Hurricane season is coming*… time to check your plans

HURRICANE SEASON IS COMING* , and it is time to check your plans.

(*) The Atlantic Hurricane Season, according to NOAA, runs from June 1 to November 30.  In the Earthways Shamanic Path, we observe Hurricane Season which  starts around August 15 and runs to October 15.  It’s a micro-season.

Each day in July, the Gulf of Mexico water temperature increases, the average daily temperature increases, and the whole Southwest Florida region ripens for a Hurricane.

It is us well past time, Honorable Shamans and Fellow Pagans, for you to make your plans so that you can keep you and your family (however you define that word,) safe.


1. Learn every thing you can about how hurricanes (“tropical disturbsnces”) form, and how they move around.  You must know the difference between a parallel storm, an exiting storm, and, an onshore storm.   (On shore storms are also “entering” storms, they make landfall. )  The way these storms interact on the Southwest coast, are different from the Southeast coast.  You should know why.

2.  You should know what the Saffer-Simpson Scale is.  Google-thusly.

3. Elevation determines evacuation times.  You should know how many feet you live above sea level.  The smaller the number, the more likely you will be asked to evacuate your home during a big storm.  

4.  You need to decide, depending on where you live,  and for each type of storm (parallel, exiting, onshore), what you and your family plan to do, for the different strengths of storms. 

5.  Every family is different, and family needs sometimes change.  Perhaps your family now includes a woman who is now 8 1/2 months pregnant.  Or, perhaps you now have a new born.  Or maybe you are now caring for a frail eldey person.  Or puppies.  This is the time to find shelters which can accommodate your needs.

 6.  Every family’s resources are different, and changable.  For example, if you normally have  a reliable car, what would you do if you needed to evacuate from an onshore storm, but your only car is in the shop, and you have been commuting by bicycle. 

      A typical stormy afternoon in Florida.

7.  Plan, don’t panic.  There is a lot to consider, but if you think about it now, today, and by that I mean over the weekend, you should be able to have an idea, before the middle of August.  Make a gaming session out of it.  (If this, tgen that…)  Then, you can relax and go about your regular day-to-day adventures.

8.  The Spiritual aspect of Hurricane Season is this:  how do you balance the need to plan, the tendency to panic, and the goal of relaxing into your life on a day-to-day basis.  You just do it.

Honor the Seasons where you live.  Delve deeper and Share your Peace with Mother Earth and Father Sky and the Big Waters all around us.

(c) 2017 to present, Whale Maiden for the Earthways Shamanic Path.  All rights reserved.

And now for the Handy Hurricane Planning Check List

Honorable Shamans, welcome back.  While Tropical Storm Danny is wandering around the Atlantic Ocean, let’s review the Hurricane Planing Checklist.    Let’s assume your town is in the 5 day cone of probability and you now  have 5 days to take appropriate action.  You will have a lot to do.  There are many Spiritual Lessons to work through in Hurricane Season.  One set of lessons, is to ask for help, to accept help gracefully, and to offer help, as needed.

Do Not Panic.  Do Not Panic.  Do Not Panic.  One of the benefits of modern technology is that we have the ability to hear about Hurricanes for days — sometimes  weeks — ahead of time, and take steps to plan accordingly.  Your task is to be mindful of the approaching Hurricane without freaking out about it.

Pick up the annual Hurricane Guide at your local hardware or grocery store,  City Hall or County Admin building, library, etc.  (You might find them on-line too.)  These booklets contain  Maps, locations of Shelters, Checklists of supplies, and other useful information.    Read it.  Read it again, then put it in your “To – Go” box.

Five Days Before the Storm, take inventory.  If you are located in the boundaries of the 5 day forecast cone,  go outside and round up stuff that might become airborne.  Things like garden hoses, sprinkler heads, toys, and coconuts, and your trash cans, should be brought into the laini or the garage.  Then, walk around your house and take pictures.  Get each side of your house and the roof, lamps and mail box.  Take pictures from each of the four directions.  While you do this, you may want to sing a song to protect yourself and your property.  Ask that you and your family are  guided to make safe decisions for this storm.  Wave to your neighbors and chat about the upcoming storm.  During the Hurricane Season of 2004, my neighbors and I would gather in the middle of the street before each storm and talk about who was staying to “shelter in place,” and who was evacuating, which is also known as “bugging out.”

Check your “To Go Box.”   After you take all your photographs and bless your house and chat with your neighbors, go inside and check your “To Go Box.”  Normally, you probably keep copies of all your important files in a file cabinet or something, but if a storm is headed your way, you’ll want to transfer the insurance  policies and copies of birth certificates and other important papers, into a plastic box.  Put your maps in there, and your list of important phone numbers in there too.  I use two-gallon zip lock type bags, which are perfect to store file folders.  In 2004, I learned that Insurance Agent’s business can get hit by hurricanes, too, so it is best if you have your copies.  This should go without saying, but, make sure your policies are paid up BEFORE the storm hits your house.  Also, you’ll want to back up your computer files and transfer important files to a flash drive.  When we evacuated before Hurricane Charley,  we took the whole computer tower with us.

How’s your supply of food and water?  In the five days before a hurricane, count noses.  Every animal that has a nose needs food and water during a hurricane.   The amount of food and water you will need, will be based on upon whether you are staying home (shelter-in-place) or evacuating, (“We’re bugging out!”)  Each mammal needs at least a gallon-per-being-per day.  People need a lot of calories and comfort foods during a storm.  Along with canned food, we recommend cola, chocolate, cheese, tuna and peanut butter.  Also remember crackers, chips, bread.  If you evacuate, take your food and beverages with you.

Batten Down The Hatches -Or put up Shutters  —  When the storm is predicted to be a Tropical Storm, or greater, and you are expecting sustained winds  over 39 MPH, you will want your home to have the windows boarded up, snugly.   So, five days before the storm hits,  if you have shutters, you’ll want to walk around and check the conditions of the shutter channels and bolts.  Are there wasp nests in the channels?  If so, you’ll need to SAFELY remove the nests.  [My advise on that topic, ends here.]  Are the bolts in good condition?  Putting up Shutters is a labor intensive task, and is best accomplished with help.  We like to drink highly caffeinated sweet beverages and eat candy bars with chocolate and nuts, before we start, so that we are hydrated and pumped up a bit.  Hopefully, your notes on which shutter panels cover which window opening, survived the year in your garage.  I have a special bucket that I leave on top of my supply of shutters in the garage.  The bucket has the chart showing which panels go where, all the wing nuts (and you really should get a wing nut turner, like you said you were going to do, last year)  and gloves. Everybody helping should wear a pair of thick gloves, and sun hats are smart, too.  Drag the panels out of your garage, and put them in stacks in the shade.  They are metal, and get hot quickly.  Finally, remember that once you get all the panels up, it gets dark and quiet inside the house, so you may want to leave some of the windows partly open, until you are ready to button everything up.  Also be careful once you are inside because Shutters do create a fire escape hazard.  Putting tape on your windows is a waste of time.  It doesn’t help, and the tape gunk never comes off.  If you don’t have ready made shutters, you can use plywood, and the blue screws.  Plywood is HEAVY and you will definitely need help.  Stay hydrated and take rest breaks out of the sun.

Where do you live?  Most people know where they live.  But this is an ideal time to find a map of your town, and State, and figure out where you are, and learn to compare that to where the predicted Hurricane Path is.  How do you get maps?  You can look up where you are, on the internet, of course.  But for Hurricane Planning purposes, you should get a paper map so that you will have it when the power goes out.  These are usually available at gas stations and even some pharmacies and grocery stores.  You should also take the time to figure out your longitude and latitude, using that paper map.  The most important thing to know is, do you live on a Barrier Island?

Where is the Storm?  Where is it predicted to go?    It is useful to watch a good weather channel (I like The Weather Channel)  and learn the lingo.  Some news stations report the information posted in NOAA’s Tropical Prediction Center. This is an excellent resource to learn about Hurricane Tracking.  The Tropical Prediction Center looks at hurricane models, and it conducts mathematical analyses to come up with a cone-shaped prediction.  It is a Five Day moving target.  The location of the storm is represented by the small nose end of the cone.  The location of the nose end is more certain that the fan of possibilities represented at the wide end of the cone.  It is really important to understand that the effects of the storm can usually be felt, outside of the cone boundaries.   This cone is updated every 6 hours for a Tropical Storm.  Remember, Everything Changes…  The Spiritual Message in this Season is, Stay Flexible.

Hurricane Danny Track- 11AM 8/21/2015Hurricane Danny track- 2:00 PM, 8/22/2015

Get a feel for where Hurricanes develop, and how Hurricanes act.  In the Atlantic basin,  Hurricanes tend to form in one of two places:  either off the west coast of Africa, or, off the Yucatan Peninsula, or the north coast of South America.  The ones that form just above the northern coast of South America, seem to kind of “blow up” in intensity in the Gulf of Mexico.  From the Florida Perspective, these don’t have too far to go, so if Florida is in the 5 day cone forecast, we have 5 days to prepare, maybe fewer.  These storms tend to develop in mid-August, because the Gulf of Mexico is very warm water in mid-August, and Hurricanes Love Warm Water.

That’s different from the Hurricanes  that come off the west coast of Africa, like bowling balls coming down the alley.  Those are at least 5 days from land maybe more, and at least 6 or 7 days from the East Coast of Florida.  (They may have no impact at all, on the West Coast of Florida.  It all depends.)  Depending upon the world wide weather conditions — like Hi Pressure zones and Low Presser Zones, and various waves–  these storms will either (a) get about half-way out to the middle of the Atlantic and then head north – we call those “Fish Storms”  or, (b) the storm will head towards Hispaniola (the island where you’ll find Haiti and the Dominican Republic)  and dip down, towards the southern part of the Caribbean sea, or,  (c) the storms will skim the top of   Hispaniola, and then hit Cuba, and re-curve up to Florida — This is what Hurricane Charley did in 2004.  Or, (d) the Storm will blow a bit north, and will head for Bermuda, and depending on how it interacts with Bermuda, it may also impact the east coast of Florida.  Usually, when Hurricanes hit land, they slow down, or stop altogether.  But it depends on whether the Hurricane is hitting flat, humid, rain-soaked land, which can recharge a Hurricane, or if it hits a Mountain, which usually stops it.

Decide what to do: “Shelter-in-place, or “Bug out”.  This is the key point  of hurricane planning, and it is best to decide this as soon as possible.  This is a family decision, based upon your circumstances:  Where do you live, what do you live in, who lives with you, how big is the storm, and where is it predicted to go?  Ideally, you will have thought about some of this months ago.  But circumstances change, and so do people’s tolerances for risk.  Here’s how the planning decision gaming scenario goes:  If your family is all healthy, and you live in a house, and you aren’t on a barrier island, and if the windows of the house are all storm-rated, and, if the storm is only expected to be a tropical depression, and depending on the predicted track of the storm, then, you could probably ride out the storm in your house.  This is also called, “sheltering in place.”   BUT, let’s look at this some more.  Assume that during a storm, you will lose electricity and maybe your phone service, with the length of this interruption dependent upon the severity of the storm.  If anyone in your family has special needs, you’ll have to plan for their needs, ahead of time.  Do they just need a generator, to ensure that some appliances will work, or do they need more specialized care?  Plan for it.  By the way, if your community has a Special Needs registry, you may need to renew that, annually.  If you are in a house, you can generally stay there during most storms.  But if it is a mobile home, you should plan to evacuate before a storm.  If your house is on a barrier island, you will probably be ordered to evacuate.  If ordered to evacuate, go.

Having storm rated windows is important.  Windows installed after Hurricane Andrew (1992) must meet strict Florida Building Codes, and those codes are getting stricter each year because the storms are getting bigger and stronger.  (Let’s say it in unison, “CLIMATE CHANGE.”)  If you are in an older house with the old jalousie windows, you will need to board them up.  If it is predicted to be a bigger storm,  with winds over 74 miles per hour, and you just aren’t sure you want to deal with having no electricity for a week, then you should consider evacuating.

Storms come in several sizes, based upon wind speeds. There are four  categories of storms, as  described on the NOAA Tropical Prediction Center website.   There are Depressions, Storms, Hurricanes and, Major Hurricanes.

D: Tropical Depression – wind speed less than 39 MPH.
S: Tropical Storm – wind speed between 39 MPH and 73 MPH
H: Hurricane – wind speed between 74 MPH and 110 MPH
M: Major Hurricane – wind speed greater than 110 MPH.

Let’s Talk About Storm Tracks, before you make tracks.   In Florida, storms either come across the State from the East Coast, or they come across from the West Coast.  Those are called “entering” or “exiting” storms, and that depends upon your perspective.  Or, they go up either of the coasts, which is called a parallel storm track.   In all of these cases, the important thing to research is where the eye of the storm is, in relation to your house, and to your proposed evacuation routes.  Where will the storm make land fall?   Your evacuation route, will depend upon that, too.  The most important thing to do is, leave before you have to go!  Ideally, you will be on your way, before the roads get too crowded, before everyone is panicking.  And, before we leave this point, remember these things:  Once you are in the range of a 5 day  storm prediction, it is a good idea to get a full tank of gas.  But please, don’t run to every gas station to “top-off” your tank, because that creates runs on gasoline, and shortages.  Having a full tank of gas should give you better traction, and, will allow you to get out of harm’s way, when you evacuate.  Next, you should review a road map, and check weather conditions along your proposed route, before you head out.  You may want to reserve hotels in two different areas of Florida, so that you can have greater flexibility.  (Remember to cancel the room you aren’t using.  You may have to pay a cancellation fee, but you will probably feel like it ‘s worth it.)  Remember to get some cash before you travel, since the power may be out on your return trip, and cash is best then.  Remember to tell a family member where you plan to go.

Storms can change tracks suddenly and without warning.  And remember, hotels are not immune to the impacts of Hurricanes.  It won’t hurt to look up the location of hurricane evacuation shelters in the counties along your evacuation route.

Finally, sit with this meditation:  Prepare for the Worst and Hope For the Best.  Years from now, when you look back on this Hurricane, and you will, trust me, you will have so many stories to tell!

Hurricanes move heat and water around our Mother Earth.  They are a vital function on our dear planet.  Let’s Share Peace With Our Earth.

~WhaleMaiden, with grateful thanks to NOAA & the Tropical Prediction Center.

And Now it Begins: Hurricane Season in the Florida Branch of the Earthways Shamanic Path

Yesterday marked the 11th  anniversary of Hurricane Charley hitting Southwest Florida.  This weekend is the start of Hurricane Season, as celebrated by the Florida Branch of the Earthways Shamanic Path.  [The Good Folks at NOAA define the Hurricane Season as starting June 1, and going until November.  But that’s for the entire Atlantic Ocean.  In this Blog, and throughout the Earthways Shamanic Path documentation, we are talking about what is experienced in focused locations.]  Our Shamanic Path Hurricane Season runs from mid-August to mid-October.  It is mercifully short.

During June and July, the air temperature heated up, the water temperatures heated up and everything is warm-to-hot.  This heat stimulates storm activity.  Over the years, I have noticed that the intensity and frequency of Hurricanes
“increases” after the middle of August.  And here we are.

When we presented the Wheel of the Year for the Florida Branch of the Earthways Shamanic Path at our recent Monthly meeting, someone asked, “why would we celebrate Hurricane Season?”  Like her, several people attending our meeting had lived through the Hurricane Season of 2004, and still have vivid memories of that time.

Hurricane Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne hit Florida in 2004.
Hurricane Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne hit Florida in 2004.   Photo from NOAA.

So, I asked her, what is the Spiritual Meaning of Hurricane Season?

The themes of Hurricane  Season, are about planning and flexibility.  Here in Southwest Florida, in early June, the Hurricane Planners and Media folks do a great job to remind people that Hurricane Season is coming, and to make sure people know what to stockpile at home, what to keep in their car, and what to do when a Hurricane is approaching.  Due to the hard work of a lot of really good people, Florida has good roads in place, to help people evacuate.  There are wayfinding signs to help people evacuate.   It has hurricane shelters available.  The media print awesome Hurricane Guides.

Our job is to heed that advice.  We should make sure we have fresh batteries, stockpiles of water, and get our important documents in order.

And then we wait and wait and see what happens.  Most people do not like Hurricanes, because they do bring damage to man-made property.  However, some people really like the approaching storms, and get kind of excited about it.  The interesting thing about Hurricanes, is that they are a vital part of the Earth’s weather system.  It is how the Mother moves heat around and moves water around.

So the spiritual aspect has to do with planning ahead, and being ready to take correct action, but not letting that constant state of readiness exhaust you, or make you anxious.  During the 2004 Hurricane Season, there were Four major Named Storms in six weeks, and there were also  several tropical storms that we thought would come through, so we were in a state of constant readiness for weeks.

So as Hurricane Season approaches, in our Celebration, we will ask that we not be complacent.   We will ask that we learn to read the weather signs.  We will ask that our preparations will ensure us safe passage through the storm(s) that may come.  We will ask for Strength.

Another aspect of Hurricane Season, is learning how and when to ask for help.  After a hurricane blows through your house and your town, you will need help.  Recovery doesn’t happen all by itself.   Yes, we are strong and independent people.  We are grown ups, we are adults.  But after a Hurricane, it is ok to ask for help.  And it is certainly ok, to provide help to other people.

Although the Earthways Shamanic Path is based in Florida, it can be celebrated anywhere.  You just need to explore the magic of your land.  What is it saying to you?   What are the seasons, where you live?  What do they mean to you?  How are they celebrated? 

And Honorable Shamans, as we observe our holidays, “Let’s Share Peace With Our Earth.”

(c) 2015, Whale Maiden.  All Rights Reserved.

Awareness and Ice Storms

I woke up this morning and could hear the rain hitting the roof.  I knew it had rained all night.

My husband was watching the news and when a commercial came on he proceeded to change the channel.  I said, “oh, let’s watch the weather.”  He said, you know it’s raining, why bother?”  But he changed it any way.  The weather news was full of stories about the ice storm that hit Atlanta, and all the stranded motorists.

All the news casters are asking, “How did this happen?”  Everybody is pointing fingers, blaming everybody else.

 I say, if you don’t know where you are, this is bound to happen again and again.

Where are you? This is a question you should ask yourself, every waking moment.  It is particularly important in surviving storms and natural disasters of any kind.  But it is also about your level of awareness.

 Think of it this way:  you live in a box (a house or apartment) and maybe your car lives in a space in that box (the garage.) So you wake up, do your stuff, hop in your car and set out to work in another box (an office or a factory, or something).  At lunch time you might leave the work box, hop into your car, drive around some box to get food, and eat it somewhere and go back to your work box.  When it’s time to go home, you go from the work box to the car to your house box.  You move from one controlled climate to another one.

And if you are like most people, you drive the same route to work and lunch and work and back home every day.  You do this automatically, and you know it.  If you do this 5 days a week, you have minimum contact with the natural world.  But no matter how much you insulate yourself from the natural world, you still live in it.  To survive a storm, you have to be aware.  You have  to read the signs of the natural world.  You have to know what your alternatives are, all the time.  And, you need to be prepared.

To read the signs of a storm, you do need to monitor the weather on a daily basis.  Lots of people grumble about the accuracy of weather reports, but the reports are getting more and more accurate, all the time.  And, what you really want to pay attention to are the general big trends:  is it going to get significantly hotter, or significantly colder, over the next 12 hours?    Will this change be accompanied by rain/snow/ice?  Will it be accompanied by wind?  How much is expected for your area?  Supplement your daily monitoring of reports by getting outside of your “world of boxes” on a regular basis, look at the trees, and the leaves, and look at the clouds in the sky, and learn what the natural signals are.

The 12 hours is significant, because you probably spend that much time away from home each day, commuting and working and while you can probably gauge the morning commute by sticking your head outside for a minute, what you really need to PLAN for, is your commute home.  I’m sure you know that the temperature drops as the sun sets each day.  In my part of the world, it starts to get windier as the sun goes down, too.

Some of the folks who got stuck on their afternoon commute this week in Atlanta’s Ice Storm, we caught unaware of the change in the weather.  Once they got stuck, they waited for a few hours.  Then eventually, many of them left their cars and hiked to a local store to spend the night.  They went to drugstores, fast food places, and big box hardware stores.  They went where ever they could to find a store that was open, and they were glad for the shelter, even if they had to sleep on the floors in the aisles.  So, it is a good idea to pay attention to the stores that are open on your way home, and become aware of what your options might be, if you ever got stranded somewhere.  

 If you only know one route home from work, start finding more routes.  Do you know which roads in your town experience flash flooding?  Do you know where the high spots are?  DO you know how long it takes for the flash flood waters to recede?

 And, you need to have the right stuff with you, all the time:  Depending upon your climate and the time of year, this could mean having a snow scraper, an umbrella, non-perishable food, water, blankets, shoes and socks, sun block, bug spray and a hat, cash, “personal hygiene products” (toilet paper…) and kitty litter, in your car at all times.  The kitty litter has many uses, first of which is to sprinkle on the ice to get you some traction. 

 Taking care of yourself starts with your own awareness and your own planning and preparation.  It is your responsibility to be aware.