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Missing my hurricane days? Not really

As I write this column, Hurricane Matthew is headed toward South Florida. It feels strange sitting here calmly as such wet, windy weather approaches.

It seems like just yesterday that I was a frustrated Floridian, praying that similar storms would pass over.

I still have a T-shirt from my former workplace that says, “I survived Wilma and all I got was the paper out. ... Sun-Sentinel Hurricane Season 2005.”

Oh, how I miss the days of shuttered windows, no electricity and drinking water in my bathtub. And if you believe that, I have a plot of land to sell you in the Everglades. Any takers?

The year 2005, as some of you may recall, was the most prolific hurricane season in recorded history.

In all, there were 15 storms that year, with five becoming major hurricanes. Dennis, Emily, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma became household names. It’s good to see another male storm taking the blame this time around.

I don’t mean to take the subject lightly, though. Hurricanes can be very dangerous. When Wilma hit Fort Lauderdale with 125 mph winds in 2005, it was no joking matter. Trust me. We hunkered down as wind and rain whipped across the tropical landscape, battering our home.

My family survived, but 25 people died in that storm. And the combined hurricanes that year resulted in an estimated 3,913 deaths and about $159.2 billion in damages throughout the Caribbean and southern United States.

A year earlier, I had gone to Haiti to cover the aftermath of Tropical Storm Jeanne, which wreaked havoc on the impoverished island. I wrote stories about people who had to have their legs amputated and children orphaned by the raging waters.

From photos I saw yesterday, it looks like Matthew also hit Haiti pretty hard. As of the writing of this column, there were already more than 100 people killed. So I continue to pray for the Haitian people and others affected by the relentless storm.

While writing this column, I also checked on my parents and sister who live in South Florida. The eye of the storm was expected to hit West Palm Beach, just north of where my sister lives, during the night.

She decided to seek shelter down in Fort Lauderdale at my parents’ house, and they were all huddled together.

When I asked what they were doing to prepare for the storm, they didn’t seem very concerned. My parents, in particular, don’t make much of a fuss about hurricanes. They’re so used to it by now that it almost seems routine.

I’m sure they had plenty of food and water in the pantry to last a few days, and flashlights available in case they run out of electricity. They’re also people of faith. So, I usually don’t worry about them much.

Whatever the outcome, it sure feels good not to be in the eye of the storm for once. But my thoughts are still with those whom I left behind. I’m praying they’re all safe this morning.

Alva James-Johnson: 706-571-8521, @amjreporter

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