- In 2001, I decided to relocate to Florida. I needed to be close to my son but to also escape the frigid weather of the northeastern US.
- First came a few scares of hurricanes and tornados.
- A tornado warning would force you to hide in a closet or a depression.
- Warning sometimes came too late, unlike those of hurricanes which are predictable and provides evacuees with ample time to run and hide on safer ground.
The memoirs of my stay in the United States would be incomplete without an account of the hurricane and tornado scares I faced during my four-year stay in Pensacola, Florida.
I arrived in Albany, New York in August 1996. I did not particularly like my stay there because of the frigid weather.
TEMPERATURES BELOW ZERO
During winter, temperatures would sometimes fall to below zero degrees Fahrenheit. Wearing double trousers, several layers of shirts, double socks, groves, ear plugs, thermal pants, t-shirts, shirts, heavy coats, pullovers, sweaters, and other clothing was not my cup of tea.
I got homesick every time winter commenced and snow fell and turned into huge mountains of ice. It was common for one to fall on the ice and almost impossible to drive a car sometimes.
Initially, I rode on the city buses and the walk to wait at the bus stop was not funny. One time, I was with my housemate, Irungu, holding pizza but had to drop the box of pizza on the ground after my hands got frozen and it was almost impossible to hold anything. It was then minus 23 degrees Fahrenheit!
Albany sits on the Catskill Mountains and the elevations make her very cold most times with snow and ice staying on the ground from October to March. It starts to get cold in September and most cases, you can only hope to enjoy the weather from May.
SUMMERS NOT FUN
Summers were not fun too. The humidity, and the fact that we lived in a home where air conditioning was alien made things worse and sometimes we wished it was winter.
At least all homes have heaters but air conditioners seem like luxury in most places especially for those whose budget could not cater for them.
The heat would force us to spend time in libraries or malls during the day. Kenyans will always smile during autumn and spring when we enjoy the Nairobi type of weather.
Americans in general enjoy the weather changes but definitely seem to like seeing snow fall. A remark by one elderly lady who seemed to curse lack of snow during Christmas (they prefer a white Christmas) forced me respond that we Africans prefer a black Christmas!
RELOCATED TO FLORIDA
In 2001, I decided to relocate to Florida. I needed to be close to my son but to also escape the frigid weather of the northeastern US. I enjoyed my stay in Florida for only a few years.
First came a few scares of hurricanes and tornados. Cases of tornados lifting cows and huge objects into the air scared us. A tornado warning would force you to hide in a closet or a depression.
Warning sometimes came too late, unlike those of hurricanes which are predictable and provides evacuees with ample time to run and hide on safer ground.
You only needed to visit a place where a tornado had touched down. Trees, houses and any rising objects are flattened in seconds, some moved from one area to another.
On September 2, 2004, Hurricane Ivan hit what is known as the Florida Panhandle (named so because the area looks like a handle of a pan, with that part being the larger part of the state).
Pensacola is located in the Panhandle and Northwest Florida, along the Gulf of Mexico. It is normally hot in summer but the Gulf Breeze makes the place cooler, unlike Miami and other places in southern Florida.
Winters, autumns and springs are beautiful and no one will complain of the weather during those periods.
From June to November each year, those living in Florida undergo emergency protocol related to hurricane and tornado preparations. None really bothered us from the time I arrived in 2001 to September 2004.
Then Hurricane Ivan hit Pensacola and other areas, leaving massive destruction.
For about a month, we stayed indoors, since electric wires and debris lay all over. The only reported positive outcome that time was the increase of population.
It was reported that many couples spent that time indoors, so a baby boom was reported a year after, thanks to Hurricane Ivan.
The worst mistake I ever made in my life was to listen to a graduate student friend attending a nearby Pensacola Christian College.