It’s Saturday and, by sometime later this week, a hurricane will be once again pound Florida. Hurricane Matthew is currently a category 4 storm getting ready to pounce on Jamaica and Haiti. Concerned friends here in Key West are discussing their “hurricane plan.”

Folks who live in hurricane prone areas are encouraged to have a hurricane plan. When you live in the Florida Keys on an archipelago of tiny islands there aren’t too many places to go to avoid wind and flooding. It floods here all the time with a good heavy rain. One has to consider survival tactics, evacuation plans and things such as pet care, clean water, what to eat when the stove doesn’t work. At this time it doesn’t appear we will be hit directly but the effects of the storm will be felt here. We could lose power, suffer property damage, loss of life. It’s quite a sobering idea, except for one thing. We live in Key West.

I asked a local guy what he had in mind if Matthew hits. He laughingly mentioned something about rolling up a fat one and lots of alcohol. Others are talking parties, too. I haven’t lived here long enough to experience a hurricane or a hurricane party. People party here at the drop of a hat (or a large red shoe on New Year’s Eve). Key West, with over 300 liquor licenses, is one of the “drinking-est” towns in the country. It’s also one town that raises lots of money for charity. There is always some kind of fundraiser going on in this town and you can bet the majority are also partying while supporting a cause.

Some discussion, of course, is about which category will make us leave the Keys. It takes a lot for some to consider traveling north. In a mandatory evacuation, which occurs with a cat 3 hurricane, tourists are made to leave first, residents the next day. Depending on the category there are a couple of places to hole up. The evacuation center in Key West is Key West High School for cat 1 or 2. Beyond that the main shelter is Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition all the way up on the mainland. Sounds scary, right? Driving that long thin road all the way up to Florida with thousands of other freaked out people in nasty weather? What would you do?

In just a few days we will have to deal with the reality of some horrible conditions. It is something to take seriously, of course. We probably won’t be as hard hit as other islands in the Caribbean. Whatever happens, Key West will take things in stride and raise a glass.

Cheers and good luck to all in the path of Matthew.


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