Hurricane Harbor

A writer and a tropical muse. A funky Lubavitcher who enjoys watching the weather, hurricanes, listening to music while enjoying life with a sense of humor and trying to make sense of it all!

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Why I love Neil Frank

Because the man made me respect hurricanes beyond something that was just "fun" and a break in the boredom that is Miami weather for a child growing up.

You see... in Miami growing up not much happened. Okay so we had the Cuban Missle Crises and all took turns testing the stupid theory of 30 kids in a classroom learning to jump under their desks and stick their ass in the air and cover their ears (for the noise I guess) and shut out eyes tight (from the light of the blast) and pray that Fidel didn't really send his missles to Homestead and in doing so obliterate our Miami lives. Besides THAT.. nothing happened.

Except hurricanes. When a storm threatened the TV went live like some NASA space event or an election but it was Hurricane Time in Miami LIVE on air. Something was happening. People were shopping, worrying, banging away on hammers putting up shutters and worrying on various Caribbean storms or Cape Verde storms racing towards possible dates with disaster somewhere near Miami. Mostly they curved or swerved or raced away somewhere else and parents sighed a sigh of relief and kids thought "well that sucks" or whatever we thought back then. Hurricane Donna taught us older baby boomers that hurricanes meant school was closed, palm trees fell down and normal was put on hold and there was excitement in the air.

Along comes Neil Frank. The strange man with the strange hair cut and the dudley do right sense of he could have been a canadian mountie or coached the Dallas Cowboys but instead he chose meteorology as his profession and had taken up residence in Coral Gables at the Hurricane Center. And, he was serious about hurricanes. And, he warned everyone over and over about the dangers of storm surge.

Neil brought the dangers of hurricane home to a generation of children who thought hurricanes were simply a day off of school.

Yes, we still wanted them. We still sat mesmerized staring at Bob Weaver (the weatherman) informing us of Cleo or Betsy or Inez's progress as it made its way across Cuba or near Cuba or around Cuba but.....when Neil talked storm surge with the seriousness demeanor and examples of how a storm surge could wash over ALL of Miami and wipe us off the planet. We listened.

Okay.. he never said all of Miami could wash away but man those early grapics shown on TV were scary. And, we knew the landscape of our world could be rearranged by those wild storms. We weren't just afraid of the roof caving in, the windows blowing out or our favorite climbing palm tree falling down... we had something to focus on.. something tangible.

How could you not take serious something this serious, intense, passionate looking man said so seriously??

Yes we enjoyed the hurricanes of our youth. They were easier to enjoy.
People didn't pack up the Honda Civic with all of their belongings and try to drive north to Wyoming with their baby grand piano strapped to the roof. They didn't buy enough supplies to last them through Halloween and halfway into Christmas. They didn't buy a generator strong enough to keep electricity going at the Orange Bowl. We boarded up as best we could, stayed away from the windows in a hallway or in a sheltered part of the house, we listened to the raging roaring wind and wondered what was happening outside. We didn't use our laptop batteries and try to watch it on radar and water vapor imagery. And, when we were told to get off the barrier islands or away from the coast we were told WHY... not just told it was a precaution and that if you hurt yourself after the storm 911 wouldn't be able to get to you. We were more informed of the dangers, we were less sure of the track, we weren't sure what it looked like on multiple satellites and amazed to get a good radar image of the storm marching down Biscayne Blvd. We hid, we hunkered down and we waited for the storm to pass as our parents and parent's parents had before us .. especially us old timer southerners.

And... we never heard people bitching that they spent the retirement fund on twinkies and how stupid the hurricane center is to make us nuts. The adults I remember were thankful and appreciative that the monster storm spared their lives.

We believed what the Hurricane Center said... they were like God.
They had Neil Frank.
They had satellites and a big dish on the roof at the hurricane center.
We were proud they were here at UM, lord knows in those days we weren't real excited about the football team who tried hard to beat Wake Forest every year.

Neil Frank taught me about the dangers of a storm surge.

Years later when we watched the coverage of Hugo... we heard Neil Frank talking about storm surge.

We the children of that period in time will never sound surprised or shocked that a hurricane can wipe a town off the map.

Or a bridge. Great song stuck in my head yesterday. Leaving it here as a dedication the power of a storm surge and the way it took out a piece of I-10 and nope..I'm not surprised... storm surge can do that.

Nope.. not me. I remember Neil Frank. Patron saint of hurricane trackers still who are old enough to remember when he ran the National Hurricane Center.

We worried less on what those unpredictable paths those storms could take, heard less explanations and heard more information, advice and warnings on what do to if the big bad storm came our way. Personally I think that we could use a strong dose of that right now and less worrying on finite positions on a map, cones that change with every six hour discussion until the storm gets so close that there isn't much room to change the cone. Think we could use to hear that you have to get off the barrier island because it could wash away your house, your possessions and not to expect it to be there when you get back to the island.. not be told that there will be no emergency services such as 911 and fireman if you hurt yourself or your house catches fire... think they should be told their house WILL most likely wash away.

So...if you are driving to Alaska for the next storm threatening your coastal town.. remember to take your pictures and send those documents out of town because you won't find them when you return. might but I wouldn't want to count on it.

And... you might not have a bridge to cross when you get there.

"Bridge Over Troubled Waters"
When you're weary, feelin' small
When tears are in your eyes,
I will dry them all.
I'm on your side,
Oh, when times get rough
And friends just can't be found.
Like a bridge over troubled waters
I will lay me down.
Like a bridge over troubled waters
I will lay me down.
When you're down and out, when you're on the street
When evening falls so hard, I will comfort you.
I'll take your part,
Oh when darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled waters
I will lay me down.
Like a bridge over troubled waters
I will lay me down.
Sail on children, sail on by
Your time has come to shine, all their dreams are on their way
See how they shine,
Oh when you need a friend
I'm sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled waters
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled waters,
I will ease your mind.
I'll ease your mind.

(ps... to my friend who sent me the CD with the song ....Love to see you smile)


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