Lessons learned from Irma’s wrath…

So the two weary refugees made it home last night after fleeing Irma for 8 days. It took 2 days and over 20 hours of driving in stop and go traffic for my fiancee Dana and I go from Fayetteville North Carolina to Palm Beach Florida. We were fortunate in that our home still had power and nothing was damaged except the trees. There were sustained 90 mph winds in our community as well as flooding and power failures.ssvs-kb_128

Our house only lost power for about 8 hours as reported by our Nest security cameras. This mild loss of power was not due to luck. This was due to buried power lines. The community we live in gets all its power from lines that hurricanes can’t touch. Why is this not true for the rest of Florida? I suspect the answer is money. It seems the power companies would rather spend our disaster relief tax dollars to fix its above ground power grid then invest in a futureproof grid that is far more resistant to the completely foreseeable hurricanes to come. This societal foolishness makes total sense from a short term business profit and loss standpoint, and is one more example of why the “free market” principal of greed is good is not a good way to run a society. We need to use our brains and not our baser instincts in preparing for natural disasters, and well, pretty much everything else for that matter.

Dana and I saw a lot of baser instincts on display as we fled and then returned to the aftermath of Irma. We saw evacuation routes constricted and slowed to a crawl by far too much highway construction occurring at the same time in dozens of locales without any apparent coordination between sights. We know construction companies make a great deal of money from these repairs. There should be a limit to the amount of construction that is allowed per 100 miles of any highway that might be needed for evacuation. How many people were in accidents or might have died due to this failure to plan for the inevitable.

We saw drivers acting like maniacs. I can’t tell you how many times I saw cars going at well over 80 mph weaving through traffic or tailgating. One guy in an exotic sports car came up on us so fast that he had to slam on the breaks and did a power slide then whipped around me and accelerated around other cars. He tore down the shoulder and kept on going at what looked like well over a 100 mph. This happened when traffic was flowing at 75 mph. Why is this kind of insanely egotistical, angry, and dangerous driving insanely common on our Florida roads? The answer is simple. This has become the norm for far too many Floridians behind the wheel because of lack of police enforcement. Far too many drivers on our roads have been driving like this with impunity for their whole lives. To all the drivers who tailgate at 70 mph when traffic is flowing: It is not your god given right to drive like this even if you think it is because you are certain you are the center of the universe. I’d like to add a few choice words, but won’t. We need more active enforcement of reckless driving in Florida. Why not install cameras on the highways that catch tailgaters and fine them? We are able to collect tolls this way. Why not make our highways safer this way?

The last thing I’d like to share is what we experienced in Georgia… or rather what we did not experience… All along our paths we met wonderful friendly people who expressed genuine concern except in Georgia. Heading home along with millions of others, we drove into the Peach State on I-95 after the sun had set. Our road trip from North Carolina to Jacksonville which should have lasted 6 hours had stretched to more than double that because of traffic. On entering Georgia the welcome center was closed. This soon became a symbol for the entire state. Without warning exit after exit was blocked by ominous National Guard Humvees and police with lights flashing. Traffic jams deepened at every exit as tired panicked drivers slowed hoping to find some gas or use a restroom. The state of Georgia was having none of it and none of us were welcome. There was no compassion for a highway filled with refugees. They wanted us out! There was clearly electrical power in the towns and cities we could see from the highway, but all those glittering islands of normality were not for us refugees. They did not want “our kind” in their state. Georgia did not even want to give us a restroom or place to pull over if we were too tired to drive. My fiancee could not relieve herself and had to pray that the hours of bumper to bumper traffic would somehow magically thin. It did not until we got to Florida which welcomed us with open arms. Georgia’s police state arrogance and xenophobia was on full display that night. Well Georgia, I got the message loud and clear. Don’t hold your breath or anything else biological waiting for me to spend a single dollar in your unwelcoming state ever again.

On Sunday, Dana and I will be married. For a time we thought we would have to postpone everything, but we found a way. We had to change our plans because the place we were going to be married was without power. During a phone call, as we drove down the highway heading home, the rabbi that will marry us said something sweet to Dana as she was distressed about our broken marriage plans. He said, it’s a tradition to break something at a wedding as a way of safeguarding the marriage from breaking. Well at our wedding Irma broke everything so that means we will have a very long and happy marriage.