The Irma Effect

dsci0021Hurricanes are an interesting phenomenon especially to a surfer. On the one hand the thought of one coming in ones direction can create a sense of excitement and on the other a sense of fear and angst. They can send perfect overhead swells your way or beat you down to a pulp if they get too treacherous.

I have surfed my fair share of them with mixed results. In the early 90’s I surfed 10-15′ surf off of cape Hatteras and caught several of the most exhilarating rides of my life but also almost bought the farm on one wicked wipeout.

Since moving to the Jacksonville area in 2005 I have mostly experienced hurricane swells that came from tropical storms that stayed well off of our coast and left the area with solid overhead swells and off shore winds that made the conditions, though at times somewhat terrifying, mostly manageable and very enjoyable.

Years of such luck with hurricanes can leave one somewhat jaded in thinking that is the way it will always be. Unfortunately, as we found with both Mathew and Irma, that’s not the way mother nature works. Sooner or later you are going to get burned.

When I was young and growing up on Long Island, we were hit with some pretty disastrous storms. back in those days I don’t remember any sort of evacuation orders and you pretty much just rode it out and hoped for the best

As we lived on a canal I remember watching the water creep closer and closer to the house and our losing trees but as a kid I don’t remember being overly frightened by them. I suppose as we get older though we tend to become more and more concerned over such things.

For some reason I wasn’t that much concerned about Irma before it hit, to the point that my wife and daughter got on me about not having enough concern. But once it hit it seemed to take me to my knees psychologically. I guess severe and life and death circumstances tend to take something from us even though in some ways they do give us strength.

Our area of Jacksonville has not had an ounce of flooding since we moved here. There are no rivers or streams near us with only small retention ponds in the neighborhood. But Irma was different. We woke up to flooded streets throughout the neighborhood and the water finally stopped rising a mere 5 feet from our front door. Other than that we were pretty lucky in only losing some shingles on our roof , a loss of power for a day and a half and a big oak in the front yard that split but miraculously did not fall down.

So why was a I so unnerved by it all? I’m not sure. Maybe it was because the storm seemed to take forever to get here, the hype created by the media, the fact that it was going to move further away but didn’t or who knows what.

Bottom line, between the devastation caused by Harvey, Mathew, and Irma, I would be happy going without a good tropical swell if it meant people could be safe and not suffer from the effects of them.

One aspect of the aftermath of the storms that was very encouraging was the way people quickly pitched in to help neighbors as well as people the didn’t even know. It was refreshing to get a reprieve from all of the political, religious and ethnic tensions we have seen of late. People were seen helping others that they might not have either liked, agreed with or had a desire to even know before hand.

Our neighborhood is a very diverse one and people get along pretty well but for the most part people tend to keep to themselves. After the storm settled down a bit and everyone went out to check the streets and yards it was like a love fest. People were helping others and it was great.

My hope is that we can all hold onto those feelings of togetherness after the fact and remember that in the end we are all a brotherhood of man and here to lighten each other load and love one another despite our differences. If that is the case then if it takes an Irma or a Harvey to bring us to that end then I suppose it wasn’t a total loss after all.

Thanks for checking in this week and I pray this blog finds you safe and sound and out of harms way.



About authorpaulhayden

Author, artist, screenwriter, environmentalist. husband, father, surfer, surfing instructor, volunteer.
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