roof or watching trees rip through our bedrooms change the outcome? No, but we might be grayer, wetter, and deader by attempting to change the inevitable.

Why so much worry about beach erosion?

Because we have built so much and laid so much asphalt in areas where natural drainage can no longer occur, that we have disrupted the natural order of things. Instead of blaming ourselves for not respecting nature’s way, we become angry that nature does not acquiesce to our needs.

I hope we do not forget the lessons learned during the hurricane season of 2004 whether those lessons are global, environmental, or spiritual. And as we fight to gain our normalcy we can all take a huge sigh of relief that we survived two feisty ladies named Frances and Jeanne.

But when we all exhale those huge sighs, please do it slowly.

Web Site: Patricia C. Behnke

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Reviewed by M. B. 2/10/2005
Yes, I live just south of Tampa and was only 3 miles from the eye of Hurricane Charley... My town was literally razed to the ground. Today, 6 months later, there are still many areas that are rubble.

We went through three of the four hurricanes this past summer. T'was one of the most horrible and frightening summers I have ever spent. Four Killer 'Canes in 6 weeks. Three times, after Charley, we all cried, "Not again!"

My house was black as night for a month with hurricane shutters up. Trees downed three times and structural damage to my home. No power, water, cable for a weeks. We are so fortunate though, we have a generator...

And,after seeing so much destruction, homelessness and grief, and driving through areas that are still littered with destruction I pray for thanks because there, but for the grace of God, go I.

Your very well written essay brought it all back.
Reviewed by Lisa Adams 2/9/2005
Good article. That must have been very frightening for you.
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