Why Hurricane Irma Has Felt Different From Most Hurricanes

Why Hurricane Irma Has Felt Different From Most Hurricanes

As you've probably heard, Hurricane Irma is pummeling my home of Miami. I'm writing this on the Thursday before it hits, so I can't speak to the devastation it's caused or the lives it may or may not have ruined. All I know is how the dramatic lead-up to Irma's arrival feels in comparison to the regular cavalcade of pathetic hurricanes and bitch-ass tropical storms I and fellow South Floridians experience nearly every year. Those range from devastating storms to false alarms that we mock after the fact with Facebook memes.


We're literally screaming at clouds, but on the internet, which is worse.

We're a little jaded by now. We don't get out of bed for anything less than a Category 3. We've heard the warnings before. We've boarded our windows and stored enough water to start our own public pools. I'm really not looking forward to eating the cans of Beefaroni I've had lying around since the last hurricane threat, but if you dream hard enough, they almost taste like food. After so many false starts and weak storms, anyone's reaction is bound to be reduced to a deep eye roll when the local weather person says there's an 80 percent chance that we're all going to drown next Tuesday. We take it all seriously, but we plan our hurricane parties accordingly. It's just the reality of living in a place where the tradeoff for having so much fun in the sun is occasionally having to survive another one of the sky's attempts to murder the ground once and for all.

Finding the sweet spot between panic and indifference is just as much a necessity for survival as making sure windows are shuttered. But Irma feels different from so many storms we've faced. Part of it is that the images of Hurricane Harvey's devastation of Houston are still fresh in our minds. But more than that, it feels eerily like a storm we've seen before. It feels like Hurricane Andrew, the 1992 storm that left huge residential parts of South Florida looking like sawdust in helicopter footage. If you don't know how devastating Andrew was, here's a documentary produced by the local NBC affiliate all about it:

If you don't have two hours, here's a six-second video of a kid running over another kid with a toy car that tells the same story:

At the time of this writing, Irma's traveling at a leisurely 16 mph, like it's taking a romantic midnight stroll on the beach as it tries its best to fuck us using all of its most boastful pickup lines. "You know, I'm nearly bigger than Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Maryland -- combined," says Irma with a suggestive wiggle of its eyebrows. "You may have heard of me. I'm only the most powerful Atlantic hurricane on record." Irma is trying so hard to replace Andrew as the name synonymous with ruination that even a city jaded by hurricanes is panicking appropriately.

Eric Holthaus @EricHolthaus: 13h On the left, Hurricane Andrew (1992). On the right, Hurricane Irma (today). (images to scale) 177 17 5.8K 7.0K

Geez, overcompensating much?

I've had a nervous energy linger for hours after I've deemed myself fully prepped. There has to be something more I can do to ensure the safety of my family, some passage from the Necronomicon I can recite that will push Irma back into the sea from whence she came. We moved into a new apartment the weekend before the storm. I swept it and vacuumed and dusted and mopped in preparation for a hurricane. I just needed something that made me feel like I was prepping, even if it felt like I was prepping a corpse for its funeral. I want to make the apartment as clean as possible when Irma destroys it. At this point, nothing will make me happier than if excavation crews find my body in the rubble and remark, "My God ... these floors are pristine! Shame we lost such a skilled mop artisan."

We know Irma's on its way, but as of Thursday, we still haven't felt its effects. It was still a normal, beautiful summer day ... just with the apocalypse looming on the horizon. If Wednesday was a TV character in an HBO show, we'd critique it for being so obvious, because it's way too cheerful to NOT be taking a sword to the chest in the next scene.

I had a couple of cable/internet techs over doing some work recently. They'd take little breaks to watch videos on their phones of Irma tearing up the Virgin Islands. We were talking about how scary it all was, and how this is feeling like another Andrew.

There was a pause. I thought it was one of those dreadful pauses during which the gravity of a situation sinks in. It probably was. Then the younger of the two techs broke his stare to look at the three action figures displayed on the hutch over my desk. They're three versions of Link from the Legend Of Zelda series: an 8-bit Link from the original game, one from Wind Waker, and the centerpiece, Link from Skyward Sword. He asked if I had played Breath Of The Wild yet. I had. He had just started. We spent the next ten minutes fanboy-ing about the game. We gushed about its overwhelming but incredible sense of freedom. We loved how the combat system had (mostly) evolved from the simplistic "Hit the flashing thing!" setup to a one that opened the door to skill and welcomed creativity. For a couple minutes, we compared the overall experience to other games in the series. We concluded that every Zelda game that came before it was another in a long line of rough drafts before they finally figured it all out with Breath Of The Wild.

Within seconds, we went from silent contemplation on how utterly fucked we were to geeking out over a video game. We shifted from doom to glee on a dime. That's normal, and that's fucked up.

So watch out, Irma. You might be coming at us with 160 mph winds and apocalyptic storm surges, but we've got Facebook memes on our side, and we're not afraid to use them to make fun of clouds.

Luis is probably sweating his balls off in his powerless new apartment as you read this. In the meantime, you can find him on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.

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