Pinch of Salt Graphic (English)

I've felt helpless before, but I don't remember ever feeling quite this helpless.

I suspect that Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma have a lot of people feeling that way. Talk about the forces of nature reminding humankind just how small we really are in the scheme of things.

And, I hasten to add, I haven't lost anything, much less the homes so many Houston-ites are without, or the basic services lost to the Caribbean islands and Key West. I don't pretend to know what that's like. 

Still, as Irma began bearing down on Florida, I was more nervous than I can remember in past hurricanes.

That's because Maria's sister moved to Florida when she and her husband retired from the Navy. They are in Trinity, a little town between Tampa and Orlando.

And Maria is down there visiting.

When Irma started her approach, there wasn't much concern. Trinity is a lot closer to the Gulf Coast than the eastern seaboard, and all the experts said it would be traveling up the coast, with Miami as the center point.

But then, after devastating the Caribbean, Irma turned west. She still managed to pound the Florida Keys, but now it was the Gulf Coast in danger.

And Tampa was the new target.

 Trinity is an hour or so from Tampa, so there was no concern about storm surge there. But remember, we'd just watched what rain and wind can do with Hurricane Harvey. Some maps showed Trinity in the center of the cone — weather speak for a hurricane's path.

All I could do was watch the news and go to different weather and news sites on the internet. I was very impressed with the Orlando Sentinel, by the way. Good paper.

Maria helped move all the patio furniture to the garage, and brother-in-law Jim closed all those fancy hurricane shutters that came with the new house. I called. I texted. Pretty soon, it became clear I was being a nuisance, so I stopped. They hunkered down for the big night Sunday.

I felt helpless.

Maybe you know the rest of the story. Irma decided to change course again, and pretty much skipped the Tampa area. Yes, there was rain and wind, but no carnage.

When the Trinity crew woke up Monday morning, they discovered a little water where the front door had leaked. Maria's sister, Dorothy, found a single roof shingle in the yard — it still hasn't been determined where it came from.

They're drying out as a write. By the end of the week, they'll be back in full vacation mode.

I say again, I am well aware that hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by these two hurricanes, and thousands more have dropped everything to go down and help with the recovery. My little episode can't hold a candle to what they experienced, and are experiencing.

I'll do what I can to help — promote fundraisers, try to raise awareness, etc. And I'll pray for the victims.

But I can't get away from the fact that this one was personal. And I felt helpless.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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