Florid­i­ans don’t let Irma dampen spir­its

The Globe and Mail (BC Edition) - - GLOBE LIFE & ARTS - JOSEPH AX

The pow­er­ful hur­ri­cane left mil­lions with­out power, but many found a way to make the most of their sit­u­a­tion

As vet­er­ans of at least six hur­ri­canes, Steve and Sarah Grif­fin knew ex­actly how to cope when Irma bore down on their Clear­wa­ter, Fla., home: host an im­promptu party for friends who had evac­u­ated their own houses.

“You’ve just got to have plenty of beer, Cap­tain Mor­gan, vodka, [and] you’ll get through,” Sarah Grif­fin, 52, said of the Satur­day night party, which also in­cluded a game of hur­ri­cane trivia.

Irma, one of the most pow­er­ful At­lantic hur­ri­canes in his­tory, caused bil­lions of dol­lars in dam­age and left mil­lions of peo­ple with­out power when it swept across Florida this past week­end.

But even as tele­vi­sion me­te­o­rol­o­gists de­liv­ered apoc­a­lyp­tic warn­ings, storm-savvy Florid­i­ans dealt with the im­pend­ing Irma in their own way.

Bethany Spag­n­uolo, 33, and her fam­ily in Se­bas­tian, a coastal city about 150 kilo­me­tres south of Or­lando, wait each hur­ri­cane sea­son for a storm pow­er­ful enough to con­tinue one wacky tra­di­tion: hur­ri­cane skate­board­ing.

She recorded a video of her fi­ancé, Pa­trick Hall, 33, and a friend, Justin An­der­son, 33, skate­board­ing down the street us­ing a bed sheet as a sail on Sun­day evening in 80 km/h winds.

“Most of us are surfers and for­mer skaters who don’t skate any more be­cause we’re too old, but for this mo­ment we get to be kids again,” Spag­n­uolo said.

Some res­i­dents used gal­lows hu­mour to defuse anx­i­ety. A num­ber of peo­ple wrote mes­sages on the ply­wood they used to board up their win­dows, in­clud­ing one with an ar­row that read: “Hey Irma – North Korea is that way.”

A twit­terer with the han­dle @Re­turn­theHunter posted a screen shot of his phone that showed the pop­u­lar game Pokemon Go, sug­gest­ing early on Sun­day morn­ing that it was a “great time” to ex­plore lo­cal parks, just as hur­ri­cane warn­ing alerts ar­rived from the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice.

“Pokemon Go try­ing to mur­der peo­ple,” he joked.

More than 30,000 users signed up for the Face­book event “Shoot at Hur­ri­cane Irma,” a face­tious call to arms from Florida res­i­dent Ryon Ed­wards, who sug­gested that res­i­dents fire guns at the hur­ri­cane.

The post prompted the sher­iff’s of­fice in Pasco County to warn against the idea on Twit­ter: “You won’t make it turn around & it will have very danger­ous side ef­fects.”

For some Florid­i­ans, the storm prepa­ra­tions them­selves of­fered mo­ments of light­heart­ed­ness.

Madeleine Brass­field, 8, col­lected all the candy in her kitchen, in­clud­ing a bag of cho­co­late chips, and stashed them in a bed­room cab­i­net to keep them safe, ex­plain­ing to her par­ents: “A deadly hur­ri­cane is com­ing.”

Her mother, Kate Brass­field, 45, said they even­tu­ally moved the sweets to the safe room in­side their Semi­nole house, which es­caped the storm with­out ma­jor dam­age.

Judy David­son, 75, a re­al­tor in Coral Springs, stayed in her home dur­ing pow­er­ful Hur­ri­cane An­drew in 1992 but de­cided to leave town with her hus­band af­ter Irma grew into a Cat­e­gory 5 mon­ster – per­haps a bit too abruptly.

“We get to At­lanta and I said to my hus­band: ‘Where’s your shirt for the next day?’ ” she said. “I for­got to pack clothes for him. I didn’t take a pic­ture of my mother. I took two boxes of black and green tea. I mean, what was I think­ing?”

CHRIS O'MEARA/AP

An em­ployee of Robert’s Christ­mas Won­der­land in Clear­wa­ter, Fla., spray paints ‘Irma, don’t get on Santa’s naughty list’ out­side the store on Sept. 9. Many Florid­i­ans ap­proached the storm with pos­i­tiv­ity.

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