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Date of Issue: August 30, 2007

Sandscript

Andrew revisited, plus wacky, toothy excess to boot

Doesn’t time fly?

Last week marked the 15th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew making landfall in Florida at Cutler Ridge/Homestead, just south of Miami. The date was Aug. 24.

Andrew was a Category 5 storm - OK, it took a few years for the weather gurus to upgrade it to Cat 5 status, but it eventually got there - and, despite the damage of Katrina and Rita and Charley and all the rest of the big blows in the past few years, Andrew was a bigger hurricane.

We’ve been in somewhat of a lull of late in hurricane activity in the Sunshine State. Last year has been termed as “relatively calm” by weather watchers, and despite the devastation caused by Hurricane Dean to Jamaica and the Yucatan Peninsula last week, we’ve been spared yet again - so far this season.

But back to Andrew.

Here are some factoids on that hurricane:

In today’s dollars, Hurricane Andrew resulted in $22.7 billion in insured losses.

Those losses are computed against 680,239 claims.

With the unprecedented growth in Florida, a repeat of Hurricane Andrew today would cause an estimated $42 billion in insured losses.

Ten insurers in Florida and one in Louisiana became insolvent after Andrew.

Andrew occurred during an ebb in hurricane frequency, unlike now.

A grand jury investigation reported that in many instances the building code in Miami-Dade County, while the strongest in the nation, had not been enforced.

Florida officials eventually decided to revamp building codes, demanding better and more storm-efficient structures. Then came 2004, with Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne criss-crossing the state, and it was determined that despite the fortified codes, the new buildings still couldn’t withstand 140-mph winds.

Hey, what can? A bomb shelter?

What’s scary is the notation that Florida’s population has increased from about 13 million in 1992 to more than 17 million today, something like a 25 percent increase.

And we’re in an up-spike of hurricane activity that is expected to last at least another decade.

 

What to do?

There is a bit of levity that has been floated around for a while by emergency management officials, some comments which must be spurred by Miami Herald columnist and Florida author Dave Barry. It goes like this:

“Yes, hurricane season is an exciting time to be in Florida. If you're new to the area, you're probably wondering what you need to do to prepare for the  possibility that we'll get hit by ‘the big one.'

“Based on our experiences, we recommend that you follow this simple three-step hurricane preparedness plan:

“STEP 1. Buy enough food and bottled water to last your family for at least three days.

“STEP 2. Put these supplies into your car.

“STEP 3. Drive to Nebraska and remain there until Thanksgiving.

“Unfortunately, statistics show that most people will not follow this sensible plan. Most people will foolishly stay here in Florida.”

The National Hurricane Survival Initiative has hit on these factoids, but not in Barry’s satirical tone.

The Tallahassee-based group has pointed out that Hurricane Andrew caused 15 deaths directly and 25 deaths indirectly.

The group has come up with some scary results based on a Mason-Dixon poll of late. You’ve probably read this before, but since we’re gearing up for the peak of hurricane season, please review:

Survey says:

  • 52 percent of those polled have no family disaster plan.
  • 53 percent don’t feel vulnerable to a hurricane or related tornado or flooding.
  • (Memo to readers: have you seen the flooding issues in the Midwest?)
  • 61 percent have no hurricane survival kit.
  • 88 percent have taken no steps to make their homes stronger.
  • 16 percent said they might not or would not evacuate even if ordered to do so, leaving thousands of residents at grave risk in the path of any given storm.

We’re smart. We know about storms. We’ve got our hurricane kits ready, we watch the weather on TV and have our weather radios tuned, our batteries stocked, our Spam ready. We’re ready.

Aren’t we?

 

Oops for Florida, too

Continuing the bad news on the Florida front, and again perhaps not “new news,” 69 people died in boating accidents last year in our state. That total led the nation in a major way, with Texas coming in second with a “mere” 47 boating-relating fatalities and California at 44.

Monroe County in Florida got the “high” mark with the most deaths.

Hey, life jackets aren’t those huge Mae West-style things of yore. The new “jackets” are like wearing a tie for a guy - they’re small, they’re light, they come in interesting colors and, unlike a necktie, they can save your life.

And don’t forget those nifty strobe lights that float.

Our buddy Randy Wayne White wrote a whole book, and a lengthy epilogue to it, regarding some folks who ran afoul of foul people offshore and were lost at sea. Randy preached about the need to carry those little bright strobes attached to our own selves when we’re out on the water, even during the day, in case something happens and we find ourselves stricken on the water at night and trying to get some help.

Randy came up for a Sarasota mystery conference a couple of years ago from his house on Pine Island via boat. He took some folks out on his boat for a zippy ride. And he had the biggest floating key-holder for a boat, with a massive strobe light, that I’ve ever seen.

Be safe out there. Please.

 

And now, for your commercial message...

For those with copious excess cash - rare in this part of the world right now - comes some items of interest to add to the big-boy toy box.

Herrington is a catalogue that comes to the mailbox. It’s got more weird stuff in it than you can imagine. There have been hovercraft, incredible floats with drink holders, and pretentious writing that matches the J. Peterson catalogues, which were highlighted a while back in the “Doonesbury” comic as “J. Pretentious.”

Now there’s this: a chewing stick case, packed with “treated Australian Tea oil (prized for its medicinal property, and treated to kill bacteria in the mouth before dental surgery), these chewing sticks will freshen breath and improve hygiene by killing oral bacteria.”

For a mere $29.95, you can get a little tube that will hold your toothpicks.

Monogramming is an additional $20. The “Australian Tea oil “chewing sticks” are a mere $8.95 for a package of 100.

Jeez. I thought the “free” toothpicks I picked up at local restaurants worked OK.

 

Sandscript factoid

Wave me up a boost of energy, Scotty.

Scientists in St. Petersburg are testing a new source of energy generated by offshore waves affixed to buoys, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

California-based SRI International is working on an ocean-generating plan that the newspaper described as “shaped like a big Slinky. It stretches out when the buoy drops between waves, and contracts as the buoy rides back onto a wave. The Slinky-shaped muscle gives off electricity when it contracts.”

The concept is to power batteries. To date, the wave action can pretty much take care of one light bulb a day per buoy, but the technology is expected to improve.

Remember, too, that our wave action in the Gulf of Mexico isn’t all that high.

But, as one scientist put it, referring to the potential of the project, “This generator has all the mechanical complexity of a rubber band.”

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