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Columns

November 5, 2012

One nasty hurricane more than enough for one lifetime

Hey, Sandy! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

There’s no question that our region dodged a bullet with the most recent hurricane to blow our way. I wonder if hurricanes every couple of years are going to be the norm in upstate New York. It really seems unthinkable, doesn’t it?

I rode out a major hurricane once. I don’t intend to ever do that again.

It was 1983, and Hurricane Alicia came roaring across the Gulf of Mexico right at my (then) home in Houston. I lived on the second floor of a condominium in the southwestern part of the city. We were not told to evacuate because, well, hurricanes usually do not strike Houston, some 60 miles north of a hurricane’s usual “punching bag,” Galveston. But Alicia was different. It chewed through Galveston and was on Houston’s doorstep within 24 hours.

They take their hurricanes very seriously in the Lone Star State. My brother Jim and his wife (a native Texan appropriately named Sandy) were my hurricane preparedness tutors. In those days, every paper bag at the supermarket had a printed hurricane map on the front of it. Shortly after my arrival in the Bayou City, Jim explained to me what to do with it. You listened to your favorite TV weatherman give the day’s hurricane coordinates and then you marked it down on your grocery bag and tacked it onto your kitchen wall. Everybody did this. Including this newcomer.

That year, 1983, was the first time I’d ever heard about duct taping your windows to prevent shattering glass. It was the first time I ever heard about throwing your patio furniture into the swimming pool so you knew where it would be after the storm passed. About filling a bathtub so you’d have some “flushing power” when the electricity went out. About how “you can never have too many batteries.” About stocking up with Pearl longnecks and Antone’s po’boys for the “survivor’s party.”

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