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An update after Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma leaving Cuba and heading for Florida on Saturday, September 9, 2017 at 10:37 a.m. EDT, as photographed by the NOAA GOES East satellite. (Photo by NASA/NOAA GOES Project)

After almost a week of preparations and increasing anxiety, of constant searches for updated models and hours of watching local news meteorologists, Hurricane Irma finally arrived here in Central Florida having killed almost 50 people in the Caribbean and Cuba.

Living through an actual hurricane is, I realized (and tweeted, as power flickered) late Sunday night, similar to being on a plane that’s experiencing a lot of turbulence. It’s probably going to be fine, but periods of calm are interrupted by sudden, violent bursts of energy.

Each one is surprising; some are more terrifying than others; all of them are out of my control.

Will that bump cause the wing to fall off? Will the next gust of wind blow the roof off, or send something smashing into a window?

I am totally fine, as are all my friends and family. Some were scraped by Irma’s destructive eye wall; others lashed by Irma’s bands of rain and tornados. There’s varying degrees of damage and misery in the aftermath.

For some, the damage was worse than others, from branches to a tree that fell onto a neighbors’ roof. Today, so many are without power or even running water and flushable toilets. It’s a long recovery—as it will be in Houston, where I hope we don’t lose focus just because there’s a newer disaster.

I’m grateful to everyone who’s reached out to ask how we are. I’m especially grateful today for those actively helping with recovery, from first responders to out-of-town power crews who come in from across the country to assist in repairing infrastructure.

Thinking back on the last week, I also have a lot of gratitude for our local news. I often mock local news—for sensational teasers and coverage, for the need to stand in front of things, for an overemphasis on isolated crime.

But local news in Florida, at least, is never better than during weather coverage. I relied on Orlando’s WFTV and its weather team, led by Tom Terry and Brian Shields, and also WESH’s meterologists, particularly Amy Sweezey and Tony Mainolfi. Thanks to all of them and their teams (and as CNN’s Brian Stelter noted, there are a lot of people working behind the scenes.)

Through their graphics and their words, they showed—and then told, for those who lost power and listened via radio, like to the station in Southwest Florida profiled below—what was happening, and what to expect.

It’s a reminder that journalism is a public service that provides vital information to the public.  And in the middle of a storm, it truly is vital.

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