SPAGHETTI, SWORDS, AND REPUBLICANS
I suspect I have your attention!
Those of us who live along the coast of the Florida peninsula have learned a new form of spaghetti, non-edible to be sure, but equally hard to handle. I speak here of “spaghetti models” which have nothing to do with variations of ancient pasta recipes but rather squiggly lines which are produced by high speed computers which track unpredictable variables leading to an uncertain result – or in plain English, hurricane predictors. Which leads me to “swords” and recalling the biblical story of father Abraham who was commanded by God tobuild an altar on which his one and only and long prayed for son, Isaac would be slain. As the reader knows, God stayed the sword-wielding hand of Abraham, spared his son Isaac, and fathered a great people. Well, we in Florida in general and here on the central west coast of Florida in particular are asking the Lord to spare (us from) Isaac, a tropical storm gaining intensity in the eastern Caribbean and, according to the spaghetti models, building up steam and headed toward us. And complicating the issue, we citizens of this state are not the only ones asking God to slay Isaac, but so are about 40,000 people descending on our community next week for the Republican National Convention.
What does a diocese do in the present situation by way of preparing? Pray first. Then, begin to take the proper precautions. A direct hit of a major hurricane would bring significant damage and loss to this local Church. Much of southern St. Petersburg where I live and work would be susceptible to tidal surges. We have five parishes that are at sea level (or slightly less than five feet higher). A storm surge of ten feet would do significant damage to those buildings and facilities. We are already contacting our retired priests that we know of who live alone to see if they wish to seek higher ground in which case we would encourage them to come to the Bethany Center, our diocesan retreat center. Tomorrow we will move enough cash to keep the whole diocese operating should the power be down for several days (and the banks’ computers go down). We will make plans to relocate the homeless from our Pinellas Hope facility to higher and safer ground (we are averaging about 400 a night who will need to be resettled.) We are preparing a “command center” at Bethany where I will go if the storm is higher than a category one and be joined by the principal players who will need to spring into action when the winds subside and the waters retreat. All of our parishes have had emergency storm preparation but for everyone here, we have been through this so often without a real need, that taking any of these spaghetti models seriously becomes challenging. We have become somewhat lethargic and that’s what worries the Emergency Relief Personnel where we live. Is this the big one, or is this just another “false alarm?” When, in about forty-eight hours, the spaghetti models converge and the “cone of uncertainty narrows,” we will have a better idea what to expect but then it may be too late.
I drove by a Home Depot and a Lowes on the way to work this morning and saw no great accumulation of plywood taking place nor did the supermarkets seem victims of panic, but it will happen sometime between now and Sunday, even if the storm is predicted to miss us. And then there is that haunting and unsettling reality that even if we survive another near miss, someone, somewhere else in our area of the nation is going to get hit. So join us in praying for a better result. This time, O Lord, it is A-OK to slay Isaac and the only thing certain in my part of the vineyard is that Mitt Romney will be nominated next week – somewhere!