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Sun Times Feature Story


Spared Again


By Larry Blustein
@sfsuntimes@aol.com
   Okay, we dodged another storm, as Erika broke apart and became a decent rain maker.
   While many believe this area is due for a storm, hearing that statement alone should have all residents of Florida, especially in southern Florida, watching and paying full attention to anything that appears headed in this direction.
   Remember, if you are new to our beautiful slice of heaven, there is one major thing that has to be done. You need to pay attention to every tropical system - and you can never take what happened this past weekend and automatically think that a storm cannot hit.
   For those who have lived here much of their lives, like Mike Thomas of Hallandale Beach, picking up branches and securing things as far back as last Thursday, is something that you do when you've lived through this.
   He is not the only one who knows that preparation does indeed save lives and property.
   "I have been here since I was 9," Thomas said. "I am now 54, so you know that between Hurricane Andrew and many of the others who have threatened - or have hit this region - I take this stuff very seriously."
   Thomas is not alone. Many residents in our communities actually have been helpful to those who have never experienced tropical weather before. Just the little things like bringing in garbage cans, getting water, making sure that you have a plan - in case you have to evacuate - goes a long way.
   At a time when every Erika broke apart and became a decent rain maker. hosts hurricane preparedness events - even enticing residents to attend - with giveaways - there is never enough you can do to prepare for a storm, and as Thomas admits, "false alarms" are perhaps the biggest negatives in the fight to educate and make everyone understand how severe any kind of storm can be.
   "The worst thing that I have found is when we are told that tropical weather is headed in our direction, and when it doesn't, many get that attitude," Thomas explained. "My neighbors are from Michigan and they have never been through a storm - and after a few false alarms - I am afraid they are not going to get ready, and the results could be deadly."
   To so many property owners, the very thought of not being ready to protect your investment is crazy, at best. In this day and age of social media, where we can also see the destruction of what a major hurricane can do, leaving many without a home - and loss of life, it seems that everyone would be ready - just in case.
   Amy Munroe was a teenager, living in the Redlands when Hurricane Andrew tore through her home - next to Homestead. That night has stayed with her over the past 20 years, and that fear is real.
   Today, Munroe lives in Aventura, and while she has children of her own, now, hurricane season always brings back the six hours she spent huddled in her parents' closet and having to deal with the devastating aftermath.
    "It makes me sick to my stomach every year at this time," Munroe explained. "When there is a storm out there, I get anxious. My husband is from New Jersey and my kids were obviously not born, so I go through this pretty much myself."
    Munroe, who went through that driving rain and "freight-train sound" that so many will tell you that tornadoes and 160 mile per hour winds bring, has become one of those who preaches being prepared. This past Thursday night - when there was a threat that Erika could come this way - she sprung into action.
    "I took my daughter and went to the store and wiped them out of water, canned foods and batteries," she smiled. "But I was there - no lines and had a list of everything to get."
   Munroe knows that while she spent over $300 on supplies, this season still has a long way to go. In fact, we have just reached the halfway point - which comes to an end in late November.
   With names Ana, Bill, Claudette, Danny and Erika used so far, there is a reminder that Hurricane Fred, which was the furthest east storm ever to become a hurricane was churning off Africa, thankfully not headed in this direction.
   Just in case you can't wait for the days after Thanksgiving to hurry up and arrive, there is Grace, Henri, Ida, Joaquin, Kate, Larry, Mindy, Nicholas, Odette, Peter, Rose, Sam, Teresa, Victor and Wanda to consider as well.