I was supposed to be in Minneapolis today for a federal sentencing event. Instead I am in North Carolina awaiting Hurricane (and hopefully Tropical Storm by the time it gets to us) Florence. Apart from the usual Weather Channel hullaballoo sensationalizing the latest named storm of the season (Catastrophic Threat! Inland Exodus! — the guy who writes their headlines used to work in Hollywood writing trailers for Michael Bay films), there has been a justifiable amount of fervid preparation on the ground.
The Governors of NC, VA, SC, and GA declared states of emergency, many friends and relatives in the impact zone at the coast were ordered to evacuate, and we’ve been told, even this far inland, to prepare for heavy rains, high winds, and possible flooding. Florence is a massive, powerful, serious storm (or, in the jargon of the congenitally stupid: “tremendously big & tremendously wet“), and I don’t mean to denigrate emergency preparedness efforts — everyone near the coast who can should get out of the way of this thing. And I am not immune from small scale prepping: I keep extra batteries, a weather radio, flints, long lasting candles, and a few other emergency supplies handy, and I’ve set aside extra fresh water and bought food earlier in the week just in case we lose power (or go to war with North Korea in a fit of Twitter pique).
But, as the parent of an anxious child, I do resent the sensationalized tenor of the ramp up. Benny has been having a tough time managing all the nervous energy surrounding the real-life threat, given that even the adults at his school are telling him he needs to be prepared for everything from hurricane winds to flood waters. Benny has never experienced a hurricane, and to him, it sounds like the waters are going to simply fill our house and drown us all. He keeps saying he’s “worried about his stuffed animals,” who just happen to liven the same second floor bedroom he occupies — so his anxieties are not heavily masked. I try to get him to center himself, focus on breathing before bedtime, do progressive relaxation exercises. But all my reassurances are met with the same litany of responsive fear: a list of things he needs to pack and series of questions about the destructive power of hurricanes (which in turn leads back to my reassurances, and so on ad infinitum). It’s not his fault, the situation is uncertain and a real-life disaster cannot be ruled out — this is to anxiety what a Big Mac topiary at a wedding would be to Donald Trump. Benny’s fears are luxuriating in it.
To be fair to Benny, he’s not the only one made anxious by all the fanfare and sharp graphics on Weather.com. His brother is playing it cool, but every time he poo-poo’s Benny’s fears, I can hear in his sharp tone a strong undercurrent of uneasiness. And even though the boys were going to stay with my father in law — probably the handiest most resourceful person I know — I cancelled my trip more than any other single reason due to the fact that I just didn’t want to be a time zone away from the boys while a storm was slamming into our state. I live these days with a constant sense of precariousness, and I find myself tolerating a lot less when our delicate balance is threatened.
I hope everyone we know East and South of us is in a safe place or out of the way of the storm. I’m calming myself by thinking of the event as “Florry,” who was one of Nina’s cousins, rather than Florence, who sounds to my ears both mean and overly formal. Nina spent a summer as a teenager cooking and helping out around the house for Florry, who was the keeper of the family genealogy for many years, a project Nina helped with as well. And as one of the two most elderly guests at our wedding back in 2000 (when she was in her early eighties — she lived until 2011 though!), Florry got to ride to the ceremony in the horse-drawn carriage that also whisked us away afterwards. Replacing the hype of Jim Cantore with a fuzzy marriage memory can’t hurt, right? Plus I feel I’m simultaneously diminishing the storm and conferring on Florry the level of Category 4 hurricane. Go fam.
So this is your Duberstein-Riggs public service announcement on Hurricane Florry and managing anxiety during a natural disaster. See the images above and please take note of the actual emergency preparedness list provided by Guilford County Schools, as well as Benny’s ardently felt cartoon, sketched in haste, presumably while he was supposed to be listening to the emergency hurricane preparedness lesson at school.