Friday, August 29, 2008

Run for the Hills!

I must say that I expected in some ways that this first year teaching in public schools would be a memorable one. The moving to a new place, new school, (kind of) new culture would be bound to provide me boatloads of witty and thought-provoking anecdotes. What I wasn't expecting was a hurricane to come and make sure I'd never forget this first year. As of the time of this writing, Hurricane Gustav is forecasted to make landfall on Tuesday around Franklin as a solid Category 3 hurricane. Of course, everyone is in an absolute panic of this, despite Gustav churning south of Cuba as I'm typing this. The School Board put us all on alert yesterday and even canceled classes on Tuesday as a precaution--5 days before it was scheduled to make landfall. I had to spend this afternoon securing our Fast ForWord lab, and me being me, I wouldn't settle on just draping trash bags over the workstations, but instead I packed them in individual trash bags, labeled them for when we get to set them back up, put them on a folded table to keep them off the floor, and surrounded them by tables to protect them from flying debris. At least these computers have a chance to survive now.

Everyone at school was debating about its impact and conjuring up memories of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which made a direct hit on Franklin, and Hurricane Katrina, since many of the faculty have family in the area. I on the other hands was trying to be the voice of reason and dragging up facts from the official forecast discussion from NOAA and stuff I learned when I was in engineering about wind fields and dynamics, but to no avail. "They all lie anyway." said one faculty member. "You should listen to me," she continued, "because I said that Rita was going to hit Lake Charles when no one did!" I wanted to point out that Rita didn't exactly hit Lake Charles, but rather the Sabine Pass/Golden Triangle area, but I figured that that was a useless exercise.

It isn't as though I'm not used to hurricanes. After all, I can remember Danny, Juan, Bonnie, Chantal, Jerry, Andrew, Opal, Frances, Allison, Lili, Katrina, Rita, Humberto, and Edouard earlier this summer--and that's the storms I can think of off hand. These were by no means easy events (We lost a barn for Lili, we were out of power over a week after Rita, had damage after Andrew, and were almost flooded out by Allison for example), but I've never been stressed out over it. It happens and there's nothing you can do about it other than pick up the pieces and move on.

But here in the post-Katrina world we live in down here it's just too much. I mean seriously, do we need the governor declaring a state of emergency five days before the storm is forecasted to hit? Do we need wall-to-wall media coverage about the storm for 120 hours before, and a year after the storm? And don't even get me started about those yahoos at KLFY and their "We're all going to die!" attitude they use to describe every tropical system that thinks about forming. At least the folks at KATC try to temper the panic inducement a bit with Rob Perillo and Dave Baker giving scientific explanations for the storm's track as well as explaining the different computer models for folks who don't look for them online, but it's all overkill.

I'm not stressed out about any of this, just a bit perturbed. Since there isn't much I can do I'll just pack up my important belongings, stick everything else at the top of the closets in here as a precaution, and head to my parents' house in Gueydan to ride it out with them and make plans to return to Franklin ASAP. If everything goes according to the forecast the weather won't get much worse than it did during Rita (We had about 24 hours of Tropical Storm and Hurricane-force winds, peaking with several gusts around 100mph), but at least this time we'll be on the West side. And frankly, the further to the west the better for me. Regardless, it'll be yet another story to tell afterward at minimum, and possibly the defining moment for my school year.

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