In an era of extreme weather, paranoia often the best policy

We're living in the eye of a perfect storm of weather anxiety — climate change and extreme storms, increasingly accurate forecasts by meteorologists, and the power and desire of news media to fully exploit our fears.

Even a day or two of rain stirs a little panic now. By the time it reached Maryland and the mid-Atlantic late last week, Tropical Storm Andrea had turned into nothing but intermittently heavy rains and gusty winds. Yet you could almost sense the region's collective blood pressure rise as the storm approached.


Hey, no knock against anybody. We're all in this together. It's 21st century reality, the new normal. We've been pushed around by big weather over the last few years, so everyone's a little on edge about what's happening in the earth's atmosphere. No one but a blockhead denies a relationship between the warming oceans and the increasingly extreme characteristics of storms.

So, expecting more of this, more of us are paying attention to forecasts and preparing for the worst. That's why sales of portable, gasoline-powered generators have been strong in areas of the country that never much bothered with them before, and smart homeowners keep a supply of non-perishable food, batteries and drinking water in the basement.


Good news: You're no longer considered paranoid if, at the mere rumor of even an ordinary storm, you take measures to protect yourself, your family and your property.

Go with your instincts and don't worry about what the neighbors might think — that's the take-away from the recent experience of Cary Wright, a 45-year-old truck driver and deliveryman who lives in Harford County.

Wright resides on a street in Bel Air with big, beautiful oak trees. But, of course, the thing about trees is, they fall, or they shed big branches in a storm. So as much as he likes living in Bradford Village, Wright has always been a little anxious about the arboreal canopy.

Especially since he'd had the body repaired and the top replaced on his maroon 1989 Ford Mustang convertible.

A few weeks ago, while Wright drove the Mustang home from work, he heard storm warnings for Harford County. Heavy rain and thunderstorms were possible, along with strong winds. (Meteorologists at the National Weather Service later reported wind bursts of 90 mph. Some parts of the county lost power in the storm.)

When he arrived on Jackson Boulevard, he parked the Mustang in front of his house, behind his family's minivan. But he was nervous about the parking spot.

"I was concerned about branches falling on it," Wright says. "So I decided to move it."

In the midst of heavy rains and winds, Wright drove the Mustang into a circle across the street. But something didn't feel right about that spot either. "So," he says, "I decided to move it again and park in another spot."


This time he chose a parking place he was sure would keep his Mustang away from falling branches.

And in the next instant, Wright changed his mind again.

He started to feel a little foolish, even a little angry.

"Cary," he told himself, "stop being so paranoid. Just stop it!"

So he decided to drive the Mustang back to the original parking spot in front of his house.

"Then," Wright says, "I heard a giant crash and the whole world went black."


Within seconds after parking the car, a 120-foot oak tree fell on it. The roots pulled out of the ground across Jackson Boulevard, turning up a section of sidewalk. The top section of the tree hit the front of the Mustang, just a few feet from Wright, who was still in the driver's seat.

"I was surrounded by tree," he says. "I was inside the tree. The section that hit the front of the Mustang was big — big enough to kill. ... I'm sitting there, trying to figure out what happened, and my wife [Annie] comes out of the house and starts beating on the window and screaming. I couldn't open the driver's side door, so I crawled across the passenger seat and pushed against that until I got it open enough to get out."

Wright escaped the mess unscathed. But his Mustang's front end was damaged while the minivan, directly in front of the Mustang, was totaled. Wright fought his instincts to move his beloved sports car, and look what it got him.

Let this be a lesson for our times: If you ever feel you're being overly cautious about the weather, to the point of paranoia ... don't fight it, go with it.