And now we head back into "hurricane season". Hooray!
Hurricane Day, if you are not familiar with it, is an annual holiday observed all up and down the eastern seaboard of the United States, and westward along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Its celebration is not tied to a specific calendar date, but don't worry about missing it -- the news people will have absolutely nothing else to talk about for about a week beforehand. This joyous occasion was completely unknown to me until I moved out here a couple years ago, and it took a while for me to work out what exactly I was supposed to do about it. I grew up in a wildfire area instead, and it turns out that New Englanders react to giant storms about the same way Sonoran desert rats react to the entire mountain being on fire, which is that unless it is specifically inside your house right now, phoning the babysitter creepily from the upstairs extension, you just go 'meh' and make a mental note not to drive down any streets where there's currently zero visibility.
Like Christmas, the list of customary Hurricane Day activities varies from region to region, but commonly include lashing tarps over piles of barbecue equipment and loose firewood, panic-buying paper towels and Cheetos at the nearest CVS, and playing 'furniture Tetris' trying to get all of the patio chairs into the garage. The bathtubs of the house are sometimes ceremonially filled with water; the legends say that this is supposed to be potable and you can drink it, although I wouldn't, because that's my bathroom and I know how exactly how long ago I last scrubbed out that shower. You can kill two birds with one stone by filling the tub with ice instead -- the meltwater will ensure you have enough for washing up and keeping the toilets running, and your beer will stay cold longer.
Many people also deck the windows with sheets of plywood or giant Xes made of masking tape. Tradition holds that this will let the hurricane know that these windows are not for breaking, but the hurricanes don't seem to realize that, so feel free to use all the tape to draw smiley faces or drunken kitties or enormous cocks instead, depending on whether your neighbors have a sense of humor. The hurricane also considers the aforementioned tarpaulins a ritual gift, similar to leaving milk and cookies out for Santa, and is capable of undoing hefty shipbuilder knots when it has half a mind to, so don't expect to ever see those again.
In residential areas that are predominantly composed of older houses, it's also customary to play Musical Buckets with all of the spots where water gets into the roof. These leaks are special events, trotted out exclusively for times when it's raining sideways, and you will never work out where they originated when it's calm enough to go outside and check. Enjoy them while you can!
Hurricane Day does not usually involve greeting cards; rather, people ritually swap lists of "hurricane preparedness tips". Nobody reads these. They are the fruitcake of the Hurricane Day season. All of them seem to have been written in the 1950s and bear only a passing resemblance to the list of things you really ought to be doing in the run-up to the holiday. They omit to mention, for example, that it is vitally important that you buy all of your booze now, because the stores will be closed just before the storm, and if the power goes out you will be almost criminally bored. (Don't buy anything that isn't drinkable at room temperature. You'll be sorry.) You should make sure your phone, laptop, portable TV, handheld gaming consoles, MP3 player, ebook reader, mad scientist death ray, etc., are charged for the same reason.
On a semi-related but less fun note, if you're allergic to spores, mold, or pollen, you also want to lay by a couple of crates of whatever you take for it, because the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Day is a plant orgy.
Traditional Hurricane Day meals include tepid liquor, shelf-stable junk foods, peanut butter sandwiches, and all of the contents of the freezer that will go horribly off if you don't cook them right now. These are usually eaten together as a household -- you can't escape it; the city is shut down, on account of most of the urban transit is in leaky underground tunnels, and the rolling stock is not rated for use as submarines -- gathered together around a television or a portable radio playing the Weather Channel as if they are airing some sort of championship sporting match. During the commercial breaks, they will take the opportunity to remind you to have things like canned food and working flashlights on hand, even though by the time you're sitting down to Hurricane Day Dinner, there's already six inches of flood water in the road outside, and the store has been closed for hours.
Recommended venues for Hurricane Day parties are many miles inland, and in a very sturdy building on high ground. You'd think I would not have to mention this, but historically many people have intentionally scheduled their Hurricane Day parties on the beach, after receiving warnings, and have removed themselves from the gene pool as a result. (It goes without saying, I think, that many of these incidents happened in Florida.) That goes double for anyone stupid enough to think that hurricanes = surf's up! It is highly recommended that your guest list for any such gathering only include people you can stand being stuck in a house with for two or three days, just in case.