By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
"Get off the beach and out of the street!" the officer barks.
At 8 p.m., Commercial Boulevard near Dixie Highway is eerily empty, but inside Alligator Alley, ebullient club owner and jam-band bassist Kilmo is pouring a Pumpkinhead draft. The newscaster on the small television on the back counter says the sluggish behemoth should make landfall at 2 a.m. "Yeah," Kilmo says wryly, "2 a.m. December 29."
Why was Kilmo riding the storm out in the partially shuttered, storefront joint?
"What's more Florida than a hurricane party at a Florida bar? If we're not open, no one should be open. We're just not closing."
The club has drawn a cultural hodgepodge of partiers, including a family of three that has taken up a high-top table across from the bar. The petite, short-haired Brazilian mother, Eliana Kuras; the round-faced, gray-haired husband, Janusz; and their fabulously good-looking, 18-year-old daughter, Samantha, had ventured from the security of their home for some wings and drinks.
"We got bored," Eliana says.
Her daughter explains: "She's just trying to get drunk. Last time we were out, she fell off a table at the bar. She, like, forgot how to wear heels."
Kilmo hopes some fellow musicians will stop by to join him in jammin' to Frances. "I want to play bass, do the nasty, and smoke a cigar at the same time," he says. "'Cause I'm greedy like that. I'm a true hedonist. I told people: If the winds are 100 mph and you're lost and the shutters are on the front, knock on the back. We'll be here. However, so it doesn't sound like you're knocking like the wind bangs, you gotta knock the Bo Diddley beat."
Another patron, Bobby Bell, has his own take on the 'cane.
"Here's to the breezes that blows through the treeses, that exposes the places that teases, pleases, and sometimes spreads diseases. Down the hatch, here's to the snatch!"
"That's almost semi-misogynistic," Kilmo criticizes. "However, we'll let it slide."
It's past midnight, and partying people are gravitating to the old lowest common denominator -- drunkenness and lechery. Fort Liquordale's Himmarshee is almost a ghost town, with most bars boarded up tighter than Prohibition. But Dicey Riley's is open, and a few slack-jawed young men sit at the bar. As two ladies enter and quickly leave, one dark-haired fellow yells, "No! Come back!"
Welcome to Night of the Living Horny.
For the folks vowing to defy Frances with sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll, the pickin's are slim tonight. Over at Capone's, one of the only other downtown clubs open at this hour, a DJ is spinning hip-hop and techno. Sadly, he does not have "Rock You Like a Hurricane." This bar is also filled with mostly men, and as two ladies walk in, that glittery-eyed look of convicts fresh from prison appears in the hombres' eyes. What gives?
"Everybody's got cabin fever," says Jay, a muscular dude clad in a black cowboy hat. "We're just trying to have fun."
Jay gives the ladies an appraising once-over.
"OK, we're looking for girls," he admits. "Trolling for chicks. Everyone here is looking for a fun time during a dangerous time. My night started as a hurricane party, but I can't stay inside all night. I've got priorities."
"My first priority is to get laid," he says. "My second priority...Well, if I don't end up getting laid, just to have fun. And if I die, at least I died having fun. And hopefully getting laid."
Late morning. A New Times writer tests the roadblocks, waving a press card at a klatch of stony-eyed state troopers on 17th Street. "I'm a reporter," he says. "We're doing a hurricane story, and we want to check out the beach."
"What channel you with?" asks a trooper.
"No channel. New Times."
The trooper rolls his eyes.
"Make a U-turn," he says. "Go back where you came from."
Scott Medvin, a tall 24-year-old with wire-rimmed glasses, blue jeans, and white tennis shoes, sits at the media information desk at the Broward Emergency Operations Center, a three-story, windowless bunker off Pine Island Road in Plantation.
As first weeks on a job go, Medvin has it rough. Having been hired last week in Broward County's public information office, the occasional New Times freelancer learned two days ago that he would have the thankless, sleepless job of keeping the media abreast of every fallen tree limb and rain cloud this side of the Everglades.
"Yeah," Medvin says, "trial by fire is right."
He rises from his desk and walks through the center's "war room," where roughly 200 state and county employees sit at computer monitors and around conference tables, keeping tabs on the storm that the media geeks simply can't help but compare to 1992's Hurricane Andrew. Medvin points to a wall with three large monitors showing radar and satellite imagery depicting Hurricane Frances over the Bahamas. "That's the Sun-Sentinel's favorite place," he says. "They like to get photos of people in front of all those screens."
Medvin points again, this time to the corner. "Now let me show you the call center," he says. A crowded, narrow space to the right of the war room houses about 50 people answering telephone calls from concerned residents. Yesterday, they received more than 8,000 calls. Residents' most pressing concerns appear to be whether it's safe to go to the beach and why -- oh God, why?! -- garbage collection has stopped.