"Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall. These are the four seasons and we love them all."
This verse has stuck with me since I learned it sometime around kindergarten, along with other grade school memory tricks like "I before E, except after C...."
That "Winter, Spring" poem held true for me until a few years ago, when out of nowhere appeared a fifth season, throwing the poem's barely-there metric out the window. The newcomer is big, bad Hurricane Season, which began this past Monday and lasts until November 30, casting a doom and gloom shadow over the tail end of spring, all of summer, and most of fall.
Despite growing up in Savannah, spending summers interrupted by what seemed like almost daily thundershowers, the threat of a hurricane never permeated my idyllic bubble of middle class childhood safety. Only in adulthood have I learned of the Hurricane of 1893 that killed over 2,000 people in Savannah and Beaufort.
By chance I missed the only hurricane to hit Savannah in the twentieth century-Hurricane David in early September 1979. As a foreign exchange student on the other side of the world, I watched a news report on the telly in my host family's living room, broadcast from downtown Savannah.
The only Hurricane David story that survived our family was my dad's tale of inching along in a miles-long line of evacuating cars on the Islands Expressway, with my stepmom and baby brother beside him, while the toll booth on the Varnedoe Bridge continued to collect coins from every vehicle. The city-wide damage from wind and falling limbs, the days without electricity, barely rated a sidebar mention.
Then along came the 1990's, the decade that I first noticed Hurricane Season in our local lexicon. In the years since, I've developed an annual condition I call SHAD-seasonal hurricane anxiety disorder-caused by the pressure of the laundry list of hurricane preparedness tasks suggested each June by experts, and by my inability to follow through on any of these tasks.
The suggestion that daunts me the most? Buy boards for the windows. This proposal alone sends me into a downward spiral of SHAD-paralysis.
There are nearly two dozen windows on my house, and most are 3 feet by 5 feet, and all are four feet or more off the ground. How will I transport the appropriately sized plywood boards from Home Depot? Carry them by myself into the garage for storage? Wrangle them into place covering the windows and nail them down during the few days or hours before evacuating the city?
How's that for a SHAD-inducing line of thought?
Other suggested tasks are less daunting but still bewilder me. Stock up on extra water and non-perishable food-is this for me to use when I am hunkered down in my house during and after a storm? Or is it to take with me when I evacuate? And, just how much water do I need? The suggested amount is "72 hours worth" - how much is that? Does that include bathing and toilet flushing, or only face washing, teeth brushing, and drinking? And what about my six-cups-a-day coffee habit? I can feel my SHAD symptoms flaring up.
Candles, flashlight, first aid supplies-most of these I already have, but are they enough? Are they the right kind?
In 1999, Savannah had a practice hurricane evacuation run known as Hurricane Floyd. From that experience it appears that everyone in the state, from the Department of Transportation to Chatham Emergency Management Agency, learned a lot about how to make our next evacuation go more smoothly.
This year I'm addressing my SHAD symptoms with an approach adapted from our family's experience in Hurricane Floyd-pretend I'm going on vacation.
In 1999, mom and I made travel plans early in the year, scheduled for late September. Sure enough, the city was evacuated two days before our trip. So off we drove, my dogs and cat in tow, with our bags packed for evacuation, and also for a ten day holiday. One way or another we knew we were in for an adventure, and powerless over what path lay ahead. Floyd bypassed our city, I kenneled my pets in Atlanta, and mom and I boarded our plane as scheduled, bypassing the Savannah-to-Atlanta leg of our flight.
This year my hurricane preparation will consist of doing laundry, packing a suitcase, and stashing in it a good novel, my journal, and a road map plotting a course to some new and interesting place. Maybe that will turn Hurricane Season into one I can love, just like those other four seasons I learned to love in that memorized poem from Pre-K.