We are visiting family on the Gulf coast of Florida, on Anna Maria Island, just north of Sarasota. Even though we are only six days into hurricane season, there is already a named storm churning 150 miles west of us in the Gulf of Mexico: Tropical Storm Andrea. It is surreal to watch the Weather Channel and hear them say my name over and over again, watching the storm track towards my former homes of Tampa and Savannah.
To be honest, it is thrilling.
I’ve always loved hurricane season. There is something about the massive storms that is intoxicating. I grew up on the Atlantic coast, and we dodged a lot of storms in my lifetime. I never looked forward to a direct hit – that was never what I wanted – but I loved being on the edge of the storms. I loved eating peanuts and watching the storm tracks, wondering if we’d get any weather from each new storm. I loved the walls of rain, the bent palm trees, the roar of wind. The rumble of thunder, like the one I just heard as I typed that sentence.
This morning, I awoke to palm fronds rustling against my window. I moved out on the covered porch of our condo to feel the storm and thought, “It’s not so bad.” I sipped coffee and listened to rain spatter on a cement patio below. Wind rippled the surface of puddles in the parking lot. Andrea pushed pounding surf ashore, and I heard waves crashing on the beach a block away. The wind was constant, but not fierce. Leaves swooshed as loudly as the Gulf’s waves – it was difficult to distinguish the two sounds – but when I looked at the cabbage tops of palms, the fronds only swayed. There was no whipping of leaves or bending of trunks.
Now, though. Now, it’s getting real. Rain is not falling – it is racing inland in white puffs on a horizontal plane at eye level with our second floor window. Seven foot fronds on the Royal Palm beyond our porch whip and snap in the wind that blasts off the Gulf of Mexico.
After the kids got up, I checked the tide tables. I wanted to see the waves at high tide, and was filled with glee when I saw that we would be able to catch the only high tide of the day: 9:50 am. We pulled on our swim suits and ran out into the storm to see the raging sea.
“We’re not getting in – it will be too dangerous,” I said as we trotted down the stairs.
Our nine year old groaned.
“The waves are going to be bigger than you, buddy. You are not getting in.”
Our bare feet splashed puddles on the sidewalk as we raced out of the condo complex. Rain pelted us and wind stung our eyes, and we could barely see the waves for the sea spray and driving deluge. The kids hugged their shoulders, and shivered, and shouted over the wind, “We’re going back in!”
“Okay!” I yelled. I watched six foot surf crash onto itself. The Gulf here at Anna Maria Island is normally as calm as a swimming pool. In the tropical storm, though, rain scoured its surface, sea spray lifted in saline clouds, waves frothed like rabid mouths, and white foam blew from their crests. I looked up the beach. “Oh my God! There are surfers out in this!”
I chased the kids back to the condo. “I’m getting my camera!”
Unfortunately, I forgot our real camera, so I wrapped my phone in a hand towel and ran back down to the beach. I headed up the beach toward the surfers, snapping rain-drenched pictures as I went. The wind didn’t feel too bad and I thought maybe the storm was calming. I watched sheets of rain pour down on those boys and men who bobbed like corks in the wild sea. I thought Mom-thoughts like, “It’s so dangerous!” and “There are no life guards!” and “Aren’t they cold?” Then a wave of Gulf water washed over my feet and it was warm as bath water, and I knew they were alright. I watched the surfers a moment longer, then, cold myself, I turned back.
It was then I felt the ferocity of Andrea. The wind had been at my back before, but now it blew full force into my face. The stinging rain felt like hail on my bare skin, and I tipped my body forward at 30 degrees to force my way into the gale. I had to shield my eyes with my hands. The rain felt like paper cuts on my eyeballs if I didn’t. Superfine sand blasted my shins as it blew unobstructed across the long expanse of beach, like the storm was rubbing my skin with sandpaper. It took me twice as long to stagger back to the condo as it took to race to the mad surfers.
Now I am safely indoors and the winds of Andrea roar outside. She’s out there stirring things up. The sea churns beneath the storm, and tomorrow, we will walk down the beach and find treasures the Gulf has spit from its belly out on the shore.
Until then, we will watch Tom & Jerry while the wind blows. Maybe we’ll go see a movie. And if I’m feeling penned in tonight, and like I need my own stirring up, I might have to celebrate the thrill of the first named storm of the season – Andrea! – with a Hurricane.
- 2 oz light rum
- 2 oz dark rum
- 2 oz passion fruit juice
- 1 oz orange juice
- ½ oz fresh lime juice
- 1 Tablespoon simple syrup
- 1 Tablespoon grenadine
- Garnish: orange slice and cherry
Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a Hurricane glass filled with ice. Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.