FRANCES AT WORK

REPORTED BY SKYPILOT AIRY ACE IN DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2004

 

Skypilot Airy Ace is on station in Daytona Beach, Florida, eyeballing Frances, sometimes spelled Francis, but is the hurrycane a male or female? That will tell the tale of how to spell its name. Come in, Airy Ace.

capn skyp,
I'm going to see if anyone around here is still serving food. Probably not. Then I may still cut out. Frances is back on track to squirt her milk just west of here. They say Frances has been held at bay by a high pressure ridge across Georgia, but I know for a fact that Superman has been blowing it back out to sea. It's been quite an ordeal for a man of steel who doesn't steal or twang on steel guitars, a man from farther away than Mars, way out in the stars where there are no bars or cars; but now I have reliable word that a terrorist (I think it's that Nicholson guy) has poisoned him with Kryptonite again. So Francis once again is moving forward to make good on the threats she's been making for days: to wipe out most of Florida and half of Georgia.
And me, here in the wipeout zone, I've been thinking of staying through it. But now I look again at the weather radar map and see all that stuff bearing down on a very tiny Daytona Beach, reading about expected 85mph wind gusts, storm surges bringing fresh seafood to my door and the fact that it will take about two days to get over with, probably with no 'lectric and maybe no water, well I guess I'll head up to Savannah for a while after all.
Airy Ace


SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 2004

The Halifax River near the Seabreeze Bridge looks more like the Atlantic Ocean as wind gusts over 70 mph slam the Daytona Beach area this morning. Here's a picture from the Daytona News Journal

The sky is misty white, letting the sun glow brightly through its sheer slip. Wind is persistant and gusty, slowly picking up speed. Water in the canal off the Intercoastal Waterway is a might higher than high tide. From a wooden lookout here at this nearly-abandened apartment complex I could see water below it overflowing the canal and pumping closer in little surges as though there were waves, but it's just a canal. So those little surges must be from the rising sea miles off, where it fills the waterway. Normally it rises and falls with the tides so that half the time the canal is just mud.

the kid upstairs has convinced me to stay. He and his wife are young and indestructable. Not only that but they both went through Hurricane Andrew, a male hurricane if ever there was one, when they were even younger and maybe didn't know each other, so they built up an immunity to hurricanes.
They are going to sleep in the closet.

Looking out toward the barrier island where the famous beach is, there is just a canal, some mangroves, and the Intercoastal Waterway called the Halifax River here, between us and the beach. Highrise condos and hotels define the horizon. I pan the scene looking for tornadoes, swearing I can hear them in the distance as the wind makes that sound which no one can find new metaphores to describe.
Tom Waits wrote "...the wind is making speeches and the rain sounds like a round of applause."
But Frances doesn't sound like that. It's an eerie whirring, a voice all her own.
I could still drive north and get out of the warning zone. I'm worried about the car getting hit by a tree branch, worried about the power going out, but mostly I'm worried that I'm almost out of beer.

The girl in the local news clip said you have to watch out for tornadoes especially in the northern bands. That's why ZZ Top doesn't worry much about tornadoes. Out there in the ocean tonadoes are water spouts. Now who's afraid of a water spout? Man, I drink out of water spouts! Hurricane is different than sugar cane. One is not very sweet. Hurricanes are different than canes. One knocks you over. Am I babbling?

Woke up around 7:00 Sunday morning in the closet, which is a very quiet spot, thinking Frances was over, looked out the bedroom window and thought she was all but gone, the trees still doin' the Viverin overdose mosh pit boogie. This is what is known as "a fine pickle I've gotten myself into. "I love it, in a way. Nature can put us in our place when she gets around to it.


MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 2004

I am guilty of stompin' grapes at a Florida vineyard. It was a little contest and I won. I thought not of the lives of the poor grapes, only of my own glory. And so now I pay the price. The power went out for about three seconds. The storm is going full tilt boogie again and it is bigger all the time, even though the eye is blindly groping toward the Gulf. As Frances lays waste he or she is drinking all the orange juice, reaching into pantries and grabbing all the spinach, his massive body from the keys into Georgia and hundreds of miles into the Atlantic. As punishment to me for stomping innocent grapes, I am stuck here with no wine and only two beers, and no honey to be near.

 

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2004

Final report on Frances. (Pictures from the Daytona News Journal)

A hurricane the size of Frances is a taste of war.
Air raid siren winds howling during a lull in her attack begin to get louder, watery torrents quickly obscure the glow of high rises across the Halifax, a bright flash as a transformer explodes among them and then all lights, including our own, blink out for a few seconds. Wind over here is a raging squall, but I know what's coming. A stampede of rain elephants through the distant hotels and condos is rumbling toward me. Another flash and nature's darkness seems to prevail, but man, there go the lights back on. And here come the rain elephants, trampling down the mangroves, sirens silenced beneath a mad roar, rain slamming into my skin until I step back into the concrete fortress of the apartment house hallway. The pure rage of the elements gone mad, trees bending and giving way as much as they possibly can; wondering how much harder can the wind possibly blow, I finally am ready to go inside and prepare to jump into the closet.



Yesterday afternoon the lights finally blinked out. Last night I took a walk and inspected a tree that was sprawled across the parking lot, focusing my flashlight beam on wet black rot in the hollow trunk. Continuing down to the pool area, I dragged a chaise longue from the middle of the drive into a parking spot. Again I watched the craziness start on the barrier island and started heading back. It was upon me again, but I trudged fearlessly like a war numbed grunt as wind roared through the trees, threatening to snap off a branch and swat me. Home, drenched, to hell with the closet.


Today I took a drive and met a couple and their cat who wanted me to take them across to beachside. There is a curfew, and they had the ID to cross the bridge.
There was a lot of damage throughout Daytona, but the island got the brunt of it.
Hundreds of blown-out sky rise windows, skeletal signs, a souvenir shop that looked like it committed hara-kiri, its colorful guts spewed across the lawn.


While we visited the Texaco station owned by their friend Abdul, an aluminum canopy sprawled across his ruined gas pumps, a cop drove up to tell us a tornado was headed for us. We ran across the street for the car as clouds jumped out of nowhere and dunked us. Drenched again, they directed me to the house of their friend, a seventy-year-old with hurricane covers on the windows of his little brick duplex. He had refused to leave and never would. The tornado turned north. We all drank beer and they smoked cigarettes, the cat hid under a bed until she was ready to come out, and then I took the couple and the kitty home.


The destruction here is widespread, nearly the whole state was, and still is being, affected. It will take a while to get a true assessment. Much of the state is rural and dirt poor.


A hurricane is a taste of war. National Guard troops are entering the cities. But it is not a willful, high tech, chemical, biological, nuclear, nor greedy destruction. It's just water and air. Hurricanes have been keeping the Everglades and southern swamps and bayous wet long before anyone thought of the Fountain of Youth or sought cities of gold.


-- Airy Ace, over and out until Ivan the Cossack arrives.

 

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