Hurricane Irma: The Aftermath (post 4)

Sunday night, September 10, 2017

We spent an uneasy couple of hours in our “safe room” before it became apparent that the winds were not as loud. Some of us even slept, but the people most uncomfortable moved to the bedrooms. We were curious enough at this point to venture into the kitchen and get a report from the radio there. We still had power, but no cable or internet to follow the progress of the storm. The report put the eye of the storm to our east and moving away from us. We were very thankful, very relieved, but aware that the storm was still raging around the house.

Monday, September 11, 2017

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The demise of the kapok tree. RIP my friend. 

Monday morning I got up early, hoping to survey the Oneacrewoods as soon as there was light. The first thing visible shocked me like I haven’t been shocked in a long time. Our landmark kapok tree was lying horizontal on the ground. It had ripped down through our large grapefruit trees, and had also taken limbs from the surrounding oaks. Some of it’s larger top branches were caught up in the oaks, dangling precariously. It had missed a minivan belonging to one of our friends by a few feet, crashed through a board fence and landed across the neighboring driveway.  The torn root ball was up in the air, exposing a huge hole filled with mud. It might be a little silly to be emotionally attached to a tree, but I’m a silly woman when it comes to nature. It was a special tree.

The rest of the yard was covered with water, and branches of all sizes, but there were no other trees down and no damage to the house. Neighbors were starting to walk around. Several came down to look at our carnage.  On our way out to the street to see if the vehicles parked there were still there (they were) we heard that the curfew, that was to go until 3 pm, had already been lifted. Even though it was blustery and raining off and on, Kathy and I decided to walk across to their mobile home park and see if their house had blown away.

Emergency patrols were already in the park, marking damaged buildings with orange spray paint. They warned us that it might not be safe to be there with so much loose metal lying on the ground, and the wind still gusting. We made it to Kathy and Mark’s mobile and found it looking untouched. The canal behind it had come to the top of the bank but not high enough to flood their house. The damage in the park was hard to figure out – homes with the roofs ripped off were right next to ones that were untouched. The two residents that had stayed in the park in spite of the evacuation order said that there was a tornado which might have been responsible.

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At Golf Lakes MHP

Around 11 am chain saws were being heard everywhere around us. Our neighbor who had weathered the storm elsewhere arrived and came over to help us clear as much of the driveway as possible. He and his girlfriend pitched in and started cutting branches and making piles of debris. We loaded it onto our truck later and began to haul it out to the road. There are six residents bordering our drive and all of us had downed trees and branches. The piles out by the road grew larger by the hour.

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Multiple truckloads on day 1 of aftermath. Easy to throw stuff on, actually harder to pull it off out at the road.

We worked all day until we couldn’t do it anymore. I loaded brush and hauled for the neighbors to pay them back for clearing the drive. We slogged through the flooded yards getting muddy, sweaty, tired and hungry. For the first time ever, we had the neighbors over for hot dogs. It took a hurricane to make it happen but I’m glad it did.

Day one of the aftermath ended with much accomplished but so much more to do that I felt physically, emotionally and mentally oppressed. The knowledge that everyone needed to attend to their own damage left little hope for finding help. I had only one person I could think of that might be able to work with me on my mess. I had texted him earlier in the day and hadn’t received an answer. I figured he was somewhere working for someone who needed him more than I did. When you believe as I do, that God knows and helps you through things in one way or another, you wait for help, or for strength until it comes. That’s the way we left it on Monday.

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Views designed with depression in mind.

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Grab a rake, please.

Going Through: Hurricane Irma (post 3)

We lost our cable and internet before I could publish this post, and it has not returned to us until today – five days later. I’m not complaining as many people experienced far worse during the storm than we did. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017, around 8 pm

Irma made landfall this afternoon around 3:30 near Naples, Florida. It is now about an hour and a half south of us in Ft. Myers.  Since landfall it has weakened to Category 2 with 110 mph sustained winds and we are getting gusts between 50 and 60 miles per hour. It’s path may go east of us, possibly to Arcadia. They were hit by Hurricane Charlie too and I will feel bad if they get it again. The only positive thing would be that they have already lost most of their big trees and shaky buildings. Hopefully we will keep most of ours. However, our worst time with this powerful storm is still ahead.

We were able to cook spaghetti for supper and made a salad. We still have electricity, although over 180,000 in the county are without it. We are  making use of the time together with lots of conversation and bonding through our shared experience. There is ice cream in our near future if all goes according to plan.

An odd thing is happening that I don’t remember having heard of before. People are reporting that the ocean and the rivers go away, leaving boats high and dry and the bottom exposed for as far as can be seen. In some places it returns slowly, in others I’ve heard that the storm surge rose 7 feet in 90 minutes. That is extreme.

At 3 pm a curfew was instated and since the winds are over 45 mph there are no services – law enforcement or medical. Yesterday one of our major hospitals was evacuated. It seems that someone thought that next to the riverfront would be a good place to put a hospital. What were they thinking?

The shelters are full. There are tornado warnings.

We are getting ready to go to our safe rooms as the hurricane is traveling faster now.  Trees are being uprooted, reportedly, in Sarasota.  Will stop now and get everyone together.  I don’t expect to sleep tonight.

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I know I look crazed, but understand that I’m sleeping in a shower during a hurricane.

 

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Small rooms (closets and bathrooms) with lots of walls and no windows are safest but it’s a bit weird to have friends over to sit there, just sayin’.

Going Through: Hurricane Irma (post 2)

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Hi y’all. My ‘rained on’, coffee loving, early morning self along with my friend Kathy.

Sunday morning and we still have power. Kathy and I were both awake at 6 am and having morning coffee while catching up on hurricane progress over the night hours. It is still coming with not much change expected. They talk about wobbles and zig zags but I don’t think it matters much to us yet.

In the night I had “visions” (I use the term loosely) of the trees being nothing but leafless stubs, all the fences gone and many buildings missing. With that in mind I went out early and put more things away that I had previously thought too heavy to move. Winds that tear buildings apart can pick up a potted plant, no matter how heavy. We don’t need those things flying through the air. It was cool and very breezy and raining by the time I got done. The garage of our adjacent rental house was empty so Mark drove his car, with all their valuables, into that space. The renters both work at an assisted living facility and have to be at work during the storm.

Since then we have been eating breakfast and keeping in touch with people on phone and facebook. I finally muted the tv and put on some worship music. I can only listen to the forecasts so long without feeling the tension. Since it’s already about as bad as it can be, anything new will be better and I can catch up on it anytime.

Kathy and I have been brainstorming our inner shelter plans, having picked what we think are the safest parts of the house and what we need to do to be comfortable in them. We will start equipping them with water and food in the next hour or so.

It is definitely getting more wild outside. I realize it more as I sit here looking out the window at the tops of the trees. They are so flexible and there is so much movement up there. As I walked around taking pictures of the outside for insurance purposes, I noticed again the one tall pine on the neighbor’s property that has been giving me concern for years now. If it falls, it will most likely reach our house and come through the roof. It is the weakest of the trees around us in my estimation. Trees are a blessing in that they raise the wind up over the house, but I’ve seen trees that big lying on the ground with the root ball up in the air too – and that would not be good for us.

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The big trunk on the other side of the fence is the pine I’m expecting to come through our roof.

We are a few more hours closer to the end of it, and a few more hours closer to the worst of it. Hopefully our angels are up and on the job.

 

 

Going Through: Hurricane Irma (post 1)

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Our drive BEFORE the hurricane. 
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A section of the Oneacrewoods before being ravaged, already drenched.

We have electricity. How much of the time do I not even think about this marvel? That is one of the positive aspects of natural disasters. If you survive them, you do so with a heightened appreciation of normal life. So while I am still connected to the outside world, I will write…

The last few days have been hard mostly because of the uncertainty of the path of Hurricane Irma. Early in the week we decided that we would stay in our house rather than evacuate. Whether in the store, the line at the gas station, or on the road, I abhor crowds of panicked people. That played into our decision, but we also reasoned that everyone can’t leave, and we do have a house with some safety features that is not in an evacuation zone. There has been a degree of peace just in having made the decision to stay.

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Amazing that we have a generator. More amazing, it runs and we have gas to put in it.

We are six here at our Oneacrewoods Shelter. We are not helpless and have a mix of skills and abilities that should serve us well. We have put in a supply of water, food, and gasoline to run our generator. We were able to get the generator running – always a questionable thing since it doesn’t get used very often.  I have set up the Coleman stove so if when the electricity goes out we will still have morning coffee. Small comforts are taking on new importance.

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The worst part so far has been the week long watching and waiting. Preparing for a known thing of catastrophic nature is possible and absorbing physically and mentally. When what is known keeps changing, it is different, creating a confusing array of possibilities to be sorted out and chosen or eliminated.  There is also a sense of community and responsibility for family, friends and neighbors close by that makes us want to stay together even though our situations are different. Of course, our default wish is to be in our own home, so there has to be compelling reason to do otherwise. When the compelling reason becomes wanting to preserve our lives – well, that’s pretty compelling, so we really don’t want to make a mistake. If we knew our situation would be that critical, and if we knew the safe thing to do was crystal clear, and possible, we would do it. And as I said, what we know has changed hour by hour throughout the week. We never feel like we know.

(Actually, we know more now, but it is past time to decide and the decision is made for us. We are staying.)

So here we are, at bedtime on Saturday night. Our worst weather is supposed to be in about 24 hours when the eyewall of Irma is scheduled to come up the Florida west coast pretty much through our back yard. I have seen what 100+ mile per hour winds have done in all the islands out in the Caribbean but as I look around at my plants, my huge live oaks, the structures outside – somehow I can’t picture it  all  ruined, maybe even gone. Doesn’t seem real, or even possible.

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I’ve been bottling our own drinking water. Knew I had a reason for keeping all those canning jars.

I know that God cares about what will happen, and I do see this as an opportunity to prove what I know about him. We are asking to be spared the worst because we can ask that. God is not afraid of our requests, nor is he bound to grant them. Whether he does or not I feel he will use this unusual situation in some way for our good and his glory – meaning that he will in some way show himself to be both powerful and loving. He will go through it with us and we will be able to look back and say it was so.

As usual, more to come until the electricity is gone.  It is scary how we depend on electricity, just sayin’…

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Everything that isn’t nailed down has to be put inside – a real challenge.