MIAMI—South Florida residents were overcome with fear, confusion, and an unnerving sense of dread Tuesday when they learned that an unidentified hurricane is heading for their area—its origin uncertain, its intentions unclear, and perhaps most frightening, its name unknown.
"Who is this hurricane?" said Miami resident Beverly Motolla, just one of hundreds of thousands of citizens struggling to put a human face on this impending tragedy. "Why is it here? What does it want from us?"
Such questions remain agonizingly unanswered, as the anonymous storm front shows no signs of slowing down or divulging its background. Lacking any reliable information on the character traits of the popularly dubbed "Hurricane That Shall Not Be Named," thousands have fled the area, hoping to escape its destructive winds, driving rain, and chilling impersonality.
"If this hurricane were a Wilma or a Frank, or even a Rebekah, I'd at least know what to expect—a storm system with a low pressure center, sustained winds above 119 miles per hour, high gusts, and severe inland flooding," said Stewart Tomlinson, a Miami-area police officer who plans to drive his family north to Georgia on Wednesday. "But I don't even know if this hurricane is a boy or a girl. And frankly, that scares me."
"I don't want this…thing…coming anywhere near me or my family," Tomlinson added.
Those who have decided to stay home and brave the imminent storm have reported incidents of raindrops rapping on their windowpanes with a sinister, relentless urgency; drops in barometric pressure so sudden they could freeze a man's soul; and, in the words of one Coral Springs body shop owner, "the kind of heartless devastation that could only be wreaked by an unfeeling tropical cyclone that doesn't even have the decency to introduce itself."
"I heard that the hurricane killed 620 Guatemalans last week in cold blood," Mark Barclay of Sweetwater said. "And that it didn't even care."
Though the hurricane is predicted to cause widespread destruction, many say it brings something even more dangerous than a 10-foot storm tide and rapidly contracting eyewall: the element of the unknown.
"You can tell a lot about a hurricane by its name—that's why they have names," Surfside resident Brenda Harrison said. "Mitch, strong and unpredictable. Katrina, devious and vengeful. Bob, good guy, just passing through. But this hurricane could be anything. It could be a gentle mist, or it could be the worst natural disaster in the history of mankind. It could strike anytime, and it could be anywhere…even right behind you. Also, what if it doesn't even have an eye?"
"When the big hurricane struck Florida in 1998, I was scared until I found out its name was Earl," Panama City, FL citizen Sam Hewer said. "I went to high school with a guy named Earl. He was a little wild, but ultimately harmless. In fact, we used to make fun of him. So when the storm hit and destroyed my house, it didn't seem so bad. It was like, 'Oh, there goes Earl again.'"
As the storm approaches the coast, citizens have been speculating as to its identity. Many claim that the hurricane's erratic changes in course and spiral rainbands make it seem like a Dave. Still others suspect that it might be Hurricane Andrew in disguise, returning to finish what it started in 1992.
Also on Tuesday, the National Weather Service issued a statement in which it rejected calls to name the hurricane, describing such an action as "impossible."
"We've monitored, studied, and examined this hurricane in the two weeks since it appeared seemingly out of nowhere on our radar, and it simply has no name," NWS acting director Mary Glackin said. "If it had one, we'd be using it. It's not like we can just make up a name."
When asked if he could identify the storm, veteran WTVJ meteorologist Cal Valencia threw back his head and laughed scornfully.
"Fools! Be glad you don't know this hurricane's true name!" Valencia said. "It may be the sole mercy we are shown during this coming ordeal. Savor it! For in a day's time, you will be pining for your lost ignorance as a drowning man for oxygen."
One Miami-Dade citizen, however, has decided to take matters into his own hands.
"For my wife and children's sake, I've decided to tell them it's named Bradley," said Jackson Graham, a local carpenter who claims he cannot bear to tell his family the horrible truth. "Hurricane Bradley. God, I hope that doesn't make it angrier."