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1950_12_30--026_SP how to live through hurricane

THE SATURDAY EVENING POST 43 HOW TO LIVE THROUGH A HURRICANE (Cont et! fr Page ) sailboats and even outboards paraded up the rivers and canals to anchorages between high banks. The restaurant was battened down, electric-lighted and full of people. Some seemed excited, but others looked tired and grim. Perhaps they'd been in hurricanes before and doubtless they'd boarded up for nothing several times that year. Near our table sat a group of badge-wearing delegates, members of one of the three conventions in town at the time. A man among them proclaimed in a facetious shout, "If this hurricane misses, I'm going to ask the Chamber of Commerce for my money back! Always did want to see what happened in one!" "If it hits," Ricky said to me quietly, "he may get his money's worth." After all, we'd been through five. Eating lunch in a restaurant saved our food supplies and saved energy and time. If the storm speeded up, time might become valuable. We drove home, part of the way in a hard shower that threw thunder across the green landscape and gave way to blue sky again in a few blocks. The storm, said the Weather Bureau, was stalling as of noon. Building up in force, they said. Now the gardener and I began to fasten on the shutters. Each was lifted, fixed over threaded bolts in the window frame, pressed tight and secured by washers and wing nuts. One by one, upstairs and down, most of the windows of our house were thus darkened. Then the doors. Inside it became hot and gloomy. Outside the shower was repeated, the sky turned blue again and the wind picked up. The big garbage cans went into the shed where the shutters had been stored. The wheelbarrow and sawhorses were put in the concrete-block compost bin, on top of the heap, but below the walls. We brought in the gardenia and the potted plants. Porch furniture was stowed in bedrooms. With a garden hose I set a siphon going to lower our lily pond, knowing the rains might otherwise wash out its population of tropical fish. Our grapefruit and papayas were too green to bother picking. We had no avocados. With a pole-handled tree trimmer, I cut off various fronds and branches which, in a tempest, might be expected to bat against eaves or the power lines leading to our house. I forgot to cut back the nine-foot tulip tree, and in the morning what was left was less than two feet high. And I thought of wrapping up the big, double yellow hibiscus at the corner of my workroom. But I didn't, and that was gone next day. I checked the hand pump on our well, and it was working; we'd have water— potable water — unless the concrete pump house blew away, and the pump with it. Indoors, Ricky and our maid, Hester, had taken up rugs and hung away clothes, filled all the flint lighters, finished the cooking, locked or left open interior doors according to a plan, and set the hurricane gear at strategic points. Hester was dismissed early, and she joined the home-going throngs. School had been let out everywhere at noon and the yellow busses had already taken the children home. We were set now, and this was the time for the phone calls and the visits. Other people, also finished with their precautions, came to see if they could help us. We got into a car and drove over to find out if our friends needed helpers. Some did. Soon after our return, the contractor who had built our house the year before stopped by to see if we were snug, and decided my preparations needed reinforcements. He and I went back up on the ladders and the broad, flat roofs. 'Afterward he had a cup of coffee. More people phoned. We phoned to a few more, and the wind began to hiss in the treetops. It grew dark. Ricky cooked supper and we ate and then washed the dishes. At eight-thirty the radio said South Florida was surely in for it. The Red Cross gave staccato lists of aid stations and shelters. People had been told everything they could be told. The wind downtown in Miami, in the next couple of hours, rose to hurricane force, which is seventy-five miles and above. At five minutes of eleven our lights went out, after dying and coming on again a few times. We know the moment because the electric clocks stopped then, and the hands stayed there afterward. We had been phoning periodically to relay the advisories to a family whose radio had stopped working in the afternoon. The husband lay abed with a high fever, and one of the children, in trying to light a candle with a damp match, got a blazing coal in her eye. A doctor made it to their house through the rising tumult and found the child painfully, but not seriously injured. We phoned the ten-thirty bulletin to them, and none after that, as our line went dumb at about the time our lights went out. Outdoors it poured. As long as the power lasted, we kept our floodlights on, so we could watch the trees surge and glitter in the horizontal rain, catch sight of vague objects hurtling across the wet night and bounding anonymously on the lawn, and see our shrubs bend low, wave, twist and dig funnels in the earth at their bases. A steady wind steadily rose, giving the landscape just such an appearance and producing just such sound effects as the movies of hurricanes do. Over that wind, however, came the gusts, audible in the distance, screaming as they plowed troughs in the woods around us. The cinema is too feeble to reproduce such sounds as those. It was possible to go out on lee porches, but it was difficult to hear even shouts at any distance. When our lights went, everybody's did near us; the comforting glow of other houses disappeared. It was replaced by flashes far and near—pink and blue and white lights—as transformers burned out and hot wires shorted on the ground or amidst the hurtling tree stems. Then utter darkness, filled with unspeakable din. The radio, now on batteries, stopped and we tuned to another station. A tower had gone down, the new announcer said. His station had switched to a nondirectional beam to cover for stations temporarily out of commission. "Look at the barometer!" Ricky cried. The eyc could see it move. Down and down. Twenty-five hundredths in as many seconds. Our ears popped and hurt. Wind rushed from the house through the doorb and windows we had left open for the purpose of keeping pressure equalized. The radio talked fast now. Downtown in the main streets, it said, metal shutters were being ripped off many of the big stores. Their great plate-glass windows were bursting into the street as the outdoor pressure dropped. All firemen and police near a certain ad-


1950_12_30--026_SP how to live through hurricane
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