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At least hurricanes let us plan

Published February 4, 2007


Which is worse: Watching a storm approach day by day or minute by minute?

Hurricanes lumber. Will they smash Citrus, land a glancing blow, miss us altogether?

You have days to worry and watch. The forecasts change. Now the storm is more likely to get us. Now it's less likely to get us. It drives you nuts.

There was no need, or time, for such parsing Thursday night. The storm raced like an Olympic sprinter. The mean clouds barged eastward from the gulf, headed right at Citrus.

Rain, wind, even hail. It was a mess.

At 11:19 p.m., the mess was about to spawn a catastrophe.

The National Weather Service issued an urgent warning: Doppler Radar indicated a tornado 6 miles west of Crystal River, moving northeast at 45 mph.

"The tornado will be near Crystal River by 11:20 p.m., Beverly Hills by 11:30 p.m."

Somehow, Citrus was spared.

Channel 10's Dick Fletcher said the killer front came later. About 1:50 a.m. Friday it came east across Citrus and strengthened. About 3 a.m., tornadoes hit with a fury at many points east.

As I write this Friday night, the death total stands at 20. Parts of the Villages and Lady Lake, among other areas, suffered horrible destruction.

Which storm scenario is worse? Thursday night is worse.

Hurricanes give you time to plan. The long wait saps your energy, sure. And it's all for naught when the storm veers off and hits somewhere else.

But if - I guess I should say when - a big hurricane hits Citrus, residents will be thankful for every minute of planing time.

There was little time for planning Thursday. It reminded me of my Midwest childhood, when the tornado siren at the fire station sounded, and we scrambled to the downstairs utility room and hoped for the best.

I felt helpless then, and pretty much helpless Thursday night. At least the TV radar and forecasting is much better now.

I have come to dread hurricane worrying. But Thursday night reminded me that, when it comes to storms, time is our friend, not our tormentor.

[Last modified February 3, 2007, 19:47:01]

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