Frau’s cousin Patti is a hurricane baiter with the ability to attract high-wind, low-pressure storms almost as easily as candles attract moths.

She began her breezy magnetism by accident when her husband was transferred to the old Homestead Air Force Base in the late 1980s. He’s a retired Air Force navigator who frequently guided huge aircraft such as the B-52 bomber around the world. In Air Force slang, that makes him a "nav." One component of those giant crafts is important to this story: B-52s can be parked thousands of miles away from their targets because they have fuel capacities of large civilian fuel stations and can be topped off with a few gulps from a K-135 Stratotanker over Guam to complete a trip from Guam to, say, Germany.

That means, of course, that navs frequently put in 18-hour days as they hop-scotch the world.

Patti and Joe lived on base at Homestead Air Force Base, Fla., in August 1992 when Andrew became the first hurricane to hit South Florida in 24 years. A-E ironically lived about 25 miles north of the base, lulled into meteorological complacency with that same chamber of commerce mantra “No hurricanes since the 1970s.”

Andrew huffed and puffed base housing, control towers and hangers of a perfectly good base into the Everglades. Planes and crew had been transferred to other bases the second a low pressure cell burped in the Mid-Atlantic.

The couple were transferred to Homestead for the old fashioned reason: Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines was an Air Force parking lot for inventory that either flew all over Asia and the Pacific or helped maintain those behemoths as they hopped to far away places with strange-sounding names that from time to time became targets of American B-52s.

And what got the globe-trotting couple transferred to South Florida? A cyclone (that’s Asian for "hurricane") destroyed a big swath of the Philippines.

Our heroine apparently worked her magic overtime there: Not only did a cyclone practice destroying U.S. Air Force paraphernalia but Pinatubo Volcano blew up and scattered volcanic ash for thousands of miles. Jet planes, especially gigantic American bombers, are pushed by remarkably powerful but sensitive engines. Sure, the eight engines on a B-52 could probably push all of Hornell if you could load that payload on a Stratotanker. But those loud and strong power plants are constructed of hundreds of precision parts that react to volcanic dust the way your car would handle the Norfolk Southern 7:52 from Binghamton if struck on Depot Avenue in Canisteo.

The couple decided that the Florida Panhandle bordering the northern edge of the Gulf of Mexico offered a suitable, even a comfortable location to dowse out their days: semi-tropical weather in ocean-front surroundings sound suspiciously like paradise, unless one of the couple can attract hurricanes almost anywhere.

If you’ve been reading or watching the news recently you’ll know where Hurricane Michael and these scribbles are headed: A hurricane-prone sufficiently exotic landscape where Patti and her husband have lived for a few years.

But the locale was worth taking a chance, even if her record in storms was essentially a guaranteed hit should another low pressure system rotate counterclockwise north to landfall in good-looking beach front real estate.

“We can always evacuate,” Frau’s cousin opined.

Fast-forward a few days: A-E and Frau listened carefully as barometric pressure in the Gulf of Mexico dropped and the low pressure system picked up energy and water over the warm gulf. The 100-mile wide storm couldn’t possibly miss Pattiville.

But it missed with dozens of miles to spare. When Sen. Marco Rubio and journalists reported Mexico Beach was gone, flattened, blown off the map, Frau and A- E wondered where her cousin had gone. She had family in South Carolina and Michael would bend to the east before hitting there, right?

Wrong. Frau’s closest cousin decided to “stick it out,“ in the vernacular of the foolhardy. “We didn’t even lose electricity,” she gleefully told Frau.

Amazing, Frau thought, although landfall even one degree West would have transformed Patti’s beach into a flat land.

There will other hurricanes, of course, but maybe the tragic tale of Patti versus Hurricanes has turned a corner and from now until…

You’re correct, of course. Some day her magnetism will return.


Frau and A-E selected Canisteo as home because no hurricanes, tornadoes or locusts have ever struck…A-E wonders if that’s how Patti became a target.