Of course anyone can fan the flames of panic; it takes true professionals (in brand new rain slickers) to do so while appearing to do just the opposite -- while furrowing their heroic brows before a flapping coconut palm and urging the citizenry to JUST STAY CALM! Too soon, anticlimax threatened the Gold Coast. Thousands of suburbanites clicked off their TVs and began to wonder about Home Depot's refund policy on plywood.
At this point Channel 4 reporter Gary Nelson stepped up and offered the only note of humor in the whole sanctimonious ratings drive. "Hurricane Georges," said he, "has a fancy French name and has turned out to be impotent."
Frank Lynn, a survivor of 30 years before the camera at Channels 10 and 4 and a veteran of innumerable meteorological false alarms, says the TV coverage made him apprehensive, then just bored. But he thinks the exercise was valuable. "I wouldn't use the term false alarm," Lynn muses. "I'd use the word practice."
Georges was a big dud in this part of South Florida, but in the event of a real catastrophe, we have right in our own back yard the National Building Protection Council, a Boca Raton-based group that may know disaster better than anyone. In May, NBPC put together a disaster convention to discuss disaster prevention. The group is also putting together a "Disaster Library," a clearing house of cataclysm to help people prepare. So what did NBPC do to prepare for Georges? Not much, according to one volunteer. "Whatever applies to everyone else will apply to us," he said early last week. "If they tell us to leave, we will."
This, of course, sounds like the best preparation of all: Follow directions, and, when all hell breaks loose, run.
But how did other Palm Beachers manage Georges' peril?
This, from the Palm Beach Daily News, proving once again that the rich are, in fact, different: "Palm Beachers Anne Rowe and Alex Conde load up their Porsche Boxster with luggage after deciding to take their planned vacation to North Carolina earlier than expected to avoid Georges."
In Delray Beach at a crowded beachfront bar, Mike Szepanik spent the afternoon smoking drugstore cigars and sipping Cuba Libres as he waited for power to return at home. In 1989 Szepanik was in St. Croix for Hurricane Hugo. "I got hit so bad I was hanging on to a toilet for dear life," he reminisced as he watched surfers hit the beach.
And a true Boca moment happened when a well-groomed blonde arrived at the Spanish River High School shelter well after it became clear that Georges was a no-show. The upper-class woman came to the shelter to dump off her maid. The hurricane had killed mass transit for the day, so just how would the maid ever get back to her Fort Lauderdale home?
"Uh, drive her," the exhausted volunteers told the lady.
"That's the last time I'll ever donate to the Red Cross," the blonde sneered on her way out the door.
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