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Heart of the Matter
Storm weary
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Enough. We give up. Uncle. Time out.

They say that whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. But, I wonder how much more we can take from hurricane season 2004.

We’ve learned that life on this beloved peninsula can be totally unpredictable, exhausting and a real bummer, sometimes.

I think it’s perfectly OK to whine at this point. Eventually each of us reaches a burnout point.

I suspect everyone has had it up to here with making all those preparations and then dealing with dreaded power outages.

This time, however, the sense of urgency was practically nil.

Indicative of the fatigue and burnout that sets in when threatened once, twice, three and then four times in a row came during a press briefing by Gary Vickers at the Pinellas County Emergency Operations Center on Sunday morning. Hurricane Jeanne was approaching. It was clear we would get blasted with some mighty wind gusts and considerable rainfall.

Exhibiting his typically calm, well-controlled demeanor, Vickers gave the latest hurricane information and standard reminders, then turned to the TV cameras and asked, “Any questions?”

There weren’t any.

Huh? No one had a question? Not even a really stupid one that comes up when people (yes, reporters are people too) feel compelled to ask something, anything, as a hurricane knocks on the door.

Vickers was clearly surprised by the silence. Then again, after weeks of going through the drill, we all pretty much knew what to expect. Jeanne would be a lot like Frances.

“We took out the Frances play book,” said one state EOC official during a briefing from Tallahassee.

What surprised me is that as late as Saturday, less than 24 hours before Jeanne was forecast to move across our state, folks around here didn’t seem to be paying much attention.

No one was boarding up. A Little League game was played in Indian Rocks Beach’s Kolb Park, while across the street at City Hall not a single soul was filling sandbags.

The relative calm made me edgy.

Overly cautious types probably had already stocked up on water and other essentials. I bet you have enough batteries at your house to last a lifetime. I do. Never know when they might come in handy.

As we’re put through this hurricane drill over and over again, it becomes easier to ward off the junk food demons. Atkins didn’t stand a chance against the likes of Charley or Frances. Empty calories can help ease the troubled hurricane target. Mercifully, the urge to mindlessly chow down on Ding Dongs and Cheetos has passed – yet another sign of hurricane burnout.

If someone did a totally unscientific study, I bet they’d find out that excess poundage was another repercussion of hurricane season. Beer sales no doubt skyrocket. Fingernails take a beating.

If we ordinary citizens are worn out, stressed out and about ready to move out, just imagine how the Progress Energy and debris removal crews must feel. I hope they know they are appreciated.

Meantime, if I never again hear the words projected path or see some TV reporter blowing in the wind, it will be too soon.

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