Of course, Katrina, who only touched Florida lightly in August before moving on to wreak havoc on the Gulf Coast, particularly New Orleans, was the most devastating hurricane, and everyone has heard about her. But for us, Wilma was the one who left her mark. It's when I got to know what a goofy guy Harry was, as we spent hours curled up together next to Mom and Dad, trying not to get too upset at the loud noises from the thunder claps and the heavy rains on our roof.
In an unusual approach, Wilma came up out of the southwest in late October and -- we think it was because she wanted to meet Harry -- came almost right over our house. For days before she arrived, we had the shutters up and had all our paraphernalia out: coolers, water jugs, lanterns, flashlights, battery-powered TVs, batteries of all sizes, and lots of non-perishable food, including extra snacks and treats for JH and me. And for days before she arrived, nothing was on TV except this big blob and warnings about having a PLAN. "So did we have a PLAN?" I kept asking Mom and Dad. "We'll be OK, won't we?" thinking about what had happened to Harry after Katrina. They reassured us we'd be OK, but there might be a time when we would just have "to hold it!" And we had to be prepared for very loud noises. And eventually no lights or air conditioning.
Well, after almost a week of our wondering where Wilma would land once she had finished with the Caribbean and Mexico, she hit Florida's southwest tip at night and then tore across the Everglades. We locked our shutters down, so when our lights went out around 2 am, it got really dark and really warm without the AC. Just like the folks had told us. But Harry and I did what we are really good at -- we went to sleep.
By morning, that big blob was sniffing distance away. The folks on non-stop TV coverage showed her path so precisely that we could see exactly where the eye was, just a few miles away, and knew the exact moment when it would pass just to the north of us. At one point, remembering that Harry and I were indeed "holding it," Dad opened the door to see if we could make a rush trip to our pee bush, but he changed his mind very quickly when he saw a tree limb blow past the house.
And then it was very very still, as the eye brushed our house. Dad did open the door and take us out; but we rushed back when the wind picked up and the rains started again. After a scary hour or so, though, it all died down, except for the last of the rain, and Dad told us it was all over and we had been very brave, very good boys.
Later, Mom and Dad took us for a careful inspection tour to see what had happened. Everything was different. Lots of our favorite trees were down, all kinds of stuff was strewn everywhere, and it was really hard to pick a path around the tree limbs and other odd things along the road.
But, I have to tell you, even though the lights throughout our neighborhood didn't come back on for another week, the weather got cool so we didn't suffer too much from the heat. Nobody went to work for a few days, so we got to go for long long walks with Mom and Dad every day. Nobody was playing golf either, so we got to romp on the empty course. Not too bad, from our point of view!!
Once people started cleaning up, we discovered what fun it was to pee on the piles of brush that had accumulated on the sides of the streets. Mom said they looked like mounds of snow piled up after a snowstorm up north. To pass the time, Mom and I played Scrabble with Dad by lantern-light. And I guess I finally realized that Harry was here to stay and it wasn't such a terrible thing.
In Part Four, I think Harry might have a few words to say. Should be interesting...