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A Texan's guide to hurricanes for freaked out New Yorkers: Irene's a bitch that can be handled

News_Hurricane Irene
Hurricane Irene as it moves over the Bahamas Courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Seeing East Coasters trying to deal with a hurricane is like watching Texans "handle" an ice storm. Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group
News_Snow_Dec. 2009_little snowman
Southerners freak out over a little snow, New Yorkers freak at a hurricane. Photo by AWill/Flickr
Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group
News_Hurricane Irene
News_Snow_Dec. 2009_little snowman

As Hurricane Irene approaches the East Coast as a Category 2 storm — with the potential of graduating to a Category 3 — the organized low-pressure system is expected to impact nearly 70 million Americans from North Carolina to New England. 

New York, Long Island and New Jersey will feel her wrath by Sunday afternoon, changing serene waters into an angry ocean. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned everyone of Irene's impending danger. Nursing homes and senior centers in low-lying areas are being evacuated in New York. Ocean City, Md., is under mandatory evacuation along with Cape May, N.J. and parts of Virginia.

 Hurricanes are to the Yankees what snow storms are to genteel Southerners: We lose our cool and run around aimlessly like headless chickens pretending the world is coming to its biblical end. 

Irene lost some umph after battering the Bahamas, but by Friday morning she was drinking some Red Bull and regaining vigor.

The East Coast isn't a complete stranger to these weather conditions. In 1985, Hurricane Gloria left 700,000 without power — some for up to 11 days — and caused $900 million in damage. Hurricanes Floyd in 1999 and Bertha in 1996 flooded the New York Area. But that doesn't mean people remember and learn from history. 

Hurricanes are to the Yankees what snow storms are to genteel Southerners: We lose our cool and run around aimlessly like headless chickens pretending the world is coming to its biblical end. Religious extremists jump on that band wagon — citing apocalyptic films like The Seventh Sign and The Day After Tomorrow — and claim end-of-the world prophecies.

It all has me fondly reminiscing on the Houston flurries of December 2009 and the freak Christmas Eve snowstorm of 2004 —when the city came to a complete halt due to our inadequacies in dealing with a little chilly weather.

As someone who learned to drive in the core of a harsh Canadian winter, the road rules are simple. Don't speed. Don't follow too closely, give yourself plenty of stopping distance, break gently and do not speed over black ice. But alas, I discovered that what I thought were simple, elementary techniques were indeed as nonsensical to the Houston driving community as Obama's political rhetoric is to a Republican. 

In rain, I learned to be cautious of intersections where higher levels of water collect. Avoid standing liquid as its depth can be very deceiving. Remember, if 18-wheelers are no match for an aggressive and pissed off flash flood, your Smart Car, Prius or chic Fiat 500 is like a mosquito being slapped by a swatter.

As much as some believe the opposite, hurricanes are not just about driving on the rain.

Listen Up

If a Canadian turned southern gent-ish can give our friends to the north a little advice, is to not try to be tough, a hero — which in turn makes you a complete idiot. Though here in the warm South we are well versed in hurricane preparedness, there is usually a handful of non-believers that think their inner strength and prayers — not unlike Rick Perry's —are stronger than 110 mph winds.

Sure, you may feel like you are manning up by protecting and holding down the fort, but when you appear on television being rescued via lifeline — putting others lives and safety at risk — you become a complete douche.

Those of us watching on TV are bewildered by those who make the decision to stick around, try to catch some waves, or be the cool dude that gets the storm on video. 

Don't be that person. If you are told to evacuate, do so. If you don't have a way to get out, ask for help. This is not the time to feel like you are an imposition. 

If you are in an evacuation zone, get out. If you need supplies, stock up on sand bags, batteries, water bottles and nonperishable foods. 

Get help. Get out and be safe. Staying behind means gambling with your life. On that note, I agree with the president.

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