Here Are Some Dumb Florida Hurricane Stories to Relieve Stress Before Dorian Hits

From killer bees to pythons, hurricanes have a way of unleashing dumb stuff in Miami.
From killer bees to pythons, hurricanes have a way of unleashing dumb stuff in Miami. Photo by Jo Manning
Hurricanes: They suck! You're out of power for days or weeks, all the food in your fridge spoils, maybe your house or boat or houseboat gets destroyed and you have to move, and you probably have no Wi-Fi in the meantime. Generally speaking, it's also unclear whether the anticipation or the aftermath is more stressful: Sometimes, like during Hurricane Andrew, everything gets steamrolled and you have to revamp your life. In other cases, such as when Hurricane Matthew barely missed Miami in 2016, everyone gets all worked up over what winds up being nothing.

Feeling some stress about whether Hurricane Dorian may or may not make landfall in Miami? Here's a list of some very silly South Florida hurricane tales from the past that might at least add some levity to what we are praying won't be another natural disaster. And as you're about to find out, be sure to avoid any and all post-hurricane bees.

1. Hurricane Irene unleashed a trove of bees that immediately attacked some schoolchildren:
Thirty-eight kids at a Catholic school in Cocoa Beach appear to be the biggest Florida victims of Hurricane Irene. Strong winds caused by Irene swept through the sleepy beach town yesterday, knocking over a hive of possibly "Africanized" bees, who then attacked the schoolchildren.

At about 12:45 p.m. yesterday, Irene's winds knocked over the beehive on the campus of Our Saviour Catholic School and all hell broke loose.

Thirty-eight students were stung, and one student was stung six different times. Most of the children were six or seven years old. The bees pursued the children even as they tried to take refuge in the cafeteria.

"Some of the students still had bees in their clothing when they came inside," G.C. Wine, interim chief of the Cocoa Beach Fire Department, told Florida Today. "They came out of the hive and attacked (the firefighters) ... It's a very aggressive hive."

Several parents showed up early to collect their children. Authorities were watching to make sure that none of the victims showed signs of an allergic reaction.

The bees showed behavior that indicates they may be "Africanized" honey bees, but that's yet to be confirmed.

2. Florida residents had to be warned to not shoot their guns directly at Hurricane Irma. From Time:
Florida authorities are advising people against firing weapons at Hurricane Irma following a Facebook event titled “Shoot At Hurricane Irma” that garnered interest from over 45,000 accounts.

“To clarify, DO NOT shoot weapons at Irma,” the Twitter account of the Pasco County Sheriff’s office tweeted on Saturday night, just hours before the eye of the storm passed over the Florida Keys. “You won’t make it turn around & it will have very dangerous side effects.” Bullets fired into a storm system like a hurricane can have unpredictable and potentially dangerous trajectories.

Florida gun owners encouraged to 'shoot the storm' and fire their guns at Hurricane Irma
A Florida man who suggested shooting guns at Hurricane Irma out of "stress and boredom" has found that his idea has captured peoples' imaginations - with over 46,000 signing up to join in. Hurricane...

Ryon Edwards, one of the host of the events, wrote in a Facebook message to TIME that the event was started as a joke that took on a life of its own. “I am amazed that anyone could see it as anything else than a joke,” he said.

But the response indicates Floridians’ heightened anxiety as the force of Hurricane Irma weighs down on the Sunshine State. Irma made landfall Sunday morning in the Florida Keys, and is expected to move towards the central and northwestern parts of the state Sunday and Monday.

3. Hurricane Andrew released invasive pythons into the Everglades, thus permanently screwing up the state's already dumb ecosystem:
The Burmese python has become the national poster child for the [invasive species] problem. The snakes were first spotted in the wild as early as the 1980s, but many observers believe the current crop haunting the Everglades was tossed into the area during Hurricane Andrew. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer Pat Reynolds was on the wildlife beat in 1992 when the Category 5 storm tore through South Florida, killing ten people and destroying 63,000 homes. After the hurricane, Reynolds went to check on an animal importer in the area who was known for his faulty cages.

Inside a greenhouse near Homestead General Airport, the two owners had been using shelves meant for growing orchids to store their animals, including pricey pythons.

"They put all of their reptiles on there in these Dixie cup things," says Reynolds, who retired in 2011. "There were little baby pythons — real colorful when they're that young — and they could stuff 'em in a little container and put the top on it."

When the storm whipped through, off went the snakes.

"Andrew comes, blew that place apart. All of those containers just flew out like Frisbees," Reynolds says. "The direction of the wind was into Everglades National Park — the park boundaries were less than a half-mile from there. So all these animals blew in there. That's where the pythons came from."

4. Hurricane Sandy swept a bunch of fish and crabs into Broward County restaurants:

Sandy left mixed effects on Broward and Palm Beach Counties. Though we did not get the Frankenstorm that hit New York City, Sandy did not completely spare all of Florida. Some restaurants saw major flooding and missed out on business for a day or three. One oceanfront restaurant had fish and crabs washing up on the door. And at least one beachfront eatery got extra business, thanks to people eager to come look at the storm.

As the tide from the near-full moon rose and fell over the weekend, water gushed in and filled the parking lot at legendary Lake Worth beachfront diner John's G's before flowing out again. Nearby, the Ritz-Carlton also suffered some flooding that eroded the sand and damaged or swept away the landscaping. Down the street, a permanent lifeguard stand in Lantana was completely pulled away in a wave.

"It was crazy. I've never seen anything like that," says John G's co-owner, Wendy Yarbrough. "I thought a water main had broken, the water came in so fast."
Yarbrough says the restaurant actually benefited from Sandy. Because the storm wasn't that dangerous, curious people came in droves to the shoreline to see the weather and waves for themselves. So instead of being empty, John G patrons had to wait for a table.

"We were so busy! People were wading through the water from the Ritz-Carlton. We don't take reservations so we just lined them up and served them as fast as we could."

Across the way at beachfront Dune Deck Cafe, the situation was a little more dire. The water wasn't just in the parking lot. The ocean swelled up into the restaurant and brought the sea life with it.

"We cleaned up a lot of sand we had fish and crabs because the ocean came in," says chef John Calomiris. "We cleaned up a lot of sand, and thank god we had no structural  damage - the lifeguard stand disappeared."

5.  Hurricane Andrew magically helped a local strip club pay off its debts:

By Saturday afternoon, South Dixie Highway was a tunnel of boarded-up buildings and deserted sidewalks. Starbucks was closed. Wells Fargo was closed. Trader Joe's was closed. But one OPEN sign flapped in the warm breeze as the outer bands of Hurricane Irma rolled in: Rollo's Liquors and its attached strip club, Bare Necessity, was up and running.

As one customer after another swung open the front door, owner Carman Rollo leaned against the counter eating a couple of hot dogs he'd dressed with ketchup and mustard. Washing down his lunch with a swig of A&W, he says he takes a special kind of pride in being the only place open for miles.

"We always have the claim to fame," he says with a laugh. "We're the only nuts out here."

Rollo's son tends the register as he tells the colorful history of the establishment, which has been in the family since 1974. After taking over the business from their father, Rollo and his two brothers rebranded the rowdy rock 'n' roll dive near Kendall in the summer of '91. With a $100,000 loan from their dad, the boys scrubbed the place clean, demoed the grungy bathrooms, and opened back up as a strip joint.

They lost their prized bartender "Sheila Tequila," who quit in protest, but overall, the bet paid off. Rollo expected it would be years before he and his brothers could pay back the loan, but when Hurricane Andrew flattened South Dade the next year, storm-scarred locals and out-of-state contractors sought comfort in familiar vices.

"We paid off our debt that week," he remembers. "We named it Saint Andrew — there were so many people in here."

The clientele was mostly "good ol' boys from Alabama and Georgia" who came down to make money repairing damaged homes.

"We called it the roofers from hell," Rollo says. "They worked hard and they wanted to play hard."
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.