"Naw," I said, "it's just a thunderstorm." She gasped in disbelief and ran on tiptoes across the parking lot to the supposed safety of the waiting bus.
OK, we must admit that "hurricane bravado" is part of the cultural norm in the Florida Keys. There have been historical disastrous hurricanes, such as those in 1919 and 1935, and more recently severe storms like Georges in 1998 and Wilma in 2005. Wilma, with its flooding and the subsequent rise in insurance rates, dovetailed with our current real estate slump. (For more information, see http://quemadfinem.blogspot.com/2008/05/new-flag-of-conch-republic.html ).
They say that the real estate market will recover next year if we don't have another hurricane. The experts say it's a La Nina year. That means there's a cooler current off the coast of South America that is usually associated with a diminished hurricane season in Florida. At the same time they predict a 65% probability of a busier than normal season. But the experts have been wrong before.
So we took a non-scientific poll of old timers, both male and female. There are some that will say the number of hurricanes is related to the relative abundance of land crabs. Others will say it has to do with the migration of land turtles across the road (from ocean to gulf, mind you), or the temperature of near-shore waters. And there are others who just seem to have an inchoate sense of knowing.
So here is this year's prediction: there will be two strong storms, both of which will probably miss us. Conditions will be reminiscent of 1979, when Hurricanes David and Frederic threatened the Keys, but passed us by.
But in view of the unusual weather across the Midwest this year, it might be a good idea to keep those flood and windstorm policies paid up.