The New York Rays

One of the things that came from Hurricane Irma was that the sports calendar and map got shuffled around. That’s quite understandable of course, because you don’t want to risk the health and safety of fans, players, or the structure of these facilities hosting the events.

Tropicana Field hosted a three game series between the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers while Houston was flooded by Hurricane Harvey. When it looked like our area was going to get Irma, MLB moved the series where the Rays were going to host the New York Yankees.

I understand the logistical nightmares moving games around can be, and I don’t think that’s an easy operation by any means. But having the Rays host games at Citi Field where the Mets play is embarrassing. It’s basically giving the Yankees three more home games where their fans will come out in droves.

I get that there are times that games can’t always be played at neutral facilities, but come on. Baseball could have made something positive out of all of this, but instead chose to gave one of its prized teams an advantage that could make the difference as to whether or not they make the playoffs.

As The Infrastructure Turns

Good to be back with you so soon. Leading up to Irma’s approach, the media speculated that the power would be out for days. For me, it was out 16 hours, roughly. Congrats to Duke Energy on a job well done. Many of my friends in Pinellas are still without power as I post this on Tuesday morning, and I hope for a swift restoration for them.

Sunday morning, those computer models were thinking the eye of Irma would go right over me as a Category 3 storm. Much like Charley in 2004, jogs to the right kept that from happening, and Lakeland wound up getting the brunt of it, 50 miles to my east or so. Many areas in Florida not all that close to the eye took huge hits from the storm, a testament to its size and force.

I don’t consider myself an environmentalist by any means. However, we now had a pair of Cat 4 hurricanes hit the United States 16 days apart. I don’t know if that’s some kind of record (I’m thinking possibly yes) but usually it is years between fours.

After Irma, I’m just hoping for a quiet remainder of the season. Considering yesterday was the peak of the hurricane year, there’s probably more work ahead.

The Day Is Here

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And here we go, folks. If Irma stays on track, I’ll be in the middle of my first hurricane sometime around 9pm tonight for about nine hours. The storm is closing in on Key West this morning as I type this, looking like it will pass just to the east of there, staying to the west of Ft. Myers, Sarasota, and then getting here.

Some of my social media friends asked why I didn’t evacuate, and won’t be evacuating, and that’s a fair question. The main reason was where I live, we weren’t told to. Secondly, there was an ill wind about supplies being available in light of Hurricane Harvey, plus a general uncertainty about where to go due to Irma’s size. You also have to keep in mind Tampa Bay’s last major hurricane was October 25, 1921. Before that, the last major to hit here was back in 1848. The odds were, and still might be, in our favor.

There is still hope, like the day Charley threatened on August 13, 2004, of an 11th hour miracle. Because of the way Florida’s peninsula juts out northwestward, any wobble the storm makes one way or the other could mean a few miles in either direction one way or the other. That’s why we get hurricanes so rarely, because it would need a storm going west to east or the perfect angle to get us. Even though the storm is over warm water, it looked ragged on Sunday morning. The meteorologists are also suggesting it’s fighting wind shear, which might keep it stable or maybe even weaken it.

The track keeps shifting west, so maybe it can shift about 50-60 miles so we can miss the brunt of it. Stranger things have happened, and always seem to, with hurricanes around here. If we run out of luck, we were overdue. If we dodge another bullet, we just get more prepared for the next threat, whenever that is.

The next blog entry depends on what our friend Irma decides to do. I’m not afraid of her.

The Day Before

Hurricane Irma should hit our area tomorrow night going into Monday. The local stations began continuous commercial free coverage, preempting the menagerie of college football games.

A brief primer on Tampa Bay TV might be in order, considering these outlets might get national attention: 8 is NBC, 10 is CBS, 13 is FOX, and 28 is ABC. In my personal opinion, 28 (with the ABC Action News branding) has the best meteorologist in Denis Phillips, he of the suspenders over his dress shirts like Larry King. He wore suspenders on August 13, 2004, the day Tampa Bay nearly got a direct hit from Hurricane Charley, but made a hard right six hours left before impact. For the most part, he’s been wearing them ever since as a good luck charm of sorts.

Channel 13 has the best team and the best technology traditionally, the deeper bench to borrow a sports term. Roy Leep was the long time weatherman guru here, retiring in the late 90’s. Paul Dellegatto took over for Roy and has been their ever since.

Not much happened so far today with the track of Irma, and it still looks like a Tampa Bay hit. I’m in the third of five evacuation zones, with the lower two having been told to evacuate. It is unlikely my zone will have to flee despite the forecast, mainly because there won’t be sufficient time or gas.

Most of the stores have closed or will soon, like Walmart and Publix. Very little left to do but hunker down or go to the shelters. Back with a last pre-Irma post sometime tomorrow.

Watching And Waiting

You know things have gotten real when you’re on your smartphone and get that blaring EAS test telling you there’s a Hurricane Warning. As if I didn’t know that.

A couple of days ago, they thought Irma was going to be an east coast of Florida storm. Unfortunately they’re thinking it will miss me by some 50 miles to my east now. Because not even the best computer model or meteorologist can say for sure when, how long, or how quickly the hurricane will turn, and also because of the size of Irma, all of the Florida peninsula is in play.

I’ve been through the near misses and a few tropical storms. There’s a different feel to things these past few days that’s hard to put into words. Is Irma our big one? We won’t know until later today.

I’m hunkering down at home regardless of what punch the storm has. If she makes the turn at us, there won’t be enough time to evacuate. The roads will be clogged and supplies might not be reliable by that time.

I did find the water cases that eluded me a couple of days ago at my local Walmart on Friday morning. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to get water in my life.

And so we wait, and we hope it won’t be too bad.

Flashback: “FM (No Static At All)” by Steely Dan

I thought I’d honor the passing of Walter Becker, who co-founded the Steely Dan pop/rock/jazz group that had so many catchy songs in the 70’s and 80’s, including this particular song which peaked at #22 in 1978. It also was also the name of a movie that was a released the same year about a fictional Los Angeles rock station where the DJ’s stage a mutiny of sorts against their corporate owners, with the song prominent within the film and its soundtrack.

True story: one of my fake radio names was a play on Walter’s name: Walter Pecker. I didn’t care, I thought it was funny. Worth a listen.

The Track

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Insomnia has paid me a visit. Maybe it’s just the tea I drank a little earlier this evening. Bluegrass music, thanks to Pandora, is playing in my headphones. So, would you mind if I revisited my issues from yesterday? Not going to harp on it the whole blog, but bear with me a moment.

There was a gas shortage in Texas last week in places other than Houston thanks to Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath. Here in Tampa Bay, where Irma isn’t likely to hit (but might), there were gas, water, and bread shortages the past few days, and it’s gone mostly unreported in the national media since so much focus is on Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and the eastern Florida coast. If any of you who are Walmart employees took offense to what I said, my apologies. I didn’t mean my report to be a criticism of just that particular grocer. But can we at least admit something may be wrong with the chain of command here, with Walmart and other grocers being a link (small or large) in that chain? Maybe we can get some sort of investigation by Congress as to why this happened once the storms clear out?

Then again, why would an institution with something around a 10% approval rating actually do something remotely in the public’s interest? Never mind.

OK, on to Irma.

I preface what I’m about to say by saying I’m not a meteorologist, though one night in 1992 I got to play one on a few AM stations across the country. (That’s a blog entry for another time.) Those computer models that track all of these hurricanes with scientific and not-so scientific names like the Euro and the GFS have Hurricane Irma successfully staying over water, moving west-northwest to a point north of the middle of Cuba, south of Florida. They then think the storm will make a sharp turn of some 90 degrees to turn basically north, giving either a direct hit or close call to most of the Florida east coast. Should that happen somewhere near the plan, the west coast would likely see winds of tropical storm force.

Being a veteran of Charley in 2004, I can’t help but notice one of the flaws of tracking and predicting hurricanes even in such a technological age seem to happen when storms make sharp turns. Charley had Tampa Bay dead to rights, but made a stronger turn than most predicted, giving Port Charlotte and Ft. Myers the brunt of a small Category 4 storm.

I can’t help but wonder (and believe me, I don’t wish for this AT ALL) if whatever luck we’ve had over the years here in Tampa Bay comes back and bites us. If that turn happens a bit later, or if the turn is more gradual than expected, we could be in trouble.

If you live in my neck of the woods, don’t let your guard down. As they say in sports, there’s a lot of football left to be played. Schools are closed here in Pinellas County today and tomorrow, ready and waiting for possible evacuation orders to be issued. At this point, I don’t see evacuating happening where I live. Time will tell, as it always does.