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BulletinNovDec2017

Reflections Hurricane Irma: Apprehension, Preparation, and Relief Richard F. Lockey, M.D. rlockey@health.usf.edu There It Is! A small dot on the National Hurri-cane Center (NHC) website. You un-derstand what it could mean to family, home, and the ability to practice medi-cine. The NHC no longer projects cones for more than several days. In 2004, four hurricanes crossed Flor-ida with varying patterns and dam-age. The worst, Charlie, was to travel straight up to Tampa Bay and instead, it ravaged the Charlotte Harbor, area as I witnessed two weeks later when I presented a lecture there. Routine Work Then Apprehension Back to work, conferences, clinics, and answering consults. Now, you routinely access the NHC and learn that Irma is head-ed straight towards Florida. Forecasters indicate that it will af-fect the east coast; Feeling guilty, you think, “Thank goodness, it is not coming our way.” Gradually, the entire state comes into Irma’s path and the unending warnings begin. It is projected to hit the Florida Keys, Naples, and head up the Florida peninsula. The pulse of the clinic changes. Employees become tense and apprehensive and patients cancel appointments. Prescription refill phone calls increase. By Friday, only a few patients with acute problems keep their appointments and at 2:00 PM, the clinic closes. Preparation Equipment is covered because of possible roof leaks and vi-tal materials are moved away from the windows, hoping that the clinic will be “workable” when Irma passes. Allergen vac-cines from outlying clinics are moved to the main practice set-ting where a generator capable of running two refrigerators is located. The staff also moves serum samples from the USF Division of Allergy and Immunology Clinical Research Unit to generator- protected refrigeration at the USF Morsani College of Medicine. Time to go to downtown Tampa to your home, located eight feet above sea level with an anticipated “surge level” of 10 to 12 feet. Everything on the ground level is elevated several feet onto cinder blocks and the garage doors sandbagged. Indoor shutters and cabinets are secured with masking tape and fur-niture moved away from windows. The front door is braced with wood beams so that it does not blow inward, force open the back doors, and create a virtual wind tunnel. All this while continually being aware of the massive Florida evacuation, which includes members of your family. Two of your friends remain home. You contemplate, “per-haps too, I should stay,” realizing that only one out of three or four evacuations is really necessary. The “Cat 4” is already hitting the Florida Keys and looks inconceivably dangerous. E-mails are forwarded to colleagues telling them to heed the ex-pert advice, while openly welcoming anyone to evacuate to the reinforced-steel concrete clinic building, adjacent to the Florida and Veteran’s Hospitals, where the electrical grids may be the “last to go” and where you will stay. Leaving Home and Moving In The electricity, water, and natural gas are turned off, the refrigerator emptied, the home locked, taking enough food, clothing, and water for 7 days. An insatiable feeling of sad-ness occurs as pictures are taken of your home’s content and as you leave, and through the window of your car, its exte-rior. Exiting about 11:00 Sunday morning, time for church on any other Sunday, the hurricane winds are approaching 40mph. Then an ominous sight while driving on Bayshore Boulevard, something never seen, the upper bay is completely devoid of water. You think, “What goes out must come in.” Food, water and other essentials are moved to the fifth floor. My sleeping bag is placed in one of the examination rooms. “What irony!” you think. So many patients over the years have been cared for in this same room. Your cell phone rings. One of your fellows and their family is seeking shelter and a cousin and a family member of a faculty member want to do the same. They arrive as the winds intensify and dusk approaches. All gather together in the break room, share a heartfelt prayer for safety and for Irma’s demise, and eat junk food for dinner. Everybody is frightened about the possible loss of life and home and the capability to continue work once Irma passes. The (continued on page 16) 14 HCMA BULLETIN, Vol 63, No. 4 – November/December 2017


BulletinNovDec2017
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