Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Guest Post: Why Live In Florida Where There Are Hurricanes?

by Miguel Gonzales

Miguel is a resident of Miami, Florida and has lived there for 20 years. He is also a contributor to the GunBlog VarietyCast and his blog, Gun Free Zone, can be found here

Erin has been asked these questions by her readers:
"Why would anyone live in Florida where there are hurricanes? Why not just live somewhere that these storms don't exist?"
Rather than answer them herself, she decided to go straight to the horse's mouth: me.

Let’s start with why I moved to Miami in the first place, and the answer (believe it or not) is prepping. When I decided to leave Venezuela, Hugo Chavez was not yet the president or even an official candidate, but I could read the writing on the wall. The missus and I made the decision to leave, and I figured that sooner or later I would have to bring my parents to the US as well. Miami was the logical choice because of its cultural diversity and affinity: 
  • Spanish spoken there
  • Similar foods
  • Nationalities we were familiar with (Venezuela used to be a great hub for refugees escaping from South American countries under dictatorships.) 
So the cultural shock to my parents would have been minimal. Dad unfortunately left us too soon, but I did finally manage to convince mom to leave Venezuela and come live with us.

"But Miami! All those Hurricanes! OMG DEATH!" Okay people, calm down and let me explain. It is not that awful, because hurricanes are polite. I repeat: Hurricanes are polite.

Why do I say that? Because in true Southern fashion, hurricanes give you plenty of warning they are fixing to mess you up. That means you get to prepare and get your stuff together before impact. Do you get that with an earthquake? Nope. Floods? Nope. Tornadoes? Nope nope. Maybe massive wildfires can give you some warning, but if the wind changes, you are screwed.

Just to be clear: with the exception of a massive wildfire, I HAVE BEEN THROUGH ALL THAT CRAP. 
  • Earthquake? Pass. It is freaky to see concrete slabs moving like jello and buildings collapsing. 
  • Floods? I almost lost my life in one when I was a toddler. I still remember the waters rushing inside the house. That was not fun. 
  • Tornadoes? Do you know how freaky is for somebody who just moved from the tropics to see the sky suddenly turn purple, feel the temperature drop 30 degrees and have hail peppering their head? Not fun! I almost left tracks in my tighty whities. 
So, if you give me a choice of natural disasters, I will pick hurricanes every single time. Hurricanes seem to come in 10 year or so cycles. Prior to last year, the last hurricane to hit is was Wilma in 2005. Can you say you had a disaster-free decade in your area? It is going to be very rare, right? I have basically spent close to half my living time in Miami only worrying about the air conditioner dying in the summer.

South Florida learned a lot after Hurricane Andrew. Building codes have been reinforced and improved,  and we have a great canal system to keep the water from flooding too much and for too long (which is a feat in an area where the highest natural peak is six feet tall). 

Many new people in the area realize things are about to get heavy when they hear their mayor or the governor say "Be advised, you will need to be on your own from three days to two weeks depending on the damage. Do not expect us to come rescue you, especially when the hurricane is blowing." It is a moment of epiphany for a lot of them, and then the panic ensues... which can be funny to us old hurricane hands. Nothing says "newbie" like buying forty packs of hot dogs that will not survive without refrigeration.

Most of the victims that you will see in the news are either idiots who refuse to take minimal precautions, newly moved carpetbaggers from the NY/NJ area (OK, just kidding there… sort of), and the professional victims who think that government is supposed to either switch the hurricane off or give them shelter, a new car and a pony because they demand it. 

After the hurricane passes, the government is not going to do squat until they figure out what happened, who is the hardest hit, and who requires immediate attention. It is called triage, and you better face that dancing song early and learn to love it.

South Floridians know that if we lose power, we aren't getting power back for a while unless we live next door to a hospital. The same goes for locations with above-ground wiring, since it is subject to the impact of pieces of the abundant greenery we are so fond of down here. I live about a mile from an electrical substation, our area has all-underground wiring, and we didn't get our power back for 36 hours after we lost it. In the meantime, we checked on our neighbors to make sure they were fine, cleaned up debris, and opened roads so traffic could flow. Some grocery stores and gas stations were running on a limited basis via portable or fixed generators, and those of us with our own generators managed to keep the fridges and freezers cold and did a lot of grilling!

What I am trying to say in a long-winded manner is that both government and citizens have a basic understanding of how to prepare for the hurricanes that are going to hit us. These preparations will not help everybody, but the load of victims will be greatly reduced. 
  • Preparation means fewer calls to 911 because there are no collapsed homes with people inside or trapped in the attic because of flood waters. 
  • Preparation means no need to wait for the county crews to come chop down tress fallen across the road, because at least three neighbors will have chainsaws for the thick stuff and everybody has machetes for the smaller stuff (this is Miami after all, we love our machetes). 
  • Preparation means no people starving to death after the second day because most bought at least some tuna and crackers to last a week. 
  • Preparation means people getting hydrated because they followed the simple rule of having one gallon a day per person for at least a week. 
  • Preparation means power companies with local and out of state linemen on staging areas ready to rebuild the grid. 
  • Preparation means all emergency service personnel ready to take care of the injured, even when it means being away from their loved ones. 
  • Preparation means carefully driving out after the storm and checking out what is open and working, so that your neighbors do not have to run around to determine what pharmacies are open or where the ice bags are being passed out. 
  • Preparation means babysitting the neighborhood kids while the parents take a well-deserved nap. 
  • Preparation means all this and much more. We have done it in the past and will do it in the future with improvements.
How effective have all these preps been? The number of deaths in Florida because of hurricanes is small, even minuscule; you get more people killed by gunshots in an average week in Chicago. The victims tend to be people that made a wrong turn and ended up drowning in a canal, or stepped on an electrified cable or puddle. I think there was one man who died when he was trying to move his car a day after a hurricane and a branch of a tree broke and hit him in the head.

I cannot end this post without mentioning guns. Other than some idiots targeting shoe stores, Miami-Dade County was almost free of looters. There might have been a couple of minor things stolen from civilians, but the total collapse like you saw during Katrina didn't happen here. The bad guys realized long ago that neighborhoods become armed encampments, and they do not take kindly to strangers or looters. Again, this means less load on county & state services that can be properly routed to those in real need.

One last thing. Turn off the Weather Channel and the News on TV. They are in the business to sell commercial time and they don’t get to raise rates by being moderate in their presentation.

In conclusion: while hurricanes are amazingly powerful and Irma scared the bejesus out of me, I have a better chance to survive them down here where there is a culture and infrastructure prepared for it.

No comments:

Post a Comment

The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License

Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.