I've always found living in the South comforting, but we have some downsides, too: hurricanes, for one. As I started typing this blog, we in coastal Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas had been watching the approach of the first named storm to threaten the East Coast this year - Tropical Storm Emily. Suddenly on Thursday, the 4th, Emily fizzled over Hispaniola's mountains with only slight chance of reformation.
But that first storm-watching experience of 2011 really turned a page for me. Not only was I inundated by television and web news and weather reports on Emily's status, but I also experienced a flood of Facebook updates. One friend posted links to National Weather Service maps each time the federal agency updated its forecast. Another friend added a running commentary: She's moving east. She has wobbled west. She's stationary.
Can I get an OMG?
I've always sensed the collective community of people around me doing the same things I do during hurricane season, but social networking adds the element of real-time communication with a broad, diverse group of acquaintances. For me, Facebook quickly became a one-stop shop for Emily reports, and a place where everyone could discuss their fears.
Is this really good for us? Fear can grow to a fever pitch quickly in a crowd. And while a healthy fear of hurricanes is good, a frantic fear could easily become hurtful.
If such networking develops proper respect for the elements, perhaps that will result in better preparedness (although I did not see posted links to helpful storm-prep guides on FB). Quite honestly, if you're not ready right now - especially if you're a boat owner - you may soon find yourself in a mad rush and facing potential damage. Even though Emily failed to tag us, we have two months of the most intensive storm activity to navigate before the season slows.
So, if you don't already have plans and backups in place, here are six basic questions to ask yourself and a support link for boaters. Hmm, perhaps I'll post this on Facebook.
1. Where should my family members (and pets) go and when?
2. Where will I leave my boat and when do I need to move it?
3. What possessions would I take with me if I knew my property would not be spared?
4. What physical protections - shutters, boards, etc. - do I have for my house?
5. Is my property properly covered by insurance?
6. What provisions have I made for clean up and for life after a hurricane?
The last question should take into account supplies and gear needed to live in a house without electricity and water for a number of days or weeks. So, if you've blown off hurricane prep so far, commit to doing it now. Here's a place to start: www.boatus.com/hurricanes.
Vive le Sud!