As tropical systems approach, forecasters develop a cone that attempts to predict where a hurricane might travel within three or five days. The spaghetti patterns that the models use to narrow in on a specific track can vary widely or follow an absolutely expected path, but to be certain, there are four updates provided every six hours to make sure those preparing know where the most likely path of the storm will travel. If you’re watching for a storm to swerve one way or the other, watch the cone. For two days before landfall, from Shenandoah National Park through Congaree National Park and into the Sunshine State, I watched Michael’s cone, probably because Michael was headed to Florida, too.
Around midday the day before Michael plowed into the Panhandle, he was already throwing shade in Florida, but on the opposite side of the state. I passed through Jacksonville and navigated through lunch-hour traffic and his feeder bands – waves of clouds bringing sudden downpours interspersed with sunshine. Curiously, Michael and I both planned to spend about the same amount of time in Florida, just a day and a half, just blowing in and out and back on our way. One of us planned to spend a day seeing my kid and my closest friends. One of us traveled all the way from North Dakota for her overnight visit. Another of us crossed the Gulf of Mexico from below the Yucatan Peninsula to meet me and decimate a massive swath of the Emerald Coast. Even before I saw any of my friends, and even before Michael reached the Panhandle, our circles overlapped.
Michael smacked into Florida as a Category 4 on October 10 and then cut across the Carolinas overnight and into the next morning. I parallel his route, and hundreds of electrical bucket trucks, northward on the Florida Turnpike. Our paths cross in Georgia where his recent travel appears evident with branches scattered on Interstate 75 and billboards ripped and shredded. I’m drafting a hurricane, and if it weren’t absolutely pressing to get back to North Dakota in four days, I might have delayed my departure. I pick up speed, much like Michael, and leave town even faster than I arrived. I don’t stop for the night until I reach the Cedars of Lebanon (see Psalm 92:12 from February 2020) and Michael eventually heads into the Atlantic Ocean. He did a shit-ton of damage, and I can only thank Michael for sparing my kid, my friends, and my road home.