August 26th, 2012
10:21 PM ET

Letters to the President #1315: 'On the storm front'

Reporter's Note: Each day, I write a letter to President Obama. Even when it is the weekend… and I’m in Tampa… and I’m surrounded by Republicans… and a hurricane is coming… or at least something like it.

Dear Mr. President,

Landed in Tampa this morning after a severely truncated weekend, amid rampant speculation about the coming storm Isaac and what it will or won’t do to the Republican convention. As of this moment, it appears to be swerving more in the direction of my old friends in Louisiana and Mississippi; or maybe toward the panhandle of Florida and up into Alabama, where my family lives.

My mother, sister, and brother all live far enough inland that usually when a big storm comes their way they just get rough winds and heavy rain. Sometimes trees come down and they lose power, but that’s about it. It is, as you know, a whole different story on the coast, where storm surges can wreck whole neighborhoods.

Still, it is cause for some concern for everyone who is potentially in its path, I am sure. I’ve told you before that I find such storms fascinating and have often gone to considerable effort to be in the path of one, to report on what happens, but that does not diminish my respect for the genuine, awful consequences for those who must live there.

Many years ago I did a documentary on the 20th anniversary of the great Hurricane Camille, and its lasting legacy. As part of the report, we hiked well back into the woods to find a house that was washed there by that storm two decades earlier. It was a tumbling down wreck, sitting crookedly amid the pines and kudzu. There were still tattered pieces of furniture inside, and remnants of curtains hanging in the windows, all long overgrown with mold. Scrub plants grew up through the broken floor, and spiders knitted their webs amid the buzzing of summer bugs in the woods.

I stood there wondering who, if anyone, was inside when the storm struck, and what became of them. Just as every time a storm comes upon our coasts now, I wonder whose home might wind up swept before the waters, and where they might land.

I’m sure you are hoping the very best for all our citizens along the coast, as am I. It doesn’t look like a monster storm at the moment, but then you never know…

Call if you can.