Hurricanes vs. Tornadoes

You're not from around here, are you?

When I told people in July that I was considering taking a new job and moving to Florida, the first non-work-related question out of almost every person's mouth was about the weather.

"Isn't it really hot all the time?"

"Doesn't it rain a lot?"

"Isn't it really humid there?"

"Aren't there a lot of hurricanes?"

I'm used to the heat. I'm used to the rain. I'm even somewhat used to the humidity. What I'm not used to are the hurricanes.

Sure, I grew up in the land of tornadoes, but in Kansas, if you had an hour to prepare for a funnel, you considered yourself lucky. For Wilma, though, we've had more than three days so far and still have another day or so before the hurricane is likely to hit Naples. I've been told that's about twice as long as normal, and as a journalist I'll take it.

For the Naples Daily News online team (and the rest of the newspaper) the extra warning has been a boon, giving us time to prepare for the worst. We've been able to create databases — that we hope to not have to use — for survivors and their loved ones so area residents can let their friends and family know they're safe. We've also been able to create storm editions of and to more quickly and easily provide our readers with the newest and best information on Wilma.

But as an everyday person, the week of warning has desensitized me to the storm's threat. I haven't packed any clothes or personal belongings. I haven't put together a survival kit. I haven't gassed up my car.

Maybe that makes me an idiot. Maybe it doesn't, because some of those preparations have been taken care of by my supervisors. Either way, I didn't really felt pressured by the upcoming storm as the projected day of landfall kept getting pushed further and further back.

The most recent projection, though, has Wilma reaching Lee and Collier counties between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. Monday, which is the first time I remember the landfall date being moved closer since Tuesday. I'll admit, this has started to worry me a bit. More than anything, though, I'm excited.

At the level I think about it, a hurricane isn't much different than a tornado. Both are big swirling, destructive wind masses that can leave death and destruction behind them. The main difference to me is the water left behind by a hurricane. Watching the aftermaths of Katrina and Rita on television, I realized just how much more a hurricane can affect a city compared to a tornado.

A tornado comes in quick, wreaks havoc and is gone before you know it. There's rebuilding to be done, but expect in the worst cases there's still a town to live in. On the other hand, a hurricane can ravage a town for days and leave a water-logged calling card that takes weeks to remove, forcing residents to leave for long periods of time.

I live far enough inland that I'm not concerned about my personal belongings. And we have evacuation plans for tomorrow night, relocating to Alico Arena at Florida Gulf Coast University to live and work as we continue to cover Wilma. So I don't feel a threat toward my physical self or the things I own. What I do feel is the thrill of a journalist knowing a big story is on the way.

Yes, I'm concerned and fearful that there could be deaths and irreperable damage. And I certainly don't want any of those things to happen, no matter how good of a story it would make.

But, being one of the people helping to make sure the community is kept informed and safe is why I'm in this profession.

Events like this are why I came to Florida two months ago. I'm getting an opportunity to help cover happenings that aren't possible in Kansas. I'm getting an opportunity to give Naples and Bonita Springs residents the amount and quality of news they deserve. And I'm getting the opportunity to answer all those questions from my Kansas friends with "Yeah. Isn't it great?"

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