Florida Mountains

With the recent migration of thousands of people from “up North” to Florida, I’m reminded of the adjustments that you have to make when you decide to officially become a Floridian. Since I’ve lived here for more than 40 years, I almost qualify as a “native.”  I can still remember the “warnings” that friends and relatives cited when I made my decision. 

First and foremost, hurricanes.  Yes, they can be devastating to life and property.  But they are a fact of life in Florida, but it’s never a surprise like an earthquake or a tornado.  During our hurricane season from June through November, you worry about it but it’s one of those things that always is in the back of your mind.  You learn to accept that preparation is vital and taking the warnings seriously. 

One memorable experience was when I was on a cruise in the Caribbean.  For several days, we watched on TV the path of the hurricane aiming directly toward Palm Beach County.  It eventually veered north and we were spared, but there was a feeling of helplessness as we realized that there was nothing that we could do from hundreds of miles away. 

A recent hurricane which could have destroyed our area
if it hadn’t turned north at the last moment!

I’ve been through many hurricane seasons in which South Florida was unscathed, but places like Alabama and Louisiana were hit repeatedly during one season.  There were years that North Carolina and the mid-Atlantic states bore the brunt of the wind and floods, while we Floridians did our usual sweltering from our heat and humidity. 

Another cry we hear from the Northerners is “You have no change of seasons.”  After living here all this time, you learn that that is not correct by any means. Those crisp mornings in the December, January and February are the opportunity we look forward to so that we can enjoy wearing those old heavy sweaters brought down from up North many years ago.  Although in March and April, the mornings can still be cool and windy, it will usually rise into the 70s and 80s by late morning. 

Something that I admit that we do miss are the mountains.  We even get excited when there is a slight change in elevation.  There’s a sidewalk in our neighborhood which rises slowly that we call “a hill.” 

When one of my daughters was only about four years old and had never been outside of Florida, we were approaching an overpass in order to get onto the highway below when she asked me, “Daddy is this a mountain?”   I guess from her perspective, we were going up! 

Height of some Florida highway overpasses

“Daddy, is this a mountain?”

There is one place in South Florida in Martin County, the next county north, where there is an area in Jensen Beach called the Skyline Drive section.   It actually has some steep hills reaching the summit of the neighborhood.  From many points on the road, the views of the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean are excellent.  It is worth a visit up there just to see what we desperately call a small mountain.  

View from Skyline Drive, Jensen Beach, FL

Of course, there are several garbage dumps that are affectionately known here as Mt. Trashmores.   Some of these landfill “mountains” have since been reclaimed and transformed into golf courses and public parks.

One of the most unique golf courses in South Florida, Park Ridge golf courses offers elevation changes like nowhere else in the area. Built by Palm Beach County and the Solid Waste Authority on a retired landfill, Park Ridge tops 85 feet at its highest point.

“Very, very nice! One of the only courses in South Florida with elevation changes.” 

Every now and then, we get these amazing cloud formations in the mornings resembling distant mountains.   Do you agree?   At least we have fun imagining!

Our “mountains” in the distance

November 30: End of “Summer”

Today is November 30, 2020 and it’s the end of the season.

It is actually the end of many things here in South Florida,

I’m in Palm Beach County, the big blue county on the Atlantic side near the bottom

where December 1 is the start of the winter dry season. After all, Thanksgiving is over and the Holiday decorations are quickly appearing.  Even though an occasional hurricane may slip through during December, we can most likely rule out any devastating storms until next June when the hurricane season will once again begin.

During this Year of the Pandemic, we have had a very long summer. Besides the often-heard complaint that every day runs into the next, the higher than normal temperatures that we have endured since late March have made us feel as if the summer lasted forever!  Except for a few days in the past month, it was rare that it didn’t reach at least 80 degrees since the Pandemic began. 

In South Florida, that means that by about 9 or 10 am, the temperature quickly rises into the 80s and remains so for the rest of the day.  When the occasional tropical afternoon thundershower rolls in around 4-5 pm, we sometimes enjoy a brief respite from the heat.  At dinner time outside on our patio, the decrease of a couple of degrees makes a very noticeable difference.  

In the past few days, we have been teased by some early morning cooler temperatures.  One day as we left our house for our daily sunrise walks,

it had even dropped down to 68 degrees!  We dressed in long pants and long-sleeve shirts for the occasion and I vowed to complain the whole time about what we call a cold snap. 

Old timers used to say that you know it’s cold in Florida when you have to tell your kids to put on their shoes to get the morning newspaper from the driveway.  Using that expression dates you since almost everyone receives their “newspapers” online, and young people wouldn’t even understand what you’re trying to say.  This is definitely barefoot country where wearing sandals may be considered “dressed up.”  

This afternoon, in celebration of the end of the tropical hurricane season, we are going to experience a cold front moving in from the North.  Temperatures will plummet down into the 50s!  The local weather report is warning us with words like “chilly.”

Weather Forecast: Cold Front Moves Through Overnight – Temperatures Down to the low 50s

That’s how I will describe it and I will proudly complain about it like any good almost-native Floridian.  I definitely fall into the group for whom anything below 60 degrees feels downright cold and in need of footwarmers. 

We are prepared for the yearly December weather change.  We have already shaken the dust off our warm sweaters and we look forward to wearing long pants for a few days.  Soon after, however, the breezes from the still-warm Atlantic will return us to our usual Florida reality where the days feature temperatures that we enjoy the most, the mid-70s with low humidity.   That’s a far cry from the low 90s with 80% humidity that we’ve put up with for the last 7-8 months. 

No, I am definitely not complaining.  I love the Florida weather.  I will live with the heat and humidity any day in order not to have to shovel snow or suffer through the cold, dreary gray days in the 40s that I remember from my childhood.   I will gladly forfeit the “change of seasons” that our snowbird friends love to brag about.  For me, I will continue to get up every morning before the sun rises just to be able to observe nature at its colorful best while the conditions are almost consistently ideal.    

A typical Florida early morning sky