Sports take a back seat for Frances in Florida |

Sports take a back seat for Frances in Florida


Flee. Flee for your life. That’s the advice being showered on millions of Florida residents today, as Hurricane Frances bears down on the Sunshine State.The epic storm, a monster that could be packing sustained (constant) winds of 140 mph by the time you read this, is expected to make landfall sometime late tonight.More than likely, people will die from Frances, which is said to have waves taller than 30 feet near its 19-mile-wide eye. Serious just left the building. Times have become frantic.

A friend of mine whose brother lives in Satellite Beach, Fla., put it this way Thursday: “Usually when a storm gets close, I call my brother and he brushes it off because he’s seen his share of storms. This time he called me, and made sure I had his ex-wife’s cell phone number and his son’s number in case something happened.”A number of Florida teams have had to accept disappointing changes in their immediate schedules due to Frances. The Marlins-Cubs series opener that was to take place today was postponed, and it’s doubtful either of the critical series’ final two games will be played either. (This could have a lasting effect on the National League wild card race.)College football games set for Saturday have been moved or postponed, including the 11th-ranked Florida Gators’ season-opening matchup with Middle Tennessee State. This is big news in the football-crazy SEC. But it’s not the biggest news caused by Frances.That designation would fall to the postponement of the Miami-Florida State Monday night game at the Orange Bowl, which was to have been a special, college version of ABC’s “Monday Night Football.” The Seminoles and Hurricanes, ranked No. 5 and 6 in the nation, respectively, will now meet on Friday, Sept. 10, at 6 p.m.There’s a good probability the storm will hit land many miles north of Miami and that the game would have been able to be played on Monday with ease. Good thing university officials and the powers that be at ABC didn’t hold on to that chance. When death looms, it’s best to take it seriously – even when large amounts of money are on the line in the form of ad revenue and ratings hopes.

Hurricane Kobe is swirling here in Colorado, but it’s nothing compared to what will be swirling in Florida tonight. Remember the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Andrew in 1992? This storm’s twice as large as Andrew was, if you can believe that. Larger, too, than 1989’s legendary Hurricane Hugo.I was 11 when Hugo hit our home in the Virgin Islands. We’d just moved there a few years before, and hadn’t yet experienced a major storm.To put it lightly, Hugo was major.Eight out of every 10 roofs were blown off. An anemometer (which measure wind speed) on a neighboring island broke at 207 mph. We watched in horror as our friend’s house lost its roof, which peeled off the structure like a piece of paper and blew away faster than you could follow it through the air. Everywhere we looked, we saw mini tornadoes. Our sliding glass doors bowed in front of our faces as if they were soft plastic. The metal roof of a large restaurant nearby landed in our yard. Had it hit our house it would have killed us.

Just when we thought we’d seen it all, after four hours of staring at things you couldn’t imagine, a neighbor’s construction shack – the entire 10-foot-by-10-foot building – was lifted into the air and politely moved six feet to the left. It was like the Wizard of Oz.We were without electricity for a month, and didn’t get cable TV restored for more than a year. A number of people lost their lives; some were swept away to sea and never found.As I wrote last week, I’ve been looking forward to football season all summer long. And baseball’s pennant races are about as good as sports get. Every now and then, though, something comes along that trumps even the best of the reasons we call ourselves fans.Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 231, or at

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