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Island Investing

Riffs, rants, and the upside of investing from way off Wall Street


Tips from the Alley

I’ve been seeing a few too many breathless reports lately about Tropical Storm Isaac and how it could blow away half of the country’s politicos in Tampa next week. Or something.

Sweet Lincoln’s mullet.

I know next to nothing about meteorology, and even less about broadcasting the news, but if there is a place inside that hurricane cone that is worth this much angst, it is, without a doubt, Haiti. Again, unfortunately. So a little perspective from you in the media, please.

Ah, a guy can dream, can’t he?

Should Hurricane Isaac end up visiting any of you that live outside the Keys, and just in case you find yourself depending on the same local news station that was broadcasting waterskiing squirrels last week to tell you what to do should a life-threatening storm head your way, here are some pointers from down in hurricane alley. Consider these 7 tips on how to survive the media coverage of hurricanes.

And to qualify things a bit, I’m writing this about 100 yards from the spot where the lowest barometric pressure in the history of the U.S. was ever recorded – during the Labor Day hurricane of 1935. In the Keys, hurricanes are kinda like snow storms up north…only your neighbors are running around outside – naked, cackling, and shaking bottles of rum at the sky.

Anyway, those tips.

1 – It’s not the wind, it’s the storm surge. This goes double on any island. The storm doesn’t have to come real close for the surge to ruin your day, anyway. Also, know what the tides are doing. There is an app for this.

2 – Forecasters are good at identifying the path a storm will take. They are criminally lousy, however, at predicting its strength. In 1992 Hurricane Andrew went from a Category 1 to a Category 5 storm in 24 hours, right before it hit up in Homestead, and the Doppler 3000 hasn’t gotten any better since then. So if the eye on the map looks like it is going to cross over the top of your house, better safe then sorry – even if it looks weak right now.

3 – Buy earplugs. Especially for the kids. It’s one thing to be frazzled by a storm that hits at night, but it’s another to have been up all night with scared, sleep-deprived kids while you’re trying to chainsaw trees the next day. Do not think twice about giving the dog a little plum wine, either. Oh, and here’s one upside to hurricanes that not many people think of – turns out they are a super-easy way to relocate your wife’s angry old one-eyed cat! You know, with the always landing-on-its-feet-thing and what-not.

Kidding, honey. We all miss Shadow.

4 – Slow is bad. If the travelling speed of the storm decreases once it gets over water again – on the north side of Cuba in Isaac’s case – it’s just going to get angrier. So don’t confuse having more time with being safer.

5 – A “mandatory evacuation” is really just code for “the government is no longer responsible for you.” If you stay, better know first aid, just in case. Also, read The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

6 – Choose your evacuation place wisely. Worst part about leaving for a storm is often trying to get back home afterwards. All things being equal, you want to head southeast. Given how the storm will turn as it travels north, you’ll likely get through it quickest that way. Unless you’re in Australia. Cuz, you know, the Coriolis deflection causes cyclonic systems to rotate counterclockwise in just the northern hemisphere.

7 – If you’re in South Florida, and you decide to evacuate, you might as well come down to the Keys. Sure, it’s a string of islands surrounded by warm water, but after Wilma came through in 2005, at least the insurance adjusters knew enough to come knock on your door with a pitcher of margaritas in hand. And right after the storm surge blew all those boxes out the front doors of the K-Mart in Key West, that parking lot was crawling with folks…who came to pick all those boxes up and put them right back inside that store.

So, no better place to ride out a storm. By which I mean, of course…hurricane party!

Stay calm. Stay frosty. And good luck, Haiti.