Freelining with Mike Freeman: Weather or not, it rains ….

Let it rain.
Even a little.
I’ve watched so many heavy downpours from my office window on Delaney Avenue that I felt at times like the entire business complex would get washed into Lake Eola. That never happened, though.
These past few days – and this weekend in particular – I watched the dark clouds forming overhead and felt the sometimes strong winds, and wondered if Hurricane Irene would send a bucketful of rain our way. At least at my office or my home, it was dry as a desert.
There were fewer more peculiar experiences for me recently than watching a hurricane build up in strength and get stronger and more deadly – and bypass Florida altogether, only to take aim at, of all places, New England.
My home state of Massachusetts hasn’t been hit by a major storm since 1991. I should know. I was there.
Just a few days after getting hired by the local daily newspaper, The Herald News, to work as a reporter, I got my first major assignment. As assignments go, it was a doozie: cover the hurricane coming up the coast, expected to slam us. Hurricane Bob, it was known as. Nobody quite knew what to expect, except for the real old timers – my dad included – who could recall a devastating hurricane that had battered the coast of Massachusetts in 1938. No one had expected that storm, or been truly prepared for it, so the damage had been severe, even devastating.
I don’t have vivid memories of Bob’s damage, except for widespread power outages, fallen trees and power lines, and a lot of mess to clean up. I remember driving around with a wild and crazy photographer who didn’t want to miss a single moment of the action, even if it meant we got blown off the road. Obviously, we never did.
One very surreal image: my home city, Fall River, was next door to the quaint town of Westport, which was home to the beautiful, picturesque Horseneck Beach. The coast of Horseneck is lined with cottages owned by the lucky few, but they weren’t so lucky a day after Bob struck.
As I walked the beach with my photographer, the tide was low, and it was obvious that the heavy waves caused by the storm had been so strong that they had crashed right through the wall of those cottages facing the ocean. All around me, I could see furniture … couches, tables, chairs, everything you need to decorate a beautiful oceanfront cottage. Now it all decorated the sandy shores of Horseneck Beach.
That year, 1991, was unique for Massachusetts’ southeastern coast because we got a second hurricane in October – two in one year was remarkable then, just as the three hurricanes that struck Central Florida in August and September of 2004 seemed unique and unheard of at the time. I have an interesting ability to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, I guess, and sometimes wonder why I’ve never moved to Oregon.
Still, the truth is that I can remember blizzards that seemed a lot more inconvenient than anything Hurricane Bob brought us on that hot summer day in July 1991 …. including the Blizzard of 1978, which brought so much heavy snow to Fall River that I can remember walking to the grocery store with my parents for weeks because no car could climb those massive snowdrifts.
I can remember the winter of 1996, when I lived in a cottage myself — not on Horseneck Beach, but on Long Pond, a stunningly beautiful lake in the community of East Freetown, right next to the city of New Bedford. A blizzard buried us in that cottage, making the dirt road that led to the nearest highway virtually impassable. The snow also knocked out our power. I tell you, enduring Hurricane Jeanne in September 2004 and losing power by mid-afternoon, then feeling the heat and humidity sink in as the air conditioning disappeared is no fun.
But sitting in that cottage on Long Pond when it was 20 degrees out, and feeling the heat disappear, and the temperature in there get lower … and lower …. is a heck of a lot worse.
Free now of blizzards – if we do get any here in Orlando, I’ll really have a thing or two to say to the Global Warming crowd – I do get a chuckle during the summer months when our television meteorologists get the rare opportunity to warn us about a storm. They practically do handsprings when any type of storm is approaching, because let’s face it, how exciting can it be to report every day that the high will be 92 and the low will be 78? We’re not exactly known for weather variances from May to October, when it’s hot and humid and an afternoon thunderstorm is the only thing to break up the monotony.
Even this morning, watching the local weather reports on the local television stations while at my gym, the meteorologist widened her eyes and pointed out that “It’s going to be a hot one today,” with the kind of dramatic flair usually reserved for an overripe Tennessee Williams play, when it should be pretty obvious to just about everyone that her observation hasn’t been a news flash around here since early April. North Dakota, we’re not.
There must have been a lot of disappointed meteorologists watching states like North Carolina and New York get the real action, while we didn’t even get the heavy rains they had predicted. I had expected my garden to get a solid soaking all last week, but instead it was cloudy and dry. I used my watering can a lot.
Ah, well. I have no regrets that we didn’t get slammed by Irene – been there, done that, a few too many times to enjoy it anymore. I do wish we had gotten more rain, because I know the dry season will be upon us in a few months, and I’ll need that watering can more often and the lawnmower a lot less.
But wasn’t it odd to watch the potential ravages of a Category 3, possibly 4, hurricane approach us, and know we weren’t the center of attention – and not even an afterthought.
It was sunny and calm in Central Florida last week.
Hallelujah.

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