I don’t think I’m the lone Minnesotan who actually enjoys a good thunderstorm or snowstorm. Aside from tornado weather, I relish the encompassing nature of storms. Everyone on a singular mission, some of us trying to get stuck in a good place with good people to ride out a squall.
I can’t say that about my current predicament. My wife and I are stuck in Florida in the Fort Lauderdale hurricane zone with our newborn, an adoptee we’ve been waiting years for. The baby came early, and we rushed down here to be with her, expecting a few days of observation, a stop in Jacksonville to show her off to relatives and then a glorious journey home to Duluth. A week maybe, and we’d be home for our confused pets, who watched our mad scramble to jet down.
Not so. Hospital protocol has Izzy staying just more than two weeks. She came into the world the night Harvey made landfall in Texas. She will go to her permanent home on the heels of Hurricane Irma. I jokingly say we should have called her Irma Harvey, coming into the lives of new parents like a hurricane.
Even in this hurricane-proof hospital, staff are scared for what Irma might do to their homes and communities come landfall sometime overnight Saturday into Sunday. But our sweet kid has been the calm in the storm.
Izzy’s parents have not been calm. Because we were not expecting to spend this much time here, we’ve scrambled to find lodging and to get prepared for a likely historic hurricane. There is no gas. Water at stores is scarce and rationed. Charcoal is gone. Not one superstore has a flashlight. Batteries are more popular than candy bars at checkouts.
I’ve been bemused at home by runs on snow shovels before the first big winter snowfall. What I’ve seen in the past week can only be called frenzy. And it’s hot and steamy and people are on edge. Horns honk constantly. People are glued to their phones, and all of the conversations are about boarding up windows, getting to the mother-in-law’s, arranging for pets and finding gas.
We’ve muddled through, all the while trying to spend as much time with our daughter at a hospital that is sure to close down 36 hours before expected landfall. That means we won’t be able to see her for the foreseeable future until the hurricane passes and it’s safe to return.
That has been an unbearable thought. There is some relief in a crib webcam we can access as long as the power holds out. We will move from our small hotel on the mandatory evacuation line as the tropical winds kick up. Kind souls have opened their home to us, far west and safe from ocean surge.
We are tired, like any new parents, even with help from expert neonatal intensive care nurses who have graciously shared their wisdom and allowed us to do most of the care for Izzy. They are saints.
I’ve long tried to love Florida. With relatives here, I’ve spent the past 20 years visiting at least once a year. But never during hurricane season. Now I know exactly why.
Florida is slow to be reciprocal in its love back. It is so foreign to a Minnesotan, especially one raised in the country and now living in Duluth. Sure, there’s the ocean, but after that, I can take it or leave it. Too touristy, too much strip mall, too many people — often transplants without the permanence of the more likely lifelong Minnesotans you meet 1,800 miles north of here.
I relish meeting native Floridians for their historical context and admitted irreverence when it comes to this strange land. They make their state seem less of a giant shopping mall and more of a real place.
Mostly, Florida constantly gives me a transient feel. And as I stewed in traffic clogged by gas lines snaking onto the arteries Wednesday, I realized that with the notion of an Irma beckoning each season, Florida can never be fully stationary. In days, all that I have navigated may be gone or severely altered.
As survivors of Hurricane Andrew tell me that Irma is the first storm they’ve ever really been afraid of, I shudder. Don’t tell me that, I say. My biggest storm fears are whether the snowblower will start or if I need to clear a sagging garage roof. Snowstorms don’t take away homes or gash economies personal and governmental.
For now, we are safe. And that’s all I can say about this novice venture into hurricane weather.
Izzy will certainly have a birth story to tell. I’m not sure we are prepared to relive much of the past 10 days just yet. Perhaps the trauma will subside by the time I’m teaching her how to shovel the driveway.
Michael Creger is a writer from Duluth.