Do You See a Squall in your Crystal Ball?

Six weeks into hurricane season, and barely a sprinkle. Forget the so-called weather experts, it's time for some real forecasting.

I know this because I sought information from sources more reliable than the media. I consulted the people who know about these things, whose business it is to describe the future before it happens.

One thing I found out through my pursuit of predictions was that we all should have known Andrew was coming -- Norcross's eleventh-hour red-flag-waving was helpful and entertaining, but we had weeks, months even, to prepare for a major 'cane making landfall in our stuck-out neck of the woods. The Old Farmer's Almanac publishes complete weather forecasts for sixteen regions. The man who writes these, Dr. Richard Head, predicted last year that a hurricane would hit South Florida at the end of August. This fact was bandied about, and noted in the pages of New Times, just after Andrew. Dr. Head was a week off, but that's trifling. Nobody paid any attention to him, and that's changed. (In vague terms not pinpointing the tip of the peninsula but addressing Florida in general, this year's almanac predicts a tropical storm in late August, a possible "onshore" hurricane in the second week of September, and a hurricane in mid-October. Run for your freakin' lives!)

All copies of the 1993 Old Farmer's Almanac have been snapped up by anxious South Floridians -- there are block-long lines of people outside every Waldenbooks and B. Dalton waiting to reserve a copy should one become available before we're all either washed into the sea or dead from a heart attack because we were fretting about whether we could afford a new set of Wrol-Up brand shutters.

The almanac route was obvious. Another must was the writings of sixteenth-century prognosticator, poet, philosopher, and Beanee-Weenee-eater M. Michel de Nostradamus. "The great city full of people will be shattered," Nostradamus foresaw. "Darkness and trouble in the air on sky and land." Unfortunately, it turns out he was talking about an earthquake.

In any case, such an olden-days gazer is of only passing interest. I'd rather wager my insurance-settlement money on the visions of current seers such as Alex. "I am not a 'fortune teller'," the professional psychic implores. "There's a big difference. I get revelations." (Astute readers will no doubt note the preponderance of single names. Far from being a journalistic device, this is life in the realm of the psychically blessed. Like certain pop stars, they tend to not go by their full names.) Alex, of Greek heritage and reared in New York City, knows that South Florida will face some "strong winds" in the coming months, but assures there will be "no hurricane."

"It's going to be scary because of last year," he predicts. "People will fear, but that's only common sense. We will have winds and storms, but not nearly half of what we had last year. Strange things have happened since I was ten," he adds, affirming his status as a real expert. "Then at eleven I started knowing what was going to become. Ever since I was twelve, I've been doing this. If clients want to know something, they have to bring an object, like a comb or pencil. That triggers it. Natural causes is how I got the hurricane idea." With his warm intonation and clear articulations, Alex has definitely made me feel better. But now I've got him going. "What really bothers me is that there are fake psychics," he says earnestly. "They're charging people $2.95 on these 1-900 lines. They're messing with people's minds and I don't think that's fair."

Not all seers were as helpful and friendly as Alex. Take Mrs. Green, for instance, whose name I found in the "Classified" pages of a local news-and-arts weekly. "I'm very busy," Mrs. Green says breathlessly. "I don't have time to give you anything on this, I'm just too busy. I would have to concentrate."

Sorry, Mrs. Green, but didn't you know I'd be calling?
And who knows what fate befell Faya? After finding her ad in the Yellow Pages, I drove to South Dade in search of this "world reknown [sic] psychic reader and advisor." (In fact I visited the area several times to remind myself to not make fun of the victims of the Big One.) Faya's spiritual spread at 21301 S. Dixie Highway, deep in Andrew territory, is for sale. What's left of it, anyway. Faya herself could not be located. My guess is she got a "revelation" and moved to Montana in early August of '92.

I did talk with Mrs. Grace, a palmist/reader/advisor. "I don't feel we'll get anything anywhere near as big as Andrew," she promises. "If we do get one, it won't come near to Andrew. I do see something forthcoming, but nothing big like Andrew. I don't feel anything major. We will have hurricanes. We will get some eventually. It doesn't take a reader to tell you that." I realize Mrs. Grace is a bit jaded, put off by years of hearing naysayers and pooh-poohers who, in their own stupidity, have failed to consult useful sources as to the possibilities of serious storm damage. "Even if you warn people," she offers, "they think it's a hoax, that it can't happen to them. So they would rather wait and take their chances than listen to us. People don't listen."

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