Report From Inside the Cone

This columnist is sitting in what amounts to ground zero, 24 hours before Hurricane Irma hits wherever it's going to hit.

Arnold Ahlert · Sep. 9, 2017

Editor’s Note: We don’t often break into first-person commentary, but this column from Arnold is a harrowing glimpse into what our Florida friends are bracing for this weekend. Join us in offering up prayers for the safety of the Ahlerts and millions of others in the path of Hurricane Irma.

This columnist is sitting in what amounts to ground zero, 24 hours before Hurricane Irma hits wherever it’s going to hit. And believe me, I know what many of you are thinking: What are you still doing there!? How can you be crazy enough to hang around!?

The simple answer? I had no choice. The earliest I could go was Thursday, because Wednesday was “prep” day: putting up hurricane shutters, stowing all loose objects, and getting everything like clothes, important records, backup hard drives, etc. loaded in the car. By the time that was done, neither me nor my wife were in any condition to drive the minimum six hours it would have taken to get to the Georgia border and out of “The Cone.”

So we did leave on Thursday, but as it turns out, six hours was a euphemism. It took three hours to go 90 miles on I-95, and in front of us was bump-to-bumper traffic as far as the eye could see. There were also reports of gas shortages, all the way up to the Georgia border. So we turned around and came home. That choice was further justified by a local news story about a couple who tried to leave from Cocoa Beach, about 50 miles north of where we got, on the same day. It took them six hours … to go 50 miles.

Spending a Cat 4 in a hurricane-proofed house is one thing. Spending it on the side of I-95 in a car with my wife — and my cat — is quite another.

But even then I didn’t give up. Planes? Full or canceled. Amtrak? Canceled — period.

So here we are, waiting and watching. And mostly what we’re watching are the outbreaks of cluelessness, hysteria and hatefulness that attach to everything these days, even natural disasters. And since there’s nothing better to do after stocking up on the essentials, we decided to make a game of it, finding examples of each and awarding a “Best of category” prize.

First, cluelessness. One of my brother’s friends, “Kenny,” is riding Irma out — in Key West. Apparently the fact that Key West sits about five feet above sea level with predicted 10-12 foot surges is lost on this hardy bohemian who “made it through Andrew and isn’t about to be intimidated this time.” Best guess is Kenny will learn the difference between riding it out and swimming it out. More cluelessness involves a neighbor who put out home renovation trash, despite there being no bulk pick-up until after the hurricane. Apparently she remains oblivious to the idea that in 150 MPH+ winds, everything is a missile. Honorable mention goes to another neighbor who used cardboard and duct tape as hurricane “shutters.”

First prize in this category goes to celebrity airhead Jennifer Lawrence, who implied Donald Trump voters should bear responsibility for natural disasters, because they don’t believe in man-made climate change. “It’s also scary to know, that climate change is due to human activity, and we continue to ignore it, and the only voice that we really have is through voting,” Lawrence stated.

I’m guessing it might be scarier to be so stupid. You’ll alienate half the movie-going public — again — while promoting your new movie. Even after your last movie bombed.

In the hysteria category, the mainstream media is a cornucopia of relentless pre-storm doom-and-gloom, all centered around “worst Atlantic basin storm in history” pronouncements, as if we need constant reminding. To that they add a considerable dollop of post-storm prophecies, as in Florida and elsewhere being devastated for the foreseeable future, with no electricity restored for “days, weeks, months” as a blurb on Drudge put it.

First place in this category goes to Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who referred to Irma as a “nuclear hurricane.” In Levine’s defense, he is dealing with the same “I’m not leaving!” hammer-headedness that afflicts Key West Kenny. But, just as it was with Hurricane Harvey, emergency service personnel have made it crystal clear there will be no rescues of any kind on any barrier reef until after the storm. Yet one suspects even those folks know that comparing a hurricane with a nuclear blast is a tad excessive. Flooding and wind damage is one thing. Radiation poisoning is quite another.

No doubt many “experts” in media and government will try to top Levine as this unfolds. Like Irma, they too are blowhards.

In the hateful category, we lead off with the Islamic State, whose supporters took to social media to celebrate the upcoming devastation. “Yallah Irma Yallah Ya Allah make their cities destroyed the same as Mosul, Raqqa, Al Bab, Fallujah, Tikrit, Baji, Ramadi and others Ya Allah punish them,” Stranger_Ghuruba38 bloviated on Instagram. Another heart-warmer, “May Allah drown the enemies of Islam and force them into their knees subdued, and humiliated, defeated, and scattered!” was posted on the pro-Islamic State Facebook page called The Monotheist Page.

On the bright side, that outburst will likely take some heat off Mark Zuckerberg. Critics have accused Facebook’s hate speech algorithms of protecting white men, and allowing pro-Islamic State sentiments to make the cut will undoubtedly restore some much-needed “balance” for those who see racist implications — in everything.

Islamic State supporters, however, are minor leaguers compared to some of our own “enlightened” progressives, especially those hoping President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort will be wiped out. “Dear God, if you’re up there, give us a sign. Like Irma only destroying Mar a Lago. Thanks,” tweeted Patrick S. Tomlinson. “If Hurricane Irma plows into Mar-a-Lago later this week, it may force me to reexamine my beliefs about god,” added voizeofreazon. “We the people offer #Irma the fine seaside resort of Mar a Lago in atonement for our sins against the climate. Please take it and go,” offers Iris Pangburn.

Who knew leftists were so “religious?”

First prize in the hateful category goes to one JMarie03 for casting a “wider net.” That tweet railed, “I would be pleased if Irma just hit Mar a Lago like a bullseye & leave the rest of the US alone. Bonus if #45 & family were there.”

Got that? Another doyen of tolerance wishing devastation, not only on the president, but his entire family. Perhaps adding Trump’s ex-wives, and/or maybe a few cabinet members to the list, would really make JMarie03’s heart flutter.

Coming up for me and my neighbors, a long, gut-wrenching weekend, followed by … who knows? If you see another column, you’ll know we made it. In the meantime, we take care of each other in this community — all political differences notwithstanding.

As for the clueless, hysterics and haters, the effects of natural disasters dissipate over time. Being consumed by the baser parts of human nature? Sometimes that lasts forever.

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