Frank and I first began to think seriously of moving away from Florida in 2004 and 2005. We lived through the 2 worst years ever for Atlantic hurricanes and we were tired of it. We had moved in 1998 from Jacksonville, 6 miles from the Atlantic ocean, to Fleming Island where we somehow thought the storms wouldn’t be so bad. We didn’t really take into account how close we now were to the St John’s River and how much worse it would be for us than for other people in Clay county. Regardless, in 2004 Bonnie, Charlie, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne made a mess, left us without power and with a mess to clean up. We thought we had lived through the worst year ever.
In July 2005, we took our vacation to go to New Orleans. We stayed at a beautiful bed and breakfast in the Garden District. We took the street cars to the French Quarter, ate at some wonderful restaurants and got to know the people and the city. One afternoon, we took a guided tour of the whole city, mostly to get out of the heat and into a nice air conditioned van. During the tour, the guide drove us to see the levees. We had heard about these things before and somehow I expected some concrete and metal structures… or anything besides what I actually saw. These things were like the berms that our old neighborhood had between the houses and Atlantic Blvd….for privacy, sure, but to keep out a storm surge???!! Ridiculous!! And we told this woman that. We said, “Look, if a storm is coming this way, leave. These things are not going to keep you safe”.
We were devastated then when, 10 days later, Katrina hit the Gulf coast (it’s third landfall) and afterwards New Orleans flooded. We were glued to the tv set and worried about all of the people we had met.
But the 2005 storm season wasn’t nearly over yet. Heck, we were on H in August. We still had to deal with Rita and Wilma, and then NOAA started the alphabet over with Alpha, Beta etc.
So after all of this, we started looking for a place in the mountains where we could get out of the hurricane paths. We bought a cabin in North Georgia. We loved that place and really thought we would retire there. We eventually decided we wanted to “live the dream” and run a bed and breakfast, of course, so we sold the Georgia cabin and we bought the house in the southern Appalachians of Virginia.
Watching the news and tracking this last Atlantic hurricane, it surprises us how much we know about tropical storms and hurricanes. I guess after spending more than 40 years living with them, or the threat of them, it shouldn’t be surprising. But one blocks out some things. As the IT director of a fairly large company, I tracked every storm, every year – I worked there for 24 years. I could guess the landfall sometimes better than the Weather channel.
I hope the damage from this storm, Hermine, is not extensive anywhere. And if this begins another couple of bad seasons for storms, I hope it serves as a reminder to people to be prepared and be careful.
It serves as a reminder to me of why we moved away from the coast in general and Florida in particular. And why we probably won’t be moving back.