National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration captured this satellite image of Hurricane Ian headed towards Florida Wednesday morning | Credit: NOAA/NASA

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.  |  Whew.

From my Wednesday morning living-room perch overlooking 27th Avenue North in Tampa Bay’s southern-most city and Florida’s fifth largest, there is a hurricane (you might have heard) churning 100 miles south. It’s spinning at 155 mph in the Gulf of Mexico off Fort Myers at this moment.

That’s 2 mph off a Category 5 storm — and I know that would make most Charlestonians sense a shiver of 1989’s Hurricane Hugo or any number of big storms since.

I say, “Whew,” because this jerk Ian has decided to turn landward and cross over somewhere down south rather than making landfall in the mouth of Tampa Bay as it was originally forecasted – and broadcasted over, and over, and over…

So I’m here on the high ground (56 feet above sea level) along one of the few such ridges in the city. So, while this hurricane will be a very wet experience during the next 36 hours – my primary concern has shifted to making sure the dogs poop outside rather than inside.

Was it dumb to not evacuate? No. It was calculated. This will be my 10th hurricane-landing experience dating back to Hugo 1989 (I was in Charlotte); Fran 1996 (Chapel Hill); Dennis, Floyd and several others during a six-year stretch in Nags Head; and Irma 2017 (right here in St. Pete).

The biggest takeaway is this: You don’t know really where it is going and neither does Jim Cantore or anyone else until it is too late to get out. Now if you’re in a low-lying area, you’ve got to go – don’t get me wrong. They say run from the surge, stay for wind. (Well, nobody says that, but that’s what we do.)

People begged me to leave Nags Head as Floyd and its 160-mph winds headed directly for North Carolina’s Outer Banks. It never hit. It went inland, devastated eastern North Carolina and cut off evacuees from returning for a week or more. Nobody expected Hugo to devastate from Charleston Harbor through Charlotte to Asheville either.

So have prudence, patience and high ground. And stock up and get ready to blow town in the aftermath if power is going to be out for more than 48 hours. Y’all stay dry out there.

Kevin Schwartz, a former newspaper publisher, lives in St. Petersburg, Fla.


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Stay cool. Support City Paper.

City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.