August 27, 2012
Key West has been incredibly fortunate the past few years, basically since 2005, to have avoided being impacted by any Hurricanes, major or minor, so when we looked at the National Hurricane Center forecast upon our return to Key West from Colorado, we were a little concerned that a potential Hurricane was forming and we were in the exact center of the “Cone of Uncertainty” for what would become Hurricane Issac.
Every eight hours, a new update from the Hurricane Center would be posted as the storm inched ever closer to us. Generally if Key West is in the center of the cone early, it is almost certain to have veered away by the time it actually reaches the island. Issac however stayed the course and the path never seemed to alter at all and Key West looked to be right at the heart of the storm at whatever strength it was to be when passing over.
The Hurricane hype machine started up in full force as media members from the weather channel, other national crews and trucks from the local Miami affiliates began pouring in to town and reporting in rain gear from the beach, southernmost point- which had been covered in a large plastic tarp after being damaged during Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
The forecast for much of the week had the storm at tropical storm strength as it passed over Key West, which did not cause much of a reaction among locals, in spite of the ominous reporting from the beachside reporters. While nothing to make light of, a tropical storm doesn’t really instill too much concern among the local populace and Key West basically went about its business as the storm approached. There was never even an evacuation ordered for tourists, which usually is the start of the process during many storms.
Then suddenly the day before the storm was to hit, the forecast strength jumped and suddenly we were faced with the prospect of a strong Category One or even a Category Two storm- which is something else altogether. Not a reason to panic by any stretch, but preparations had to be stepped up with not a lot of time to get them done. I boarded up the house and we got some supplies for the inevitable power outages and we were ready for whatever came.
Then we waited, and waited and waited and nothing more than some strong winds and rain hit and the storm passed relatively uneventfully as a tropical storm that did little or no damage to the island- which is fantastic. Kathy & I even ventured out during the storm to check out the island and take in a hurricane party at Don’s Place bar. It was a pretty fun and the power never even went out- the lights did not even blink.
Key West breathed a sigh of relief and resumed their irreverent partying ways almost immediately and the reporters and TV trucks rolled out of town towards New Orleans where the storm would soon hit and actually cause damage and destruction, following a path eerily similar to Hurricane Katrina. Thankfully this was far less destructive and while there was damage it was nothing like the catastrophe of Katrina.
The entire experience was good practice in preparation and while many in Key West made light of the non-event that was Issac, we were just lucky that it wasn’t worse. Hurricanes are something that islanders just have to learn to deal with and become like second nature once the season starts. Hopefully our good fortune will continue for the foreseeable future.