Hurricanes are notoriously fickle, and Alex was no exception. For several days he threatened to come busting up the Valley. His eminent arrival prompted hurried emergency plans. Seven hundred guardsmen set up facilities at UTPA. Many of us picked up our five sand bags per household. And bottled water disappeared off the grocery store shelves.
Alex turned out to be a blowhard, at least as far as the Valley was concerned. Most of us watched the Weather Channel, wondering why we bothered filling our bathtubs with water. Those guardsmen most likely spent Wednesday night playing gin rummy. And most of us now have enough water, in bottles and in our tubs, to last us well into the school year. Of course, Ciudad Victoria wasn’t as fortunate. They received the full brunt of Alex.
A few old hands were surprisingly complacent about Alex’s impending visit. “He’s no Beulah. Or even a Dolly.” And that smugness is precisely the attitude we don’t need. Hurricanes are the weather equivalent of the boy who cried wolf. Alex insisted he was coming straight for us—and then changed his mind. When the next one comes our way, instead of clearing the shelves of bottled water, I’m worried that we’ll decide hurricane night might be a good time to hit that restaurant on the Island we keep hearing about.
I was telling my Uncle Bod about our problem. “We need a way to keep people afraid when a hurricane is on its way.” Bod suggested we should go back to naming hurricanes after women. Attach a woman’s name to a hurricane and you’ve got something people can really build up some fear about.
“That would be sexist,” I confidently tell him, as though that should put an end to such nonsense.
“Maybe back when feminists were burning their bras and insisting they should be treated just like men,” he insisted. “Now, they think their better. They want to be in the army, not just as nurses, but in combat zones. What better way to show how lean and mean you are than have hurricane named after you? I figure anyone who names their little girl Katrina is telling the world you better watch out for this one.”
While I wanted to argue with him, I wasn’t quite sure how. For the first time in my memory, he actually made some sort of sense. I know. We’re all PC now days. And that means we need to alternate between the boys and girls sections when thumbing through “What to Name Your Baby.”
It may just be possible that we substituted rational caution for gut-wrenching fear when we started naming hurricanes Bob or Larry. Nothing wrong with those names, mind you. Some of my best friends are named Bob. And I used to know a redneck named Larry Bob. But if your goal is to inspire the kind of primal fear that gets everyone running back to the cave, you might as well name the hurricane after a cocker spaniel.
One possibility: we could keep the boy/girl thing, but add a twist. For the boy’s names, let’s use names from horror films. Hurricane Hannibal has a ring it. I’d run straight to the shelter if I heard Hurricane Leatherface was heading our way.
Unfortunately for my scheme, several of the scariest horror film villains have rather prosaic names: Jason, Freddy, Michael, Norman. Showing their movies over and over again, something cable already does at Halloween, should clue people in that something frightening is on the way.
Admittedly, there are a few horror film villains whose names in and of themselves don’t inspire fear—Pennywise or Chucky, for instance. I’m not sure anyone but a horror film aficionado would know they were supposed to be frightened by Hurricane Candyman.
When we need a female name, I think we might have to come up with something more creative. While there are female horror film villains, going to real life infamous women might just be a more effective way of inspiring fear. Wouldn’t you be worried if you found out that Hurricane Lindsay was out of rehab and headed this way? Hurricane Ivana certainly has a higher fear factor than Hurricane Donald.
I asked Uncle Bod for a full list of possibilities, but all he could come up with were his two ex-wives and his mother-in-law. He told me he’d pop off a letter to USGS. So don’t be surprised if the first hurricane of the season next year is named Hurricane Kate Plus Eight.