Today’s Wednesday Word is Irma. Irma is a name that has its origins in Old German, but whether it means “universal” or refers to an ancient Saxon warrior-deity is beyond my realm of knowledge or concern. What I do know, is that the World Meteorological Organization has been compiling and maintaining lists of Atlantic storm names since the 1950s and Irma was ninth on this year’s list.
On 30 August, somewhere near the Cape Verde Islands, a spawning ground for baby swirlers, a daughter of Typhoeus issued forth and quickly grew into a monster of proportions worthy of her mythological daddy. Gaining the moniker Irma, she raged and roiled her way toward North America, becoming a category 5 storm along the way, with winds reaching 185 miles per hour. Currently, this dervish is within fifty miles of Puerto Rico, her eyes now set on mainland United States. She’s bad, as bad as they come. All we can do now is wait and watch and prepare.
When I was young, only 3 years old, I experienced my first big hurricane. It was named Frederic, another good German-derived name! My maternal grandparents along with my elderly namesake had gathered at our newly-built brick home to ride out the fury…a newly-built brick home right smack in the middle of a stand of very large pine trees. Of course, in their defense, pretty much every house in our county was similarly situated among the pines, theirs just happened to be further up in the woods than ours did.
I remember the darkness (Frederic struck at night) and the winds whipping the trees in impossible arcs. I remember that we didn’t have electricity, and that my parents had lit several oil lamps to pierce the gloom. I remember that the large windows in our living room were covered in frogs, suction-cupped to the glass their backsides blocking the view, and my mother yelling at my grandfather when she discovered that he had left the “safe zone” in the hallway and found a cozy sofa to sleep on, directly in front of that wall of living room frog-bellied windows. I remember the deep quiet when the storm had passed, when nothing moved, not even the air.
And I remember the excitement. Hurricanes are exciting when one is three. They are not so much as you grow older, although there is something still eerily exhilarating about preparing for and then waiting on a storm’s arrival; hoping that the electricity doesn’t fail until at least the second pot of coffee has been brewed and praying that the tree right outside the window doesn’t decide to give up its ghost and come crashing through the house.
I’ve experienced many hurricanes throughout my life in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana since Frederic, some meek and mild by the time they reached my neck of the woods, others full of wrath and vengeance. Which one, Irma will be once she reaches the southlands still remains to be seen, but from all accounts she is projected to be a terror. So I wish anyone in its path good luck. Prepare as best you can and find a safe place to hunker down, preferably not in front of a wall of windows. And if they tell you to evacuate, don’t think twice, leave.
Godspeed…I’ll see you in the quiet on the other side of the storm.