The news of Hurricane Irene reminds me of the one time I experienced a named tropical storm -- coincidentally, on a rare visit to New York City.
It was 1985. I was in Manhattan to attend a conference -- and after flying all night on a red-eye (cheaper!), was greeted with the news that Hurricane Gloria was on a path directly for the City.
At that time in my life, I'd ridden through several earthquakes, including the largish 1971 Sylmar temblor. I used to think it was fun to tell quake tales and watch the fear in the eyes of East Coast tranplants. Back then (before the '94 Northridge disaster), I looked at earthquakes as akin to a thrill ride at Disneyland: scary at first, but ultimately an exhilarating ride.
Hey, I was young -- and young people don't tend to have many feelings of mortality.
Anyway, earthquakes didn't phase me. But hurricanes were another matter. I guess you fear the natural disasters you don't know. Everywhere I turned in New York City, the radio and TV stations were on, and they were all-hurricane, all the time. I was scared.
I also figured I had better check in with my mom.
"I want you to know that I'm okay," I told her -- which puzzled her, because (a) I never used to call her just to tell her I was okay and (b) the weather reports in California were not full of hysterical hurricane coverage and she didn't know. So I told her that a hurricane was about to hit New York.
I'll never forget her reply:
"Of all the things I worried about happening to you there, THAT was not one of them."
My mom was born and raised in Havana, so she experienced her share of hurricanes and was full of advice (although the only nugget I can remember all these years later was "stay away from the windows.")
The hurricane was set to hit the following morning. That night, I and a colleague ended up with several strangers in the hotel bar, where we fortified ourselves for the storm to come. As I recall, there were some toasts and raucous renditions of the rock classic, "Gloria" ("G-L-O-RIA").
Fortunately, the storm had weakened a lot by the time it got to New York. There was a lot of rain, and strong winds that made the water seem as if it was coming in horizontally (I disobeyed my mom and did watch through the window).
And then, the storm passed... the sun came out... and the weather for the rest of the day was glorious.
Of course, Gloria was not so benign everywhere she touched. Wikipedia says the storm was responsible for eight deaths and $900 million in damages ... and it was not as large a hurricane as Irene.
I still have not experienced the worst that Mother Nature can do. And I remain afraid of being in a hurricane.