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The Award Winning & Best News on Anna Maria Island, FL Since 1992

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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Sandscript

Hurricane travails, more: No more, please!

Despite hopes that last week's "Sandscript" column would have the last mention of hurricanes, Jeanne's appearance Sunday has precluded that desire.

"We were lucky," was how one Anna Maria Island official put it, and that statement is probably an understatement. Roofs off a few resorts, some roofs peeled off mobile homes, trees downed, power out somewhat - although more than "somewhat" in Anna Maria City - and beach erosion is the legacy that Hurricane Jeanne left us.

It could have been much, much worse, as all the other storm damage photos and video we've all been glued to for the past few days attest from places like Port St. Lucie, Stuart, Lake Wales, Lakeland, Bartow and even Tampa.

As mentioned last week, "enough already!" Now on to some other matters.

Hurricane history, up close and personal
Today's technology allows us to worry about a potential storm threat a week before it gets here, according to a prognasticating news report on hurricanes I received a while back, which stated:

"A satellite view of the Atlantic may show two or three areas of concern.

"But what if we had lived here years before all of these aids to prognostication? How would we know that a hurricane was headed our way?

"The small fishing vessels that plied the state's west coast to supply Havana's needs in the 1700s and 1800s would find refuge over the huge freshwater springs that welled up just offshore. The spring would break the seas and allow them to ride out a storm at anchor if they couldn't make it to a safe haven.

"There are records of captains who did not want to go to sea, thinking a storm was on the way. But the admiral of the fleet, with pressure from a distant monarch, would insist - to the peril of entire fleets of ships laden with treasure and men.

"There were signs. The hurricane season was the same then as now.

"When a sailor noticed a steady wind from the northeast quadrant, he would keep a wary eye on it. He would stand with his back to the direction of the clouds and extend his left arm to his side. That's where the low pressure system that made that wind was. If there were only puffy lower clouds, there may not be much concern.

"But when high wispy clouds are going in a direction slightly veered to the lower, watch out.

"Animals seem to know that a storm is coming before we do.

"Fiddler crabs would form thick lines and caravan to the highest level of the barrier islands or mainland near shore. We had fiddler crabs in our Gulfport front yard two blocks from Boca Ciega Bay before the small 1949 hurricane piled it full of seaweed.

"Birds stop flying and are silent hours before the storm.

"Doves sit on branches in great flocks, all facing the wind except for one in every dozen or so who sits the other way to watch for predators. Then that one turns, and his neighbor swings around to watch. But when the storm gets close, they all fly to the ground under bushes.

"Cats seem to get extra friendly. Then they disappear, hiding in the closet or under the sofa. The tails of dogs droop or go between their legs. The dogs may hang around you or disappear.

"Horses start getting fidgety and lift one leg. Old Cubans say that the horse feels the vibrations in the ground from the approaching storm.

"Before the great Galveston hurricane, it was a sea captain who desperately tried to warn the resident meteorologist that the little storm that had gone over Cuba was going to be a big one. He just knew."

So, the question is: Who knew about Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne and didn't bother to tell anybody else?

Road trip
Assuming that the marina is still there, Saturday will mark a semi-historic event for Florida mystery fans: The re-dedication of the "Bahia Mar Slip F-18 Literary Landmark," honoring the late, great Sarasota writer John D. MacDonald and his fictitious character Travis McGee.

The Ft. Lauderdale event is scheduled to host the likes of our local author friends James W. Hall, Randy Wayne White, Les Standiford, P.J. Parrish, James Grippando and Jonathon King to honor "John D." and his work in bringing Florida into the forefront of mystery fiction writing.

The event is a re-dedication of a plaque on a piling where Travis was alleged to have kept his houseboat, the "Busted Flush," for his tenure as MacDonald's most enduring character. In February 1987, a slip in the marina at Bahia Mar was named the first Florida Literary Landmark by Friends of Libraries USA. The plaque read, and will again read:

"Dedicated to the 'Busted Flush'

Home of Travis McGee

Fictional Hero and Salvage Consultant

Created by John D. MacDonald, Author

1916-1986

Designated a Literary Landmark Feb. 21, 1987."

According to event organizers, "The plaque, somewhat weather-beaten, was removed during a recent renovation and expansion of the marina but is now ready to be reinstalled. At 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, the Florida Center for the Book will rededicate the literary landmark at the Radisson Bahia Mar Beach Resort, 801 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. The program will include a brief ceremony at the marina and a champagne reception in the hotel gardens.

"Calvin Branche, a champion of John D. MacDonald literature, will also participate in the event, and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle will proclaim Oct. 2 Travis McGee Day."

I bump into someone every once in a while who says, "John D. who?" and it always makes me angry, not because they haven't heard of one of the world leaders of mystery writing, but that they've got better than 60 drop-dead-great books ahead of them to read (and I don't - been there, did that).

You owe it to yourself - heck, I treat myself to this every few years, and I'm about due again - to read the "color" books (all have a color in the title) within the Travis series, all 19 of them, in order. They really do seem to stand the test of time, and they're terrific. Current Florida mystery aficionados will find an awful lot of character development and plotting similarities between the MacDonald books and more recent novels, too.

Sandscript factoid
Here's a new "lesson to be learned" from the hurricanes, at least new to me.

Consider storing valuable items like computer hard drives, photo albums or anything else that is valuable to you in your dishwasher.

Assuming that your dishwasher doesn't end up in the canal or the Gulf, it will probably be safe from flooding or rain intrusion. Remember - duh, something I forgot - that dishwashers are waterproof and that, - duh, again - waterproof goes two ways. The dishwasher locks water IN and keeps water OUT.

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