Bill’s Excellent Adventure

I arrived home today, only two hours late from my Florida hurricane adventure. Air Tran really has their act together and they got the first plane out of Orlando after the airport opened late Monday morning with their remaining flights followint suit. My original 11 a.m. flight was only delayed a couple of hours, but every seat was taken as people from the cancelled Sunday flight filled the remaining spaces.

With this being the third hurricane to pass through the Orlando area in the last six weeks, it looks like they have gotten the recovery process down pat. In addition, most of what could be damaged had already been, so this hurricane produced the least turmoil for Orlando, even though it hit the area with the hardest winds. While the requisite power outages occurred, the crews were out working even during the beginning and trailing portions of the storm, which I found remarkable. We still didn’t have power when I left my dad’s early Monday morning, even though our problem was simply a tripped breaker, a five minute fix. One residential block is low on the priority list, and rightfully so, during the first 24 hours of recovery.

There is nothing like a hurricane to remind you of your paltry insignificance. When faced with the power and destructive force of nature’s great storms, you get a sense of our tenuous hold on the face of this planet and our absolute dependence on Providence for our well being. They say there are no atheists in fox holes and I would say their number is greatly reduced in the middle of hurricanes. I want you to know that I understand the danger of claiming God’s hand to one’s benefit in mundane things but it was nice to see that really massive branch land 10 feet to the left of my rental car rather than on top of it. All I can say is that I uttered a heartfelt “Thank you God” when I saw the near miss.

When I left my brother’s house about 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon the wind was picking up and they had already experienced their first power outage. However, it was restored within two hours, a remarkable example of crews efficiently working on the leading edge of the storm. My father and I then rode out the storm together, late Saturday and early Sunday, surprisingly without losing power but looking out our back side door, which exits into a covered, leeward inside corner. That protected vantage point allowed us to watch the remarkable force of the storm without having the rain and wind intrude into the house.

While the hurricane stayed to the south, we ended up in that dreaded north eastern quadrant where the heavy winds, rain, and storm spawned tornadoes are at their worst. Gusts that measured in the low 90’s pounded us off and on for eight to ten hours. Remarkably our power held until some of the final violent squalls hit us around 3:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon and the breaker on the pole in the corner of our back yard tripped. Later inspection showed the power lines to be clear and sound all the way down the block, so it must have been one line bounce too many. We had momentary flickers all through the storm until this final outage. My dad and I spent Sunday afternoon, night, and my preparation time for leaving on Monday morning in the nether dark. You have to remember that all the glass in the house was covered with plywood, so even in the late afternoon gloom, the house was pitch dark once the power went out. I took a quick shower before the water cooled and we used candles and new LED flashlights (their power consumption is so low that even though they give good light, batteries last a long, long time.) to go about our business. To say it was an interesting experience, might belittle the many tragedies in the path of the storm, but it was that for me with my dad. As for my hurricaned-out Florida family members, it was one more thing to endure and then pick up the trash after.

Despite the significant devastation evident in some places, it was encouraging to see how matter of fact Monday was for so many people. Most of the locals seemed to take the problems in stride. It was the tourists, who had been inconvenienced and had to wait in long lines to get a plane out on Monday morning who seemed irritable and remarkably callous. Me, me, me was the order of the day for a significant minority. People jumped lines, pushed ahead, even when told their seat was guaranteed, exposing the underbelly in the normally placid facade. Human evil, even without the promptings of Screwtape wannabees, is only an unmet expectation away, especially in a frustrated crowd. And I must admit, it was easier to back away after my first attempt to suggest cutting ahead wasn’t the right thing to do produced a torrent of abuse. It wasn’t that I was cowed or afraid to try and do the right thing, but it appeared to be a hopeless task and only seemed to increase the wrangling, with the “What gives you the right” refrain being common.

Any large crowed of 300-400 people teeters on the edge of a mob when tempers begin to flare and people’s respect for decency and order begins to break down over frustration and fear of being the one who will be left out. That in the end everybody got on a flight and even after all the pushing and shoving they still had to wait at least an hour and a half or more at the gate didn’t seem to mollify some people.

That experience was an adventure in itself, in some ways more dramatic than the hurricane. Fortunately both events ended without a serious incident for me and I had a decent flight home. I was even able to get an upgrade so I could stretch out and sleep. Being 6’5″ and 250 lbs., comfort on an airplane is either in an exit aisle or up front. Air Tran has a nice policy that allows regular passengers to upgrade to their Business class for $35-50 at the counter when seats are open. For a small premium you can get a large dose of relaxation and after the events of the morning, I treated myself to an upgrade and slept most of the trip into Baltimore. Thank God for small graces.

I know some people prayed for me and my family’s safety and I thank you. God is gracious and we are thankful.

Grace and peace to your day

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