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Sunday, June 16, 2024


Notes to my Neighbors 5.31.2006

By Rick Racela

The older I get, the more things I add to my “terrified of——-” list.
A week ago when I read Patrick O’Driscoll’s “Early planning urged for active storm season” on USA Today’s Web site, I was terrified the list would grow even longer.
Storms never scared me before. In fact, one of my earliest and fondest memories is set on an evening in 1955 when Hurricane Hazel hit Philadelphia. I was five-years-old. 
When the power went out, our little family sat in the dark, except for the glimmer from candles set here and there, while my mother told stories about her life as a child in Italy. (How she loved having a captive audience for “When I was your age…”)
Since I was the baby, I had the best seat in the house, Mom’s lap.
In the darkened living room, each flash of lightening and every thunderclap made the five of us jump in unison. And then giggle.
My father, the practical one (in fact, the only practical one in our family) was probably thinking about the strength of the windows and the age of the roof.
That’s the reason we could have such fun – Dad was in charge.
In those days, I loved being scared anyway. My older sister and I would walk to the movie theater most Saturday afternoons to catch the latest scary film. “The House of Wax,” “The Colossus of New York,” “The Incredible Shrinking Woman.”
There is no accounting for the tastes of pre-teens. 
We had some trouble sleeping, though, maybe because the rosaries around our necks were a bit lumpy.
In the same way that I was content to know Dad kept me safe from storms, I also knew the magic of film protected me from Vincent Price, so I could afford to let him give me and Barby a good scare.
But about those storm warnings.
I wasn’t surprised when the National Hurricane Center predicted another “very active hurricane season, with as many as 16 tropical storms rising in the Atlantic Ocean.” I’ve heard it before.
But when Driscoll added “emergency officials urged the millions of Americans who live along the Gulf and East coasts to prepare now to fend for themselves the first three days if a major storm strikes their area,” that’s when fear struck.
Dad’s long gone now, and it’s been years since I naively believed that “it can’t happen here.”
Shortly after Katrina hit, my nephew casually remarked about a neat device that fires up your cell phone without electricity. I had to have one. And even though it’s in a drawer somewhere and I’d probably never find it in an emergency, its presence makes me forget to worry. Like Dad. 
Now I’ve moved on to worrying that we won’t have clean water. I’ll be stocking up for sure. A three-day supply for Art and me.  Let’s see, that’d be about 40 gallons.
I’ll buy a few at a time so Art doesn’t notice. He never worries about things he can’t control, and hates when I do.
But I am worried. I can’t forget those pictures of New Orleans.
The season begins tomorrow, June 1, and between then and Nov. 30, the National Hurricane Center is predicting that of the 13-16 storms that will be christened with names, eight to 10 will become hurricanes, some Category 3 like Katrina.
Now, I’m scaring myself.
But I also heard that a famous weatherman, whose name I shall not reveal, said that with all their fancy equipment, forecasters – even the impressive, national variety – can’t accurately predict more than three days ahead.
I’m not sure why a weatherman would shoot his own business in the foot, so to speak, but if the weatherman is correct, I’m wasting my fear on someone’s baseless divination.
I think I’ll buy a few gallons of water, a few batteries, a candle or two, and forget about the whole business.
I’ll let the weatherman be in charge.

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