That's what apparently protected us Thursday night. On Thursday morning, the forecast track for then-Tropical Storm Katrina was right over the top of us. Then, after she hit Fort Lauderdale, the storm tracked southwest instead, through Monroe County and the Everglades, and exited in Florida Bay after just seven hours overland. Instead of getting 50 mile per hour winds and several inches of rain, we got 20 mile per hour winds and almost no rain at all, since almost all of the rain was in the southern half of the storm. For us, Katrina was a non-event, except for all of the schoolkids and others who got Friday off.
It was strange, because normally hurricanes move west and north. They don't normally take that kind of a southwesterly turn. As the hurricane forecasters noted, if they had predicted it to happen, they would have been wrong 100 times and right once. Well, this was the once, and those of us in Southwest Florida are grateful for our good fortune. I went into the break room a couple of times on Thursday night and looked at the satellite imagery as the eye of the storm crossed Monroe County, which is mostly uninhabited swampland. The storm paralleled Alligator Alley (I-75 running east-west between Naples and Miami), and all of the rain was falling south of I-75.
Since the storm was only over land for about seven hours, and much of that time was over the warm, swampy Everglades, it didn't weaken much. Once it was back out over the water, I knew that it would strengthen again rapidly. Our only concern was that it might make some kind of crazy hook and come back and nail us, but that didn't happen. My prediction at work on Thursday night was that it would miss us completely, continue west and then turn north and whack the Florida panhandle as a Category 3 or 4 storm. I knew that the gulf water was about 90 degrees, and that would be like tossing a match into a puddle of gasoline in terms of how the storm would strengthen. It looks like my prediction was off only on how far west the strike would be. It does not look good for the people of New Orleans and southeastern Louisiana. This may be the disastrous hurricane that they've always feared would happen. And given how important that area is to our gasoline supply, prepare for the price at the pump to go up even more, very soon.