Saturday, August 26, 2017

Come Hell and High Water

Hurricane Harvey at 8 a.m. Saturday, August 26.
Hurricane tracking has always been a kind of hobby for me. Well, maybe not always a hobby; when I was a child, my life might have depended on it once or twice. I was the official “hurricane tracker” in the family. In second and third grade, I had dreams of being a meteorologist when I grew up, but I didn’t have the mathematical aptitude. Now, sitting at my desk in Minnesota, far outside the hurricane belt, I have all kinds of software for keeping an eye on the tropics when friends and family are in harm’s way. And Harvey is no doubt a family matter; I have three cousins who live near the Texas coastline.

My fascination with hurricanes comes from having survived two of the worst. My first was Betsy in 1965. I was about 4½ years old at the time, and didn’t know what a “hurricane” was. My second was Camille in 1969, which was much more memorable. For one thing, she was a freakin’ category five (though the Saffir-Simpson scale wouldn’t be published for another two years), and for another she was coming right at us! We made out a lot better from Camille than we did from Betsy. Camille veered north, passing us to the east and showing us her “weaker” side. After Betsy (whose maximum sustained wind fell one mile per hour short of the category five threshhold) we were without power for two weeks, and I learned that little ditty that rhymes yellow with mellow and brown with down. If you ask me, Betsy should be retroactively classified (the National Hurricane Center does that sometimes) to category five. She was as bad to New Orleans as Katrina was.

I usually put it this way: Betsy + Camille = Katrina.

But hey, this is Texas we’re talking about, and I’ll say one thing about Texans: they’re as proud, as strong, and as stubborn as they’re reputed to be. They’ve got this. Harvey’s about to learn for himself that ya don’t mess with Texas.