What will Irma do to you?

Hurricane Irma cone
Early morning cone for Hurricane Irma Sept. 6, 2017. (Image: National Hurricane Center)

Those of us in Florida, as well as the Carolinas and Georgia, have our eyes on Hurricane Irma right now. If you’re an indie musician with gigs scheduled for the weekend, I imagine you’re fretting over what this massive storm will decide to do to your home and your wallet.

In the Southeast, we’re no strangers to inclement weather during hurricane season. And that season often comes with surprises such as Hurricane Hugo’s decision years ago to blow its way into upstate South Carolina. Last year, in Florida, as we approached the end of the hurricane calendar, along came Matthew.

Irma will definitely play havoc with gigs. Here in North Florida, it looks like Friday will be pretty nice, with wet weather and storms arriving on Saturday.

If you have gigs booked, you are unfortunately in limbo until day-of.

As an aside, if you have a record of the commitment from the venue, save a copy or document it and at least try to get some relief on taxes since it is a real financial loss if you report business revenue. Most festivals and larger organizations will often pay a musician if weather causes the event to be canceled, so be sure to ask as a just-in-case.

Otherwise, now’s the time to get ready and make sure your equipment and other necessities are protected. I don’t have to tell you how important that is.

I read on social media recently that a great place to keep things dry is the dishwasher. I’ve never tried that, but it makes sense if you think about it. I also read a tip suggesting you take photos of your valuables, in case you have to file an insurance claim.

Early on as my daughters began to do music, I shoved a box of large green garbage bags into their supplies. Those have come in handy when transporting equipment in the rain.

The only option you have as we head into the weekend is to maintain communications with the venue you’re booked at and hold off on a decision as long as possible. I recall my daughters being booked for a gig one time as severe weather threatened. So the venue called the event. By that evening, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful evening. Such is the nature of being hostage to Mother Nature.

Major weather events can have a lasting impact. After surviving Hurricane Hugo when I was three weeks from delivering our second child, I wrote a poem about the experience. It’s a short piece titled, “For Hugo.” During a poetry reading promoting my first full collection, I read that poem. I thought it was clear I was talking about a hurricane rather than a person.

I still remember a sweet-mannered woman walking up to me, touching my arm tenderly, saying, “You must have loved him very much.”

I laughed about that, but on the way home, I realized that the destructive storm actually did take on a personality that was almost human. So many were affected by Hugo, he morphed into the weather bogeyman that becomes the stuff of tales handed down to children or recounted at gatherings, or in columns like this one.

If you do lose a gig, bear in mind it’s just one of many you will do. Once a storm passes, businesses often see a bump because people are glad they’re unharmed and they’re ready to celebrate. If you sustain a loss, it doesn’t hurt to remind your audience, if you’re playing a venue where you can accept tips, that you’re trying to recoup your loss.

One absolute I have noticed about weather catastrophes. They do bring out the worst in some people, but they also bring out the best in most.

Stay safe, keep up with alerts, and take heart. If you have to travel, bear in mind traffic may be heavier as people leave South Florida, and that traffic will definitely include some very distracted drivers.

As my grandmother used to tell me, “This too shall pass.”

The National Hurricane Center provides updated maps and discussions about the storm. It’s a good site to bookmark.

(Band Mom/9.6.17)

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