Ashby at large

MY DISASTER LIST – Batteries? Check. All sorts of batteries? A, AA and AAA. (No two TV remotes, flashlights or smoke detectors take the same size.) Charge my iPhone, iPad and iHearingAid battery chargers. Water? Bottles of it left over from Winter Storm Uri back in February 2021. Can I just scrape off the mold?

Obviously, I am getting ready for a most unwelcome visitor: Idalia, Hermine and/orVirginie. Yes, Houstonians, it’s almost the opening of hurricane season when the American Red Cross tosses out the first doughnut. You should begin preparations, too, because over the last 10 seasons, eight storms started before June 1.           

It’s getting worse. Between 1991-2020 there was an average of seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes. Last year, the U.S. had seven hurricanes, again, but four that reached Category 3 status or greater. This year the predictions are for nine hurricanes and four that reach at least Category 3. This is according to Colorado State University's Phil Klotzbach. (I could never figure out why we go to Colorado State University, 1,223 miles from the coast, for info on what’s blowing our lawn furniture into the next ZIP code.) 

Meteorologists blame the increasing number of storms on El Nino, Spanish for El Nino, and global warming, but I blame the press. Every late spring our TV weather people point to the radar that shows a cloud just west of Liberia, and warn breathlessly that the cloud could turn into a killer hurricane that could well swamp Houston. (I also blame the press for COVID-19-through-56, acne and the Texans’ offensive line.)

For example, the Weather Channel gives us its predictions and adds: “Additional details will become available over the next few months.” Great timing. When I am standing on my rooftop waiting for a Texas National Guard helicopter to rescue me, the Weather Channel will tell me that a hurricane has hit town. 

But suppose the weather wizards are right. Look for other signs, such as when the animals at the Houston Zoo are lining up two by two, or your insurance company announces it is canceling your flood insurance policy. Note when you turn on your TV news, see if the meteorologist is wearing a life jacket. Maybe your neighbor is in her front yard putting up a flood gauge. Another clue: Your lawyer calls and asks if you want to update your will. And your kids call with the same question. 

So stock up on essentials, including diapers, toilet paper, Sterno, matches to light the Sterno and fill your bathtub with water. Get a hand-operated can opener. You will certainly lose power (ERCOT’s slogan: “Don’t blame us”), so your electric can opener will be useless while you starve because you can’t pry open that can of Campbell’s Iquana Soup. Rope. Either tie down your lawn chairs, barbeque pit and pets or bring them inside. Same for your children. Raise your garage door. Remember, no electricity. Got a radio that runs on batteries? Why not? Go get one. 

Plywood. Notice that prior to every hurricane we see people line up at the local Home Depot to buy plywood they will nail over their windows. Question: What did they do with last year’s plywood? It didn’t rot. Those 6-by-8 foot boards won’t fit in their garbage can. Check your bar. Brandy can be consumed at room temperature. Vodka needs ice or at least it can be put in the freezer early on. Incidentally, last week I was in my liquor store to make my monthly purchase of vodka and there was a sign on the shelf: “We no longer handle Russian products.” Ha. Take THAT, Vlad! OK, my weekly purchase. Maybe thrice weekly. 

You have been wondering what hurricane names will go down in infamy. We can say “Harvey” and everyone knows what we mean. (FEMA says help is on the way.) Same for “Katrina.” About 250,000 Louisianans fled to Texas fleeing Katrina, and almost two decades later, more than 30,000 still live in Houston. Wouldn’t you? Last year, the average income in Houston was almost $11,000 more than in New Orleans. The average Black family in Houston makes about $47,000, compared with $31,000 in New Orleans.

As for names, they are given to tropical storms, but if they reach a sustained wind speed of 74 miles per hour, then they are deemed hurricanes. Atlantic storms name lists repeat every six years unless a storm is so severe that the World Meteorological Organization’s Hurricane Committee (WMO) votes to retire that name from future lists. When a name is retired, it’s replaced by a new name. So we won’t see another Karina, Ike or Harvey. Incidentally, there is no Stormy Daniels. This year’s list goes from Alex to Walter and includes the aforementioned Idalia, Hermine andVirginie. In 2020 there were so many named storms, a record 30, WMO ran out of its 21 names (they don’t use Q, U, X, Y and Z), so they used nine letters in the Greek alphabet, but that idea was abandoned because Zeta, Eta and Theta are too similar. It was confusing. 

Giving storms female names began in 1953, and in 1979, the names alternated between men and women. During the same year, the WMO’s Regional Association IV Hurricane Committee (I’m not a member) began using French and Spanish names for storms. In 2003, U.S. Rep.  Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston criticized WMO for not using African-American names for storms and hurricanes.“All racial groups should be represented,” she complained. The Congresswoman suggested names such as Keisha, Jamal, and Deshawn. I’m not sure anything came of her complaint. 

All right, you are ready for Idalia. But now that I think of it, the Texas National Guard won’t come to rescue me from my rooftop. All the guards will be down on the Rio Grande looking for immigrants. 

                Ashby is huddling at ashby2@comcast.net

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