“ . . . high winds . . . 12:00 . . . headed this way . . . possible tornado . . . till 3:00 . . . some heavy rain . . .”
I stared wide eyed at the park ranger on the beach talking to our neighbor. “Did you get all that?” he asked when he turned my way.
A tornado watch! We were aware that the hurricane season is over at the end of November, but a tornado season? Checking a Florida disaster website, I discovered that there are two tornado seasons in Florida. The summer season ends in September and the Deadly Spring Season (yes, folks, that’s what it’s called) starts in February. Where does that leave us in December?
It leaves us on a tiny scrap of land called Long Key, where one could sprint – if one was capable of sprinting, and there wasn’t a mangrove swamp, a high fence and Route 1 in the way – from the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico in about 20 seconds, providing us no protection at all from devastating winds and seas.
We have quite sensibly put away everything that could become a deadly missile – deck chairs, firewood, table, shoes, lethal flip flops – but our near neighbors, each only 20 feet away, are more blasé. On one side, I can see a rake, a flashlight, a dead plant in a pot, bungee cords dangling, buckets, hoses, chairs, mats and a miniature Yorkshire terrier on a very flimsy lead. On the other side is a tent that will take off like Dorothy and Toto when the wind gets up.
We are sitting outside, facing the wind, waiting to see the twister skip across the ocean.
Well what else are we going to do? Hide in our tin can of a home?
A hazy sun tries to break through but fails to make a shadow. I’m looking for ominous signs in the grey tufted sky. The air is warm and humid. A spot of rain makes me want to jump and run but it may just be salt water carried on the stiff breeze.
Black frigate birds floating overhead, their slender wings and bodies in perfect silhouette against the pale sky, seem not to move a muscle as they are carried downwind. The cormorants, more energetic flyers with their shorter wings and chunky bodies, flap ferociously into the wind, making very little headway.
It’s nearly 12 noon. The tornado hour. The wind is picking up. And yet a patch of blue sky is making its way towards us. Are tornadoes lurking in the wide band of innocuous fluff beneath it?
To be continued on Monday.