First and foremost I would like to offer my services to the Global Hurricane Naming committee.  I completely respect that I do not understand how they choose tropical storm/hurricane names, and for all I know it’s done using some technologically advanced tombola, but with around 6.7 billion people alive today I really don’t think there’s any excuse for choosing ‘Irene’ as a name for either a storm or a hurricane.

Irene…what mental connections does that name conjure up when you hear it?  Bingo and purple rinses?  Eagle eyes glaring behind a twitching net curtain?  A bad tempered, battle scarred moggy called Mr Fluffy?  The smell of boiled cabbage?  Irene is not a respectable name for a hurricane.  Blake, Athena, Conan, Hera, Gwen, Hillary, Noah (I like the ironic twist), Alex, Jordan and Thor are all perfectly acceptable names for windy destroyers.  I just don’t get Irene.  How many Irene’s have had their name up in lights who weren’t connected to either the character of, or actor portraying, an old lady in a soap opera?

Anyway, I digress into my own personal opinion.  Shortly after arriving in Jacksonville I quickly discovered their consuming obsession with the weather, and for very valid reasons given their history with big storms and hurricanes.  Jax is oddly situated high up the North Florida coastline on the East side, and due to its location it is rarely directly hit by a hurricane therefore it would take quite an unusual combination of things to bring a storm to it, which is why they watch the weather channels and online trackers like hawks waiting for the signs of a storm/hurricane not taking its usual path and instead veering towards Jax.

I have to admit in my naivety, now that I was safely in Florida and not due to fly anytime soon, to being a little excited at the thought of potentially weathering a storm, but talking to my Jax friends who have weathered and witnessed some of the big hurricanes over the past 10-years I realised there is nothing glamorous or exciting about the potential for natural devastation happening to you, those you love or to your City and so I respectfully subdued my excitement and caught the worried air of concern that pervaded Jax.

We were initially relieved to see that the storm path would take it, as usually happens, on up the coast and out to the Atlantic to blow itself out, but were then quite horrified to learn that it wasn’t weakening or slowing, but instead looked set to hit a huge chunk of the Eastern Seaboard.  With one of my friends having family living in Carolina, we were concerned about how the hurricanes landfall would affect them.

Irene was due to make land on Saturday 20th, and Jacksonville was expecting to experience some of the tail winds on Friday 19th, so after checking with my friends that it was safe to do so, we all agreed to go out to Jacksonville Beach, which is a long stretch of beautiful coast that always experiences extreme weather when storms and hurricanes skirt Jacksonville.

On Friday evening when everyone had returned from work I was picked up and we drove out to The Beaches, armed with cameras and, in my case, a huge sense of curiosity as to what the sea would look like.

Upon arriving I have to admit at being surprised at the volume of people who were there, standing on the beach, watching the waves crash down.  Due to the huge amount of hype surrounding just how nirvanaesque the surf was going to be there were a lot of surfers who had obviously attended in the hope of making the most of the waves and surges caused by Irene, however by the time we arrived we must have missed the clean surf predicted as the majority of them were grounded as the sea was too churned up and had turned into a bit of a washing machine with what looked like a lot of debris.  We did see a few heads bobbing out offshore, obviously waiting for the perfect wave, but few surfers managed to catch more than a few seconds of enjoyable surfing before getting chewed up and spat out.

It was actually quite eerie seeing all the Jax residents who had the same idea as us and wanted to witness whatever waves and weather Irene was throwing onto their coast, and the beach had an oddly subdued, thoughtful feel to it instead of a celebratory, carnival feel that would usually accompany the gathering of so many people.

Over the past few hours we’ve learned more and more about some of the damage that Irene is doing further up the coast, and although the friends and family of those I know are safe and untouched, I send my condolences to those who didn’t escape its attention.

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