Living in Central Florida we sometimes have a visitor who barges in on short notice.
Like any visitor, this one requires preparation. But instead of tidying the house and making coffee, those of us who live here find ourselves filling the gas tank ( just in case) withdrawing money from the bank, stockpiling batteries and gallons of water and foods that can be eaten directly from the package. We also fill the bathtub and have several buckets handy, brimming over with water (to flush the toilet.)
Because this visitor is not a guest, and is not welcome. If he or she decides not to stop by, we all feel relieved.
By now you realize that I’m describing preparing for a hurricane.
Until I moved to Florida in the late 90’s, I had never been through a hurricane. Then we had a trio of them visit us in rapid succession in 2004. And I got to experience firsthand the sheer enormity and terror of these storms. Fortunately, our house sustained almost no damage the year of Charley, Frances and Jeanne. (Weirdly, hurricanes are named, as if they are desirable visitors to an area.)
Last week, we had another hurricane stalking us along the east coast of Florida—Matthew—a ferocious storm, described as a category 4 or 5. For days, we listened to the weather forecast, trying to decide how much preparation was needed. As the hurricane came closer, it appeared that we were in for it—a full blown major hurricane that was capable of seriously altering our lives. After spending what seemed like a fortune, I felt ready to face the onslaught from Mathew. Luckily, my dog and I were able to go to my friend’s home to ride the storm out together.
One of the bonuses of living in Central Florida means that I reside where people evacuate to. And our homes are built to post Hurricane Andrew standards, so they are secure enough to weather most storms. But, I didn’t relish the idea of facing the hurricane alone.
Even though there was almost no hope of avoiding the wrath of Matthew,at the last moment he “wobbled” to the east just enough to spare us! (That’s another strange part of hurricane culture—meteorologists use words like wobble to describe its motion.) Of course, other areas were not as lucky, and they received a full blast from this enormous storm and sustained a lot of damage.
I think I’d prefer a good old snow storm. I understand snowstorms, and now that I’m retired, I don’t have to drive to work every day. The aftermath of a snowstorm can be a beautiful blanket of fresh, clean snow and ice that glazes the trees and makes the world seem mystical.
Unlike a hurricane which leaves downed trees, damaged roofs and homes, ruined beaches, destroyed roads, and sometimes lost lives in its wake. (Of course, I have experienced killer blizzards that have held a city in its frigid grip for weeks at a time and resulted in deaths.)
Hurricane season is starting to wind down—although I learned a few years ago that hurricanes can form at any time of year. Summer and Fall are just the most likely times for them to do so. Needless to say, I hope I never have to go through the anxiety of preparing for a hurricane again—although I think there is little hope of that.
Image from Pixababy
Here are a few of the symptoms of FSS.
- Opening your front door to what feels like a blast from a furnace.
- Sweating so much when you walk from your car to an air-conditioned store that you feel the need to shower as soon as you go home.
- Racing home with groceries so you can get the perishables in the house before they spoil.
- Feeling like the air is too thick to breathe—at 7 a.m.
- Being grateful that the evening temperatures are only in the mid 70’s.
- Buying ice cream at the drive-through window and sitting in your car with the air-conditioning running so it doesn’t melt before you lift it to your mouth.
- Refusing to go to the beach (even though it’s one of your favorite places) because it will be too hot and sunny to enjoy it.
- Having feverish heat-dreams even though the air conditioning is on.
- Or having to burrow under blankets in bed because you have to lower the A/C to “frigid” in order to sleep.
If you suffer from any of these symptoms, you probably have FSS—Florida Snowman Syndrome which causes you to melt like a snowman when you attempt to emerge from an air-conditioned space in July, August or September ( one of the worst months) while living in Florida.
There is no known cure except to escape to a cooler northern city during these months.
Thanks to Sue Kuchler, a native Floridian, for naming this syndrome.
Photo Credit: www.Pinterest.com
We left Buffalo, hoping to trade her harsh winters for the never –ending summer of Florida, almost 15 years ago. The day that we packed the last of the plants, books and CD player in our grey van and headed south to settle into our home in Central Florida signaled a seminal change in our lives.
We left behind a lifetime of friendships, memories, and family. I thought that I knew the implications of that decision back then. Now, I’m not so sure.
So much has happened since then. A whole generation of my family has passed away. Nieces and nephews have grown up, married, had children and even divorced. Our daughter earned her doctorate, got her first teaching position and was married. While we have retained ties with a few special friends, many of our friends have moved on. The teachers I worked with in the Buffalo Public Schools have seen extreme changes in education, and I am sure that the vast majority have retired.
We have elected two Presidents and fought two wars. The nation lived through 9-11 and even observed the tenth anniversary of that event.
Dan and I have re-invented ourselves to a certain degree. We both eventually retired after working in Florida. I’ve become adept using various computer programs to create presentations and newsletters for clubs that I belong to and I have launched a writing career. I learned to play Canasta and have dabbled in the arts. My husband’s prowess at Canasta is well known, he is friends with a number of dog walkers and he has survived cancer. We both have a rich social life and our group of friends has expanded to include people from places other than Buffalo. We’ve traveled a little. And I have even escorted a few cruises for the Travel Club. I, too, survived a very serious medical emergency two years ago.
While we were living our new lives here in the land of always summer, our families back in Buffalo have continued to live their lives. I know that we still intersect and that we will always be family. But now, we are the out-of-towners—the relatives who come to visit. We hear about the joys, struggles and challenges of our family by phone calls and emails. And we are too far away to actually do anything—to take the sickly uncle to the doctor, to go to the baby’s christening or even to attend a funeral. These familial duties fall to others.
Many times, I’ve thought of just getting in the car and driving back for family events, and then reality sets in. The time, expense and sheer effort of such a drive are daunting. So, with the assurances of family members, we stay here and keep tabs as best we can, always wishing there was some way to bridge that distance—and knowing that there isn’t.
And eagerly awaiting the visit, the phone call, the email, or the Face Book post that connects us to the family we left behind when we moved away.