Only FIVE days until THE STORM arrives!

Today’s blog is about the Drowned City, the setting for Shep’s adventures.

Dogs of the Drowned City began as a picture in my mind. I saw a dog alone on the streets of a ruined city. This idea fascinated me because it was so very different from the average animal story—this was not a story of a dog learning to survive in nature, but of a dog learning to survive in the ruins of a human-constructed landscape. Primal instincts would have to adapt to modern, unnatural surroundings. However, for a pet, wouldn’t this human world be more familiar than a natural one? Wouldn’t the dog, of perhaps all creatures, be best equipped to survive in such a world? (More on that Thursday!)

As I began to outline this dog’s story, I had to figure out what exactly had destroyed the city and left my dog in its ruins. This involved some pretty morbid thinking, I warn you. I quickly discarded the possibility of some kind of weapon or war—anything that ruined the city in that manner would destroy both humans and dogs. A plague would not necessarily leave my dog alone in the city. But a devastating storm—Eureka!

I realized that a hurricane would drive the humans out of the city, but might leave my dog in it, perhaps with other dogs who could help him learn to survive. This was unfortunately the case for many dogs during and after Hurricane Katrina, which struck the Gulf Coast in 2005. Many pets were left behind in New Orleans when their owners were forced to evacuate.
The next task was to find a city that faced the risk of devastating hurricanes and faced it often. In an instant, I knew which city to use.

My parents live north of Ft. Lauderdale, which is a small city in south Florida.
One time, when I was visiting them, I noticed a sign in their elevator listing their designated hurricane evacuation shelter. Underneath the name of the shelter were the words “No Pets Allowed.” At the time, my parents had Zeus the boxer (sadly, he passed away in 2010; my parents now have two rescued Boston terriers). I wondered what my parents would do with Zeus if a hurricane forced them out of their home and into a shelter—leave him home alone? Find some inland emergency boarding location? Try to escape the storm by car together? Because of this experience, I knew where to set Dogs of the Drowned City.

Shep and his family live in Miami, which is a big city a little farther down the Florida coast from where my parents live. I used a fictionalized version of the city, which means that where the real map of the city did not serve my purposes, I changed it. You can do that as a fiction writer. 🙂
Why Miami? Well, first of all, Miami has a hurricane season, meaning they expect these kinds of storms. For this reason, the city has evacuation plans, so Shep’s family would not be shocked when told they would have to evacuate.
Hurricanes pose a special threat to Miami because of the possibility of flooding from a storm surge. A storm surge is an uprising of water caused by storm winds. It’s especially dangerous in low-lying coastal areas because it can combine with the tides to create a storm tide, causing devastating floods.

Miami is just such a low-lying coastal area. The city is situated on flat land between the Everglades and Biscayne Bay. The only things separating Biscayne Bay from the Atlantic Ocean are a few thin barrier islands. On average, the land upon which the city rests is only six feet above sea level. This means that any storm surge of over six feet of water would flood most of the city. In 1926, Miami was nearly destroyed by a devastating hurricane. A fifteen-foot storm surge left much of the city under water and 125 mile-per-hour winds tore apart buildings.

The city and barrier islands are also riddled with canals and inlets and rivers and waterways, which means there are bridges and boats throughout the city. Some of these waterways connect with the Everglades, which are full of crocodiles and alligators, snakes, pigs, and other creatures. Perhaps a storm might drive some of them into the city? Hmmm…

These kinds of facts provided my imagination with a vast playground of possibility. I hope you enjoy seeing how I used the physical facts of the real Miami in creating Shep’s story.
Tomorrow’s blog will be all about my fictional hurricane and how I designed the storm of the century!

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