How I dealt with hurricanes in the past:
July 6, 2021. The first hurricane I remember was Donna—in those days storms were named exclusively after women—the eye was moving in. I stood by my father’s side looking out of the big window in the living room. A guy clad in a full rain suit walked down the street.
Hurricane Betsy was memorable for two reasons: establishing a sense of fear and exposing me to alcohol. The sound of rain striking the uncovered glass of the window in my bed room drove home the fact these storms were dangerous and not just a chance to get out of school. At one point, my father herded the whole family into a bathroom for safety and passed out shots of whiskey. The brand is lost to memory but I’m sure it wasn’t Crown Royal.
In 1992, Hurricane Andrew ripped through South Florida like a circular saw blade. I was a grown man and had a family of my own and was responsible for a house. It had been 20 years since a major storm had struck. Andrew carved a path of destruction. Miami looked like a war zone. I was fortunate to be living out of the target zone.
Hurricane Dorian drove the fear of those meteorological monsters home like a wooden stake to the heart. Category five winds moving at single digit speeds. Sometimes it hovered in one place. Once again, I was fortunate. Dorian remained off shore as it slithered up the coast. We didn’t even lose power. I saw a weather report indicating 80 mile an hour gusts were heading for my home town. Storm shutters rattled in the howling wind seconds after the broadcast concluded.
How I deal with hurricanes now:
I’m retired now and facing health issues. Various types of arthritic conditions have slowed me down. The strength and stamina of youth are gone. Not the man I used to be. Hurricanes scare me. Looking at all that fury and power makes me feel like an insect.
Can I pull this off:
Elsa is an early season storm threatening the Florida Keys and the west coast. Elsa happened to arrive as I was planning on doing the shutter maintenance to make sure they are in working order. If left unattended, accordion type shutters can be problematic. The last thing you want when you are under a severe weather warning is to deal with clogged tracks or broken locks.
Out of nine shutters on our town home, one is problematic. The lower track got bent years ago. With arthritis in my left knee and tendinitis in my right elbow, it is going to be challenging. I need to climb a ladder and exert a combination of brute force and delicate finesse to get that thing closed and locked.
Tomorrow morning is the day of decision.
Tomorrow morning never came. Elsa, now downgraded to a tropical storm, had changed course. Dade and Broward counties were out of the “cone of concern”. I chose to wait another day and let the healing power of Paleo pancakes work on my inflammation.
In the combat zone:
July 8, 2021. I have on my battle gear. Ankle high work boots on my feet. A pair of braces covers my knees. Thick pads are buckled over the braces. On my upper body I wear a long sleeve 50 SPF rash guard. A long billed cap fitted with an apron falling to my shoulders sits on my head. The small arms I carry are a 12 ounce can of Super Lube and a Craftsman dead bow mallet.
The previous narrative never happened. While sweeping the patio and walkway on the morning of July 7, 2021, I decided to take a shot at closing the problematic shutter. I traded the broom for a can of spray lubricant and a rubber mallet. Something in back of my mind told me to bring a torpedo level.
The left door of the accordion shutter extended all the way and remained vertically level. I knew the right door was the one with the problem, so I extended it slowly, keeping the level tight against the edge. As the right door moved the bubble pitched over the indicator. The door was still on the track but tilting at the bottom.
Then I saw the marks on the tracks. The last time I dealt with this shutter I filed down the upper edge of the track. The slight modification kept the door from jumping the track. I guess I forgot and I couldn’t find the notes I thought I made. It was a matter of tapping with the mallet while lining up the doors.
I managed to get that shutter closed and locked in about 15 minutes without sustaining injury.