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Heart of the Matter
We’ll remember Charley
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A, B, C ... 1, 2, 3

That’s how memorable Charley’s gonna be.

What an emotional roller coaster ride we shared less than a week ago. Those 36 hours on hurricane watch seemed to drag on. Much has been said since Charley passed. We did learn a few things.

One fact is certain. The Tampa Bay area will go through it all again. Hopefully, not sooner. With any luck, much, much later. Luck is really all we can hope for.

We learned that fairly certain is about as certain as we can expect the hurricane predictors to be. It’s fine to be skeptical of Vipir, Storm Tracker, SkyTower, Saffir-Simpson and all the other high tech thingamajigs forecasters used to keep us advised and glued to the TV set. In light of the sudden, drastic turn of events that occurred with Hurricane Charley, even the most well-trained expert cannot be expected to know for sure exactly what will happen, or where.

Unsettling, isn’t it?

Fear and the survival instinct can provide a powerful incentive for putting your faith in those who study the science of hurricane tracking. It also helps to check in with the man upstairs, if you are so inclined. There really are no other sensible choices.

I took a ride over to Indian Rocks Beach on a cat rescue mission Friday morning. It was early, weather was calm, so I knew I would be the heck out of Dodge, with Zebo, the scaredy cat, boxed up and out of harm’s way long before Charley came calling.

Mission accomplished. At 8 a.m. there was virtually no one around. IRB was a ghost town – eerily so. It appeared that many people had taken Charley’s threat seriously. There is no point in judging those who did stay. I’m sure their decision was not made lightly.

Driving along deserted Gulf Boulevard I envisioned hearts breaking as people had boarded up their windows and locked the front door for possibly the last time, leaving their dreams behind. The reality was that things they had worked so hard to possess very possibly would be in ruins when they returned. Yes, life matters most, but it still hurts to leave your treasured belongings and memories. Thursday afternoon a guy on TV had urged people to walk through their homes and videotape each room. Good advice. Gut-wrenching thing to do.

I made a mental note to dig out the insurance papers when I got back home to Largo. Level D meant stay put and we’d probably remain intact.

Still, you can never be quite certain.

By the way, an easy way to accurately pinpoint your zone is to visit the Web site pinel­lasco­unty.­org, click on “evacuation level lookup” and enter your exact address. Your evacuation zone will be displayed – easy as A, B, C.

Warning sirens audible in the distance all day Friday were replaced by car horns honking in jubilation that same evening after Charley aimed his unfathomable punch on someone else.

Saturday morning as TV images showed just how devastating the hurricane really was, inflicting a lethal blow, Fox 13’s Bill Murphy quoted one person who nailed the sentiment of many.

“I feel like someone took a bullet for me, and I don’t even know him.”

We had all come to know the perpetrator, Charley.

We’d be wise to keep one eye on all those others – their names from A to Z.

Earl, Frances, Gaston, Hermine, Ivan ...

Chary Southmayd is the editor of the Belleair Bee and Entertainment Extra!.
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