It could be worse.
If you Google “Labor Day hurricane Florida,” the top hit will not be Hurricane Hermine. Instead it will be the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, the strongest and most intense storm ever to make landfall in the United States.
The storm killed 408 people, most of them veterans who were working on the Overseas highway to connect Key West to the mainland. White veterans, that is: African-American veterans had been housed on Mullet Key, near St. Pete, before being moved to Gainesville in early August. Given that the storm hit St. Pete too, albeit weakened, it was just as well that they had been moved. I am familiar with Mullet Key: even a weakened storm hitting a camp full of veterans there would have been bad news, and might have raised the death toll considerably.
One of my favorite buildings, the Don Cesar hotel on Pass-A-Grille, survived the 1935 storm. It nearly didn’t survive post-World War II neglect and the beachfront development boom, but it did.
So, yes, I’m worried about Hermine. Even a Cat 1 storm can be quite dangerous (Hurricane Juan (1985), anyone?). I have family in Florida, my brother and sister-in-law and nephew, a.k.a. The World’s Cutest Kid ™.
It’s been eleven years since Dennis and Wilma, and twelve since the annus horribilis when four hurricanes hit the state, with people evacuating inward for Charlie and staying in place for a little while got hit by Frances crossing the state from the opposite direction. (My mom evacuated south, before they closed the Sunshine Skyway, so she was okay.) I am worried that people in along the coast will be complacent – or, if not complacent for this storm, complacent for the next. Fortunately, we have the Weather Channel now, so hopefully people will take authorities seriously when they say to get out. Jim Cantore has authority that local officials sometime lack.
So, here’s hoping and praying that everyone makes it through.
And that goes for folks along the Atlantic Coast – you’re next in line.