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Surviving a storm

Published September 01. 2012 09:02AM

When it comes to hurricanes, there are two major types of people.

One group is adventurous enough to think hurricanes are just one more adventure.

The other group gets anxiety ridden as a hurricane nears.

I used to belong to the adventurous group. Because we usually vacationed at the Outer Banks of North Carolina during hurricane season, we were there during four or five hurricanes. We regarded each one as an adventure with never a thought given to danger.

In fact, one year as people were evacuating and driving off the island, our Pennsylvania friends, Franck and Jan, were driving onto the island to be with us. We had a great time, except it was hard to get food because restaurants and supermarkets were closed because of the hurricane.

From that year on, whenever a hurricane was due to hit the Outer Banks, we made jokes about wanting to drive there.

I no longer find anything to joke about when it comes to hurricanes. I've gone from adventurous to keen anxiety. Maybe it's my age. Maybe it's living in Florida. Or maybe it's because I wised up the first year I bought a house here.

That year, 2004, there were three hurricanes that hit us in various degrees. After Hurricane Charley, I drove with tears rolling down my face through ruins where houses used to be. My home wasn't damaged but devastation all around me taught me how vicious hurricanes can be.

With Hurricane Isaac scheduled to affect us, I started panicking days before it was set to arrive. I called to have my lanai screening reinforced and did everything I could to prepare my house for high winds.

Then I went to the supermarket and did what everyone else was doing buying enough food and water to last a small army through a week. Then I worried I still didn't have enough food and emergency supplies so I went out and bought more.

Along with everyone else I stayed glued to the weather channel. If you don't have enough anxiety before you listen to the dire predictions, those weather guys will raise your fears.

In my area, we were only expected to get 40 to 50 mile an hour winds along with eight inches of rain. But by the time I listened to the dangers of storm surge, flooding and tornadoes, I was worried.

The last storm, which had 40 mile an hour winds, blew away part of my screening and landscaping. With the expected hurricane, I wanted my hurricane shutters put up, but people insisted we wouldn't need them.

We didn't.

What was supposed to be heavy winds and rain was like any other storm. Our area was spared.

My daughter Maria and I did get a little adventurous during the full day and night of rain. Tired of being indoors, we put on bathing suits and rain hats and relaxed at night in our hot tub.

We thought at that point the really bad weather would arrive in the middle of the night. Even when it didn't get much worse for us, the weather channel kept showing areas that got hit.

I had to stop watching TV because I can't bear the thought of all those homeless people in Haiti suffering even more as their tents blew away. And how could I rejoice in not getting walloped by a hurricane when other areas got pounded?

But the sun came out here and we all got back to business as usual.

All this hurricane angst has me thinking how lessons learned apply to other areas of life.

Sometimes we think disaster is coming. We worry. We fret. We waste perfectly good days worrying about something that MAY happen. When it doesn't, we find something else to worry about.

How much of our time do we spend worrying about things that may never happen?

Logic tells us it's senseless to worry before we know what exactly we are facing. But some of us do it anyhow.

I never used to be a worrier. With age, I'm changing. I hate it and I fight it. But I still do more fretting than is absolutely necessary.

My husband says, "It's senseless to worry about anything. Either what we dread will never come about … or, it won't be as bad as we fear."

That usually turns out to true.

There are people living here for decades who have never prepared for a hurricane. They don't buy nonperishable food. They don't stock up on batteries. They don't put up hurricane protections. And, year after year, they are safe.

"One of these days, you'll be sorry," I tell them.

Obviously, we all have to strike a good balance between caution and senseless fear.

Maybe next time I'll get it right.

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