Christie: Thankful Hurricane Irma wasn’t worse, but we can’t dodge bullets forever

Police turn around traffic attempting to cross the bridge on Lake Avenue after the passing of hurricane Irma in Lake Worth. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

We, meaning Palm Beach County, “were damn lucky.”

Basically, that was the assessment in my editorial following Hurricane Irma last year. The massive storm looked like it was going to swallow the entire state as it approached us from the south after beating the snot out of Puerto Rico and Cuba in the Caribbean.

That’s not to say Irma didn’t leave a mark here, of course. Power and cellular service outages, tens of thousands of folks in shelters, tons of debris and hundreds of non-functioning traffic lights made life miserable for a lot of us for a while. Enough so, as the Post’s Kimberly Miller recounts today, that many residents still “believe they survived much worse during the September tempest, and aren’t keen to hear otherwise.”

RELATED: Hurricane Season 2018: Think you survived a Cat 4 here? Not even close

Well, we need to listen up and get real. Not to belittle anyone’s feeling of suffering, but we should be thankful we didn’t get Irma’s worst. Our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico can’t say that.

And as the 2018 Atlantic storm season kicks off today, we need to take whatever lessons learned from our Hurricane Irma “test run” and apply it to this year.

Because we can’t dodge bullets forever.

So following is my Sept. 13, 2017 editorial in full… Thanks for listening, and be prepared.

Editorial: Hurricane Irma spared Palm Beach County its worst

We were lucky, Palm Beach County.

Hurricane Irma, after taunting us for days with its record-breaking size and power, spared us its worst.

It may not seem that way to some. Not if you’re one of the roughly 300,000 residents still without power. Not if you’re one of the thousands of residents of Delray Beach and unincorporated county who still can’t flush their toilets. And not if you’re the parent of one of the School District’s 193,000 students who won’t return to school until Monday — at the earliest.

But we were.

You see, dozens of people here weren’t left dead in Irma’s wake as in the Caribbean. A quarter of our homes here weren’t made uninhabitable as they were in the Florida Keys. There was no 10- or 15-foot storm surge here as was seen in tiny Goodland on Marco Island.

A skateboarder takes advantage of a sidewalk damaged by uprooted trees along South Olive Avenue just north of Southern Boulevard in West Palm Beach after Hurricane Irma. The road was blocked in both directions. (Meghan McCarthy / The Palm Beach Post)

We are instead left with some trees down, spot flooding, long gas station lines and a chance to show some gratitude.

There are, of course, those who, ready to hurl the asinine “fake news” moniker, complaining that the media over-hyped the storm. Really? Yes, we should be skeptical of hype — especially from dubious sources. But when the National Weather Service says the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean is headed in your direction, the prudent thing is to shutter the house, grab the kids and get the hell out of the way.

No less than Gov. Rick Scott, himself no fan of the media, wasted no time in taking this monster of a storm seriously and pleading with us daily to do the same.

As The Post’s Kimberly Miller reported, “Mother Nature stepped in to tweak Irma’s plan” to deliver a worst-case scenario for our county.

“By the grace of Cuba’s northern coast, which was abraded by Irma before the strong Cat 4 hurricane reached the Florida Straits, and a tongue of dry air sucked into its massive, state-swallowing wind field, the storm weakened slightly and couldn’t regain strength before making its first landfall Sunday morning at Cudjoe Key,” Miller wrote.

And according to Jonathan Erdman, a senior digital meteorologist at Weather.com: “There are just so many little subtle things that can make all the difference. After it hit the Keys, it took a more due north path instead of north-northwest and that drove the eye wall ashore near Marco Island, which started weakening it.”

Weakened, but not inconsequential. In its wake, Irma left billions of dollars in damage and thousands of people across the Florida Peninsula who could use a hand — in shelters, in nursing homes, and yes, even next door.

Yes, the vast majority of us were damn lucky.

As good a time as any to show some gratitude, and volunteer to help those that weren’t.

Hurricane Irma: This storm is really testing Floridians’ patience

Cars back up into Belvedere Road and Parker Avenue as drivers line up for gas at the Citgo Station in West Palm Beach Wednesday morning. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

“What’s up, Irma?”

That’s the question that most — nay, every — Palm Beach County resident must be asking after awakening to news that the “monster” tropical storm is now expected to side-step to the West coast.

For six days, we’ve been buying every drop of bottled water in sight.

For six days, we’ve waited in hours-long, miles-long lines to pay 50 cents more per gallon for gasoline. (And mind you, I’ve been known to skip stations for a two-cent difference.)

For six days, we’ve been putting up metal and plywood shutters, and moving all kinds of grimy outdoor items into our already crowded garages. (Yep; sorry Allstate, the cars are on their own.)

For six days, we’ve rightly heeded the pleas of our governor and local emergency officials, and the Post’s Kimberly Miller to evacuate flood-prone areas. (In fact, we now know that a massive, potentially “catastrophic” storm like you will cause major evacuation problems on our roadways.)

RELATED LINK: Post coverage of Hurricane Irma; updates

Those of us who’ve decided to shelter-in-place are hunkered down. We’re ready for you, Irma. But you’re really testing our patience here.

You were supposed to begin knocking on our door today, but no. You’ve decided — with a wink and nod — to make us wait another day.

That’s another day of finding games and other entertainment to keep the kids occupied. By the way, what do you do when they’ve reached the highest level of Destiny 2, Resident Evil or Madden ’18? Will a game of Monopoly really be enough?

The kids are literally asking, “Is it here yet? Is it here yet?… ”

“No! … She’ll be here to tomorrow!”

That’s another day of trying to eat all of the perishable food in the refrigerator so that those ribs we barbecued over the Labor Day weekend don’t eventually go bad. And that, of course, will leave us with only high-calorie snacks. (You are really bad for diets, Irma.)

It goes without saying, but that’s also another day of exploring the liquor cabinet to … ahem, “catalogue” all of the rums we’ve collected over the years. (It is likely the collection will have to be replenished.)

DORAL, Fla. — Florida Gov. Rick Scott gives an update to the media regarding Hurricane Irma. It was still too early to know where the direct impact of the hurricane would take place but the state of Florida was in the area of possible landfall. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

We’ve been teased before, of course.

Just last year, Irma’s little brother Matthew laid waste to Haiti as a Category 5, and promised a direct hit on Palm Beach County, leading to warnings from Gov. Rick Scott: “This storm will kill you!”

Hurricane Matthew made landfall to the north of us as a Category 1. More folks were probably injured taking down shutters than from the storm’s wind and rain.

But we know better than to ignore the warnings, no matter what.

There is still a great deal of danger from hurricane-, and even tropical storm-force winds likely hitting Palm Beach County.

RELATED LINK: PBC officials: Don’t be lulled into complacency by Irma’s western turn

So we pay close attention to the storm updates. We tune in to the governor’s regular briefings as he traverses the state coordinating with local officials, and making sure that Floridians don’t get complacent.

We won’t.

We’re waiting, Irma. But you’re testing our patience.

Christie: Is that panther ‘photo bombing’ that python hunter?

Dusty “Wildman” Crum caught this 16-foot-10-inch Burmese python in the South Florida Water Management District’s experimental python hunt. The snake had 73 eggs. (Photo courtesy, South Florida Water Management District)

C’mon, admit it… You did a double-take didn’t you?

That display photo of python hunter Dusty “Wildman” Crum with a 10-foot-10-inch snake draped around his neck on the Post’s Sunday Local front apparently had a lot of folks squinting, or running for their reading glasses.

Moreover, several of them decided to write letters to the editor about the eyebrow-raising pic and ask questions.

Like this short-and-sweet one from Lisa Stewart of Lake Worth:

“Did anyone notice a panther walking past the man who was posing with a dead python?”

Well, yes we did.

And others wondered why the curious-looking panther that appears to be casually strolling behind Crum wasn’t even mentioned in either the photo caption or the story.

What happened to the panther, they wanted to know.

The simple answer is that it’s not a real panther.

That’s right. According to the South Florida Water Management District, the photo of Crum — who participated in the SFWMD’s experimental python hunt — was taken in front of a display at an airboat vendor’s establishment on Tamiami Trail.

By the way, the program, which pays hunters minimum wage plus bonuses, is expected to get a green light to continue at this week’s SFWMD board meeting.

“It’s been a great success,” said Pete Antonacci, executive director of the South Florida Water Management District. “You don’t want to lose momentum when something good is happening.”

Agreed. But seriously, where can we find that cool mural?