Tropical Storm Fay visited the Keys this past week, and the word most often used by 25,000 displaced evacuating tourists—and the business owners hoping for one more week of business before autumn—is not a word I can write in this family publication. Feel free to look it up if you must; it contains exactly five fewer letters than the word “firetruck.” There are, however, plenty more words that come to mind. Each one, surprisingly, begins with the sponsor of this week’s column: the letter F. A little history: Dr. Jeff Masters, of Weather Underground (www.wunderground.com) originally named the storm now known as Fay “The Joker.” This was long before it had a name, and no, Joker doesn’t begin with the letter F. Anyway, the Joker grew almost instantaneously from a tropical wave (albeit a large wave) with no closed circulation into a full-fledged named storm. That, however, was not the Joker’s only trick. Fay’s uncertain course and divergent model runs (we all know way too many meteorological terms, don’t we?) left many of us glued to a computer screen, Following each update. As it seemed that Fay would be coming closer, we began to Freak and then to Fasten plywood and storm shutters to our homes and places of business. We would Fill up our vehicles and make sure we had plenty of Food and water. After a Fitful night’s sleep, Monday morning was our last chance to Finalize preparations before Fay’s arrival. Marathon took the worst weather Fay dished out, with nearly seven inches of rain and wind gusts near hurricane strength. Still, we watched and waited, and got some seemingly good news mid-afternoon: the center of circulation had passed Key West, and since the storm’s bad weather was in the northeast quadrant, our conditions would improve very soon. Conditions may have improved for Key West, but not so for Marathon and other areas of the Keys. Six hours after the official announcement of improving conditions, we were still feeling the wrath of Fay. This brings us to a very important (and forgotten by the Key West NWS) F-word: Feeder bands. Fay’s demonic tail kept lashing us long after the calm in Key West. But really, I’m not bitter. You see, while Fay was with us, she couldn’t get her act together. As long as she spent spinning over water, she remained a disorganized tropical storm that couldn’t wrap convection around her central core. Remember how Dr. Masters called Fay the Joker? After Fay made landfall on the Florida mainland, she intensified. Over land. Here is how Dr. Masters described it in his blog: “Tropical Storm Fay (AKA "The Joker") is pulling a trick that may be unprecedented—significantly intensifying over land, developing a full eyewall… Remarkably, the pressure has fallen over 10 mb since landfall, and I can't ever recall seeing such a large pressure fall while a storm was over land… To have a storm intensify over land and maintain that increased intensity while over land for 12 hours is hard to explain.” Not if you’re a Joker. Let’s digress for a while and talk palm trees. Yes, those stately and beautiful trees that are the silent spokespersons (spokestrees?) for the tropics. After another hurricane years ago (Georges, and it’s still not pronounced like the plural of George!), after I had cleaned the muck and seaweed and debris from the storm surge in my yard, I noticed little palm trees starting to sprout. I didn’t know what kind they were, but I knew they were palm trees. I dug them up and planted them where I thought we could use some palm trees. Now, for those of you into horticulture, you already know what a Washingtonia palm is. They’re those big fan palms that grow rather tall and leave a “hula skirt” of dead fronds hanging just below the fresh green ones at the top of the tree. The frond stems feature sharp jagged edges that are just about the most vicious cutting tool found on any plant. Anyway, ten years after hurricane Georges, we now have five of these fifty-foot palms in our yard. Tropical Storm Fay managed to dislodge a couple hundred of those hanging fronds, still attached to those “stems of death.” Our cleanup of this mess involved four F-words: Fronds that Fillet your Flesh. See if you can figure out what the other F-word was.