Dazed survivors carrying everything that’s left of their earthly possessions in plastic garbage bags or bed sheets slung over their shoulders.
The images of the devastation in our neighboring states and across other parts of the South are hard to shake.
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The death toll of nearly 300 -- more than 200 in Alabama alone -- is distressing.
It’s like a war zone.
If that doesn’t give you pause, nothing will.
It also raises this troubling question:
Is that us next?
Hurricane season begins one month from today.
Six months of dread lies ahead.
Forecasts are for 16 named storms, nine of them hurricanes with five major -- category 3 or higher -- packing winds of at least 111 mph.
That’s according to hurricane guru William Gray at Colorado State University.
I usually take these predictions with a grain of salt, but given the spate of violent weather that’s been going on around us, I wonder whether this pattern will carry over when Florida goes on the clock after June 1.
This has been the second deadliest outbreak of tornadoes in U.S. history in more than 60 years.
What’s more, approximately 600 tornado sightings were reported in April, eclipsing the record of 267 from 1974.
That the warmer-than-usual Gulf of Mexico has helped fuel these tornadoes is ominous.
Water temperatures off our beaches will only continue rising.
A bathtub, one meteorologist called it.
I’m no weather expert, but I know we’ve heard many times over the years how a vast body of warm water -- the Atlantic as well as the gulf -- becomes an engine, a source of energy for a burgeoning tropical system.
Particularly when one churns its way around the tip of Florida and into the Gulf.
Like Hurricane Charley in August 2004.
And how we were largely spared when the Category 4 hurricane suddenly took a right turn, striking Port Charlotte with 150 mph winds and cut a path of destruction to the northeast, demolishing Punta Gorda, Cleveland, Fort Ogden, Arcadia, Nocatee, Zolfo Springs, Sebring and Wauchula.
It is said that had Charley not been a very small, very fast-moving storm, damage would have been much worse, if you can imagine that.
As it is, it was the strongest hurricane to hit the U.S. since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
The pictures of what Charley did seven years ago are eerily similar to the photos of the desolation wrought by the more than 170 twisters that rampaged across the South last week.
Pray it doesn’t happen to us.
Mannix About Manatee, by columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee County. Please call Vin Mannix at 745-7055, write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, FL 34206 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a phone number for verification purposes.