BLOGGING DURING A HURRICANE
Florida Is Hurricane Central
As I write this article, I am experiencing the ravages of Hurricane Michael that just came ashore and is now playing havoc with the trees all around me. This one will be the fourth hurricane to impact our area since we moved to this country site. It will also be the 9th storm of this magnitude that I have been through. Needless to say, hurricanes have become an integral part of my life.
For some strange reason I seem to find myself centered in areas often impacted by either devastating weather events or geological catastrophes wherever I go. While living in California, it was earthquakes, mudslides, Santa Ana winds, and forest fires. In Arizona it was flash floods and lightning infested storms that destroyed high voltage transformers which exploded right before my eyes. Now, in Florida, it has been hurricanes, water spouts, and rising water levels in streets that provided access to my home.
As a whole, Florida is a state where it is virtually impossible to escape catastrophic weather events. Being nothing more than a giant peninsula, you are always 60 miles or less away from a major body of water no matter where you live. This means that either the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean are not far away. If you live in an area near the coast measured from the edge of the seashore out to an inland distance of 20 miles or so, you are in the highest risk zone for sustaining damage from tropical storms and hurricanes.
From the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane that took over 400 lives, to Ivan that destroyed the I-10 interstate bridge heading into in Pensacola, there have been countless named storms that have done massive amounts of damage. As for the Panhandle itself, this northwestern part of the State seems to function like a big catchers mitt for those type of weather events. The current one that is in the process of destroying the coastal cities below us is a Category 4 monster named Michael, and it might wind up intensifying into at Cat 5 before it is done.
Wake up Calls
I remember my first hurricane which was named Irene, a storm that ripped across central Florida in 1999. As a precautionary measure, I moved all the vehicles over to the far side of the house so I could prevent possible damage from a tall tree along side the driveway. The tree never did go down, but the grass was so saturated with rainwater, I couldn’t get traction with the tires when I tried to move the vehicles. That happened when my wife called from the hospital after visiting with her mom. The wind was blowing so hard she was afraid to drive home. Deep ruts in the lawn were caused by my spinning the tires to creep forward so that I could reach the driveway. It was all I could do to get out and go get her.
The next storms were Jeannie and Francis in 2004. Our home had 7 sliding patio doors with no protective barriers covering them. Deciding to stay and ride each event out, I nervously watched the glass doors bulge in as the high winds threatened to shatter the glass. Our long backyard fence was knocked down and my wife’s Papaya and Mango tress were broken in half. In the aftermath, I had to deal with the flooded street in front of my house and a water level that rose up to within a few feet of our doorstep.
Cat 5 Hurricane Andrew
We were living in Orlando several years before when Hurricane Andrew hit the southern part of the state. With the expectation being that it might make landfall further north from where it actually did came ashore, local stores in Central Florida were cleaned out ahead of time. After the destruction of the Miami metro area was made known, I decided that it was time for me to get involved with the reconstruction process that was sure to follow. We then made plans accordingly.
When we first drove down there, we saw massive twisted steel billboard signs and demolition piles in front yards everywhere we went. Street lights and traffic signals were inoperable. Mobile homes were piled up on top of one another. Stores and hotels were closed everywhere. It was one big mess.
For accommodations, we had an old Travco motor home that was formerly used by Lawrence Welk and his band members for onsite purposes during road shows. I bought a used semi truck trailer to store our furniture in and also make an office out of to handle the paperwork involved for the reconstruction jobs I had going in the area. We stayed on the lot of a damaged house owned by clients of my youngest daughter, Stephanie, who babysat their kids. It was a confining and uncomfortable way to live, but we managed it all the same.
After reconstructing 9 homes, we wanted out of the area. Following a short-term stay at a rural KOA campground, we left and headed west. As for my future considerations, I vowed to never get involved with another hurricane project again. Little did I know at the time, that idea would come back to haunt me 10 years later.
The Katrina Monster Left Me No Choice
Years later, while staying in a Ft. Lauderdale apartment as a second home during the work week, disaster struck again. In 2005, Katrina came in from the Atlantic and went right over the top of us as a category 1 hurricane. Moments after it hit, the power went out and I told my wife I did not want to stay there waiting for the electricity to be restored. So, we got in our Chevy Tahoe and drove to our home in Wellington (near West Palm Beach) while the winds howled around our vehicle. Crazy decision, I guess, but we went ahead and did it anyhow.
- Getting enough gasoline to last several days for fueling my generator which I run from 9:00 am in the morning until 12:00 am at night. With everyone in bed, the refrigerator will stay cold for the 9 hours that it is without power because the door remains closed during that time and the food stays cold.
- Making sure that batteries for flashlights are plentiful so that we can see our way around in the dark
- Running water in the the bathtub with a plug in the drain and filling it up so that buckets can be used to flush the toilets. If you live in a rural area, your well pump will quit working and stored water will be your only option unless you have a whole house generator keeping it going.
- Bottling up water and storing it in the refrigerator for drinking and cooking.
- Making sure that propane gas tanks are topped off for cooking on the BBQ.
- Have extension chords ready and waiting to plug in the refrigerator and freezer into when run from the generator.
- Placing vehicles out away from trees or structures that may get blown apart.
Since I don’t evacuate as a rule, I can’t advise on supplies you will need for that procedure, but I know you can find appropriate advice online or prepared manuals dedicated for that purpose. Just keep in mind, people have died on evacuation routes for one reason or another, so that choice is not always the best option.
As for updated news and reliable sources of communication, Satellite TV seems adept at sending a strong signal unless there is a lot of lightning overhead. The same can be said for internet service, whether it is satellite based or not. Our internet is not, but I had to remember to run an extension cord to the modem to keep it functional. Both are still working at 4:00 pm in the afternoon as Michael begins to move away from us. It has recently crossed Interstate 10 above Tallahassee. No damage to us so far, but I heard a neighbor was not so fortunate. A tree fell down and crushed the power line to his house.
All I can say as I finish up is good bye Hurricane Michael, and good riddance indeed!
I am requesting that my readers click on the links provided and download a sample read of each book and give a review on Amazon. You will have free access to the first four chapters of each book. My hope is that you will like the story lines enough to obtain either an eBook version or a paperback copy that you can put on your bookshelf as a masterpiece when you are done. FATE STALKS A HERO I: RESURGENCE, FATE STALKS A HERO II:THE FIJI FULCRUM, and THE SAGA OF HERACLES PENOIT. I will be giving excerpts on these works in upcoming blogs to familiarize you the reader with exciting details about the contents of each one. Thank you!