Now that Mother Nature has smacked us awake with her soggy towel, there's no more hitting the snooze button. No, not even on your wind-up storm-proof combination emergency radio and alarm clock.
It's June 7. One week down, 25 to go in a hurricane season government prognosticators project will be at least "active," possibly extremely so.
Yes, we've heard that all before, even as hurricane seasons of every possible forecast have come and gone since 1921, and we've ducked every last one. We've had close calls, of course. I can't tell you how many days hurricane threats shut down schools when I was growing up, but I do know the neighborhood kids spent most of them fishing from the banks of the Hillsborough River and only our lines got wet.
Our luck's so good, we're the Gloria Mackenzie of natural disasters. Even when we're dead in the heart of the spaghetti model tangle, as with Charley in 2004, some other city swaps places with us in line. (Thanks, Port Charlotte; we still owe you.)
And even though, much like investments, past performance does not guarantee future success, our track record is so good that when the Weather Channel ranked the Tampa area No. 1 among regions "overdue" for a direct hurricane shellacking, we yawned. We know. Overdue is overrated. Just ask Cubs fans or shareholders still waiting on BlackBerry's next big thing.
Oh, we'll get whacked, eventually. But "eventually" is the modern soothsayer's hedge. It doesn't mean "next month" or "by Halloween" or even "this year." It's like tossing a coin. The odds on the next flip are always 50-50; they don't change just because the last 10 have come up tails.
That said, this week's meteorological double whammy - Tropical Storm Andrea's blustery wet kiss punctuating our surge to the top of the overdues - means attention must be paid. Maybe the whims of the upper-level steering currents have at last returned to their Roaring '20s patterns.
And that attention means taking the steps necessary to get by on our own for however long it takes before emergency responders show up. With the cruel lessons of Katrina still fresh, every hurricane preparedness guide recommends stockpiling supplies to last at least 72 hours.
Well. Humans predisposed to embrace rough-and-tumble living - or, as we like to call them, "men" - relish the start of hurricane season the way Santa Claus' faithful look forward to Christmas Eve. Government planners call it "surviving the aftermath"; guys call it "an unscheduled camp-out," maybe even "a three-day tailgate party."
I mean, the shopping lists are virtually identical. Tents, tarps, batteries, generators, outdoor cooking gear, water, ice, bug repellent, first-aid kit, garbage bags, small tool kit, moist towelettes, coolers, manual can-opener, off-the-grid electronics chargers, hatchet, chain saw.
Ticking all those boxes means spending the morning at the local big box home improvement retailer followed by an afternoon at the sporting goods store, and may involve bringing home a canoe or a bass boat, because if we do at last cash in our overdue chip, streets will be flooded.
And nobody ever got scolded or fired for being prepared.
OK. Plainly, this is serious, possibly grim, stuff. And Andrea, passing up the coast, was only a sample. Imagine twice the rain, triple the sustained gusts and tornado warnings that didn't end for 48 hours. But knowing your inventory is full and up to date takes off the edge.
If that's how we spend this weekend, Mother Nature will have done her job.