Fifi killed 5,000 people.

The National Hurricane Center’s propensity for naming hurricanes always confused me. Why personify these swirling masses of devil weather? As a kid, I always worried about hurricanes, even all the way in California – Earthquake Country, U.S.A. So, to take these monsters and give them a name like Andrew, Hugo or Fifi always seemed odd to me.

Eventually, I learned that meteorologists name hurricanes and lesser storms in order to differentiate one from another as they move over the ocean. Since 1953, the National Hurricane Center has used six different, sequential lists of alphabetical names for these storms. When a particularly violent one hits, its name gets retired, like Fifi after she pulverized Honduras in 1974.

Names or no, I’m still scared of hurricanes.

Now as you read this, 32 other UCSB students and I are living in Washington, D.C. We’re far enough north that the effects of hurricanes have so far been scattered showers. Nonetheless, since I’ve got here I’ve thought less about the terror alert level – yellow? taupe? plaid? – and more about the weather; a growing mass of gray clouds that I’ve heard may promise an early and particularly nasty winter. It’s no wonder newspapers and TV news cover hurricanes more extensively on this side of the country, which I now refer to as the “shit weather” side of the country.

Hurricanes have ravaged the Southeast since midsummer. Beginning Aug. 12, a parade of unwelcome visitors has repeatedly smashed Florida like some kind of angry gangbang on the poor state’s now-limp phallus of a panhandle.

While news reports place Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne’s collective American death toll at around 77 people – a small sum compared to the thousands killed in Haiti and Jamaica – their damage will cost the nation billions. The Federal Emergency Management Agency alone poured $400 million into south Florida reconstruction before Jeanne pummeled its eastern coast. And the hurricane season has a good two months left.

We Californians are downright lucky to have earthquakes as our resident natural catastrophe.

Unlike hurricanes, which unleash fiendish devil weather for hours, earthquakes strike suddenly, quickly and without warning. California can build reasonably quake-proof buildings, whereas the mobile homes of Florida prove no match for 100 mph winds. On a classical scale, earthquakes mean one angry element, whereas hurricanes mean the primal wrath of wind and rain collectively reducing your house, piece by piece, to a pile of Lincoln Logs and then flooding the hole where your house stood.

All of you in Santa Barbara should be thankful for the mild 70-degree temperatures this late September weather has brought. Coastal fog sucks, but it’s not actively killing you.

I admit I felt a twinge of guilt after considering the disparity between weather on each side of the country. Luckily, I found out that helping is surprisingly easy. The Red Cross offers a very simple way to donate money to its relief fund and even allows you to designate your contribution specifically to help Florida, local Red Cross chapters or international humanitarian efforts. In an uncharacteristic act of poor college student goodwill, I coughed up a measly $20 to somewhat assuage my guilt and to minutely assuage a major nightmare.

I know Florida’s not exactly our nation’s proudest corner, but I seriously suggest those of us with sun over our heads consider our luck, share the wealth – and embrace our next shaker with open arms.

The Red Cross donation form is located at

Daily Nexus columnist Drew Mackie will rock you like that Scorpions song they probably won’t be using at Florida’s air shows for a while.