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I’ve Been Blown Away!

photo of truck driving through hurricane

Image courtesy of David Mark of Pixabay

In my book Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away, I described Curtis and his iguana friends being caught in a hurricane. I’ve had personal experience in hurricanes from living along the Gulf Coast. My first week at Florida State University was delayed by a hurricane. I had to go to class on Saturday to make up for the lost day. When I worked at the JN Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, we were out checking islands in Tampa Bay when a hurricane passed by. We were in a 16-foot boat in 16-foot waves! Fortunately, we made it back safely.

children's book cover about Curtis Curly-tail lizard and a hurricane in the Bahamas
In this story, I join Allison Andros Iguana to warn the iguanas of Beach Cay about the impending hurricane. Low lying areas are particularly vulnerable to the storm surges, high rainfall and powerful winds of hurricanes. Small islands or cays here in the Bahamas can be completely washed over. Beach Cay, the setting of Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away, has entire populations of endemic animals, such as the iguanas like Allison. One powerful hurricane could wipe out her entire species.

But the hurricane that made the biggest impression on me was Hurricane Alicia in Houston. I was working as a bone marrow transplantation technician and a patient had been scheduled for the day of Alicia’s arrival. This was not a procedure that could be delayed. One of the team doctors had been trapped at the hospital due to the storm, but a technician was needed to prepare the cells. I was single and all the other techs had families, so I told them to stay home and I would go in. I had no doubt I could make it; after all I had a heavy-duty SUV.

The world was gray with rampaging rain and violent winds. Power lines snapped in front of me. Building pieces flew to the street, littering my route to work. I had to keep changing directions to get around the debris.  The power of the winds threatened to push in my car windows. I eventually worked my way to the parking lot of the hospital. I was very thankful I had survived the trip.

Comforted by the thought I had arrived, I opened my car door and stepped out. The next thing I remember is catching the bumper of my car as I was blown away. I might have been able to drive through 105 mph winds, but I couldn’t stand in them! I was contemplating how I was going to pull myself up my car from the bumper to the open door, when my savior arrived. The shuttle bus driver had seen me and positioned his bus as a wind block. I was able to crawl up my car to his bus and get in. He then shuttled me to the hospital.

I can’t remember now if I told him the importance of why I was there. He not only saved me that day, but the patient who was successfully transplanted with bone marrow. I hope I did tell him. I’m grateful to this day, because I don’t know how much longer I could’ve held on. I was almost blown away that day by very powerful winds. I have a great deal of respect for the might of hurricanes. In the case of Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away, the writer was writing what she knew!

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