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DIANE KNOX: Hurricanes are no joke so it’s better to be prepared, says Inverness-born Florida resident as Hurricane Ian hits USA

By Diane Knox

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Aftermath at an apartment complex following a previous weather event in Florida.
Aftermath at an apartment complex following a previous weather event in Florida.

If you live in Florida, hurricanes and September/October go hand-in-hand, and hurricane preparation has been in full swing over the last week.

When I first moved to Jacksonville in August 2016, it wasn’t long before I encountered my first hurricane – Matthew. I remember being terrified as my area of town was put under a mandatory evacuation order and a sea of people packed up and moved out of Jacksonville Beach, boarding up their homes and hoping for the best.

It really did feel like something out of an apocalypse movie.

I have to say, thankfully for us, the build-up to the hurricanes has been much worse than the actual storms themselves. It’s pretty scary when you’re hit with a mandatory evacuation order and forced to flee your home, not knowing what it will look like when you return.

I lived at the beach until last year, and we were always in the evacuation zone, made to travel further inland to be safe. Luckily, my parents’ house has always been in the safer areas and I’ve been able to go there to avoid Matthew and Irma.

Although both of the hurricanes weakened as they hit Jacksonville, they were still quite daunting experiences. However, maybe less so for someone who grew up in the north of Scotland and is quite accustomed to gusty weather conditions.

Thankfully, the worst we experienced both years was a loss of power for a few days and a little bit of flooding at my apartment. Both times, it could’ve been a lot worse.

The media coverage and build-up as the storm approaches, however, is enough to make you think the end of the world is nigh. I get it – some parts of the world, and the United States, have been devastated by hurricanes.

Diane Knox.
Diane Knox.

New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 is, unfortunately, the perfect example of how inadequate preparation can cause utter devastation – almost 2000 lives lost, homes and livelihoods destroyed, a city wiped out after the flood walls and levees couldn’t withstand the surge. Engineering flaws were since cited as the cause of blame, and the whole city had to be rebuilt.

How does the saying go – fail to prepare and prepare to fail. Floridians have been so used to the threat of hurricanes that the state seems to be on the ball for the best part.

The first port of call is always the supermarket, where frenzied Floridians stock up on everything they could possibly need – gallons of bottled water, toilet paper, canned food and batteries.

As I write this at the start of the week, the shelves are being emptied. The queues at petrol stations stretch for miles as people fill up their cars.

Hurricane Ian is on everyone’s mind this week, as it continues to strengthen to a category four over the Gulf. As it makes landfall, it’s forecast to weaken to a tropical storm.

We may escape the wrath of Ian (which sounds like the least threatening hurricane name, by the way…!) but at this time of year we’re well aware that the next one could be looming.

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