Blogging During A Hurricane
Florida Is Hurricane Central
As I write this article, I am watching Hurricane Michael come in and go right over the top of us. This one will be the fourth hurricane to impact our area since we moved to this country site. It will be the 9th storm of this magnitude that I have been through. Hurricanes have become a part of my life.
For some strange reason I seem to attract devastating weather events or geological catastrophes wherever I go. In California it was earthquakes, mudslides, Santa Ana winds, and forest fires. In Arizona it was flash floods and lightning storms that destroyed high voltage transformers in brilliant flashes before my eyes. Now, in Florida it has been hurricanes, water spouts, and rising water levels in the streets.
Florida is a state where it is impossible to escape damaging weather catastrophes. Being nothing but a giant peninsula, you cannot be more than 60 miles from a major body of water. That means the warm Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. From the seashore to inland 20 miles you are in the highest risk zone. And the risk is tropical storms and hurricanes.
The Panhandle area seems to be like a big catchers mitt for storms. From the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane that took over 400 lives, to Ivan that destroyed the I-10 interstate bridge in Pensacola. Now, the current one is Category 4 Michael. This area draws storms like a magnate. And here we are with another one!
Wake up Calls
My first hurricane was the first Irene storm in 1999. I remember moving all the vehicles to the side of the house to avoid being under a tall tree by the driveway. The tree never went down, but the grass was so wet, I couldn’t get traction with the tires. I had to leave when my wife called from the hospital visiting her mom. The wind was blowing so hard she was afraid to drive home. Deep ruts in the lawn were the result of my spinning the tires to slowly move onto 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 at the time had 7 sliding patio doors. Deciding to stay and ride them out, I watched the glass doors bulge in as the high winds threatened to destroy them. Our long backyard fence was knocked down and my wife’s Papaya and Mango tress were broken in half. Aftermath, the streets were flooded and water was almost up to our doorsteps.
We were living in Orlando when Hurricane Andrew hit. The Expectation being that it was to make landfall further north from where it did, local stores in Central Florida were cleaned out ahead of time. After it was over, I decided that it was time to get involved in the reconstruction. We moved to the Miami area.
Massive twisted steel signs and demolition piles in front yards greeted us. Street lights and traffic signals were inoperable. Mobile homes were piled up on top of one another. Stores and hotels were closed everywhere.
Our abode was an old Travco motor home formerly owned by Lawrence Welk. I bought a used semi truck trailer to store our furniture and make an office out of. We stayed at a damaged house owned by babysitting clients of my youngest daughter, Stephanie. What a messy way to live.
After reconstructing 9 homes, we began to want out of the area. Following a short-term stay at a rural KOA campground, we left. I vowed not to get involved in another hurricane project again. Good luck with that.
Years later, while staying in a Ft. Lauderdale apartment during the work week, disaster struck again. Hurricane Katrina went right over the top of us as a category 1 storm. 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 drove to our home in Wellington while the winds howled around our vehicle. Crazy, but we did it anyhow.
While we were at home, it became apparent that this was going to be a major event that was gaining strength as it headed out into the Gulf. And it was moving straight towards my hometown of New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I called my sister who lived in the area. I told her she better get out after I saw that it was rotating at 150 miles per hour a 100 miles away from landfall.
After the monster passed, devastation was on the news every night. Even though I had no desire to return to storm-damaged reconstruction efforts, I knew from heartbreaking emails that I had to go and help my family. This included my brother who also lived in the area with his wife and son and daughter. So I went up there.
Communication was sporadic, but I was fortunate enough to have a Nextel walkie-talkie phone that worked when the cell towers didn’t. Text messages were not doing too well and satellite pictures were not up to date.
While I was out of town, Hurricane Wilma hit our house in a Florida. My wife called and said the front doors were blowing open. She was able to secure them after a struggle with the latch bolts. I just couldn’t seem to win, no matter where I went.
We stayed in New Orleans for 4 years after helping everyone get back into their homes. It was a trying and sometimes traumatic experience that I never wanted to repeat again. I was done! Or so I thought.
While still there, it was sometime before we were affected by another significant weather related event. The New Orleans area got hit again in 2008 with Ike and Gustav. This time I saw some interesting things that I had never seen in my life.
Since I was still moving stuff from my now-sold home in Florida, I was on the road when evacuations were taking place. My wife, now being in New Orleans, called and said that contra-flow on the freeways was close to being ordered. This meant east and west routes would both be used as one-way corridors away from the storm center.
So, if I did not return in time, I wouldn’t be able to get back into the area. I had driven some 800 miles from Louisiana to my destination in Florida, loaded my trailer, and would now not get any rest. The decision was made by me near nightfall to return. It was an amazing trip back.
Entering Mississippi, no one was in the westbound lane. I was the only fool traveling that route. As I entered Louisiana near Slidell, the eastbound lanes were packed with crawling cars and trucks. The only vehicles I eventually saw were a group of hurricane hunters heading in.
After arriving, and getting some rest, I decided to cross the Causeway bridge across Lake Pontchartrain into New Orleans. I wanted to check my construction sites for loose equipment and materials. Again, I was the only one going in. Arriving on the other side of the lake, it was like a ghost town. All freeway routes were vacant. No one in sight. May have been the best time I ever had traveling in that area.
Back To Hurricane Plagued Florida
That was it for us until we neared the completion of the purchase of our present home in Northwest Florida in 2016. We had a hurricane threat extend the escrow on our house closing which really helped. The seller was threatening to cancel the whole deal because mortgage broker mistakes had forced us into our 4th extension and tensions were mounting. The storm threat required the seller to extend one more time.
The following year, 2017, saw Irma tear up the central part of Florida. The outer bands reached us and caused a heavy downpour for one full day. We were fortunate enough to miss the damaging winds that got Tallahassee and other cities in trouble.
So, as I said at the beginning, I am writing this article during Hurricane Michael which seems to be topping out at 155 miles per hour. Strong winds and heavy rains have knocked out our power. I have the generator running to keep 2 refrigerators, 1 freezer, 1 TV, and some lights operable. My wife set up an electronic gadget charging station in the master bath.
What I Have Learned
I guess the main thing to do for storm preparation is getting gasoline, batteries, water, and some ready-made meals. If you have a generator, make sure you have some long extension cords along with 3 way plugs. We have lines running all over the house.
If you live in a rural area, your well pump will quit working. Fill up the bathtub with water along with some 5 gallon buckets beforehand. You can at least use it in the toilets to flush them and also have sponge baths while waiting for power to be restored. Just don’t drink the stuff unless it is in an enclosed bottle.
Satellite TV seems to keep working in a big storm unless there is a lot of lightning. The same with 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. They are both still working at 4:00 pm as Micheal is now moving 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 his power line.
Good by Michael and good riddance!