For journalists, hurricane coverage means hard work.
Many are running on adrenaline, caffeine and empty stomachs, wading through flooded back yards and swatting at blood-thirsty mosquitoes – all to get the best story possible.
One thing I learned as a reporter: Always have a pair of rubber boots in your trunk in case of emergencies. I just hated working in soggy shoes.
It's a message I passed along more than once as an editor while sending reporters into the wilds of Florida to cover natural or man-made disasters.
I stopped managing reporters last year when I left the newspaper business after 20 years for an editing position at an Orlando marketing company.
But my newsroom training remains.
Hurricane Irma is the biggest storm to brew up in the Atlantic since I left the Orlando Sentinel.
The run on gasoline. The bottled-water frenzy. The portable generator sellouts.
They didn't worry me. I've done this before.
I know that a storm can make a lot of changes while it's still a week away. I also know that you can get multiple hurricanes aiming at Florida during this time of year. This isn't a sprint. It's a marathon. Halloween is the safe zone.
But I noticed that I still got antsy at certain times of the day.
It had nothing to do with what was going on around me. It wasn't about the tweets and Facebook updates and office chatter about the storm.
It had everything with time of the day.
Just before 11 a.m., I noticed, I looked at the clock and wondered what was up. The same thing happened before 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
I took me a day to notice. Then I realized. These “antsy” moments were happening just before the routine hurricane updates.
That's how engrained hurricane coverage became in my mind.
Once I realized it was happening, I was able to shake it. I focused on other things. I boarded up a window. I prepped my generator.
This was the same generator I bought after four hurricanes hit Florida in 2004, leaving us without power for nearly two weeks.
It sat in my shed for years until Hurricane Matthew last year, when I pulled it out and filled it with gas.
As soon as the gas went it, it rushed right now, splashing all over me.
Rats, I later learned, chewed holes in the plastic gas tank when it was stored in the shed.
We didn't lose power during Matthew and I stopped thinking about the leaky generator until Irma.
I've tried everything to patch up the holes and nothing has worked so far. Yes, I've tried silver duct tape. Gas-tank repair goop. Spray-can rubberized coating. Black duct tape. Crazy glue. Elmer's glue. Silicon.
Right now, I'm waiting for the latest gunk I poured on the tank to dry.
But I'm not getting ancy for the next update (8 p.m., by the way). I'm just hunkering down (yes, I said it) while waiting for Irma to get here.
And, I checked. My trunk is empty. No rubber boots.
In Florida, we love our critters. We love to protect them. Or we love to kill them. Depends on the critter.
Take, for instance, black bears.
Florida bear populations in the 1970s hovered in the 300 to 500 range. So we protected them. They rebounded.
New estimates of black bear populations in Florida show the statewide population is now 4,350 adult bears.
They did so well, in fact, we killed them.
OK, not all of them. Just 298 bears during a highly controversial, highly regulated hunt in 2015.
The state opted against hunts in 2016 and ruled them out for this year and 2018.
The debate isn't over by a long shot. Some say bears are so bountiful, we must hunt them for safety reasons. (We live in Bear Country because of the number of human-bear encounters). Others question the state's population numbers and they say killing the bears is cruel and unnecessary.
We also have a love-hate relationship with pythons.
We love them as pets. Until they get too big. Then we release them into the wild. Florida provides an ideal environment. So the predator exploded.
The state has authorized two hunts so far to thin the population.
When animals die in captivity, it becomes big news.
Animal activists are calling on SeaWorld to release the full necropsy for Tilikum. The orca - best know for a fatal attack on a trainer - died in January from a bacterial pneumonia. Activists want more details.
SeaWorld said it's not obligated to do that.
Contrast that to the reaction from the South Florida Museum in Bradenton to the death of Snooty, the world’s oldest-known manatee, on July 23.
The 69-year-old sea cow's death was a preventable accident, the museum said recently when releasing an investigation into his death.
"Snooty died when an access panel blocking an underwater plumbing area in his habitat came off at some point on the night of July 22 or the morning of July 23 and that Snooty swam into the opening, was unable to get out and drowned," the museum said in a news release Aug. 31.
The museum detailed what went wrong and outlined the changes it made to ensure it won't happen again.
The response is a fascinating exercise in transparency and underscored the community's emotional connection to Snooty.
The museum is offering free admission Sept. 10 for those who wish to pay tribute to the manatee.