Nobody Likes You Irma (Part 2 of 2)

Irma was an unwelcome guest, but there was no stopping her from blowing through. I thought I would share what it was like for me and my family as she came knocking on our door. Looking back, we got off easy compared to a lot of folks, but my story is the only one I can tell. I tell it mixed with prayers for those who have truly suffered through this storm and the many other “natural disasters” that are going on in the world today.

By 11:00 Sunday morning we were hunkered, which is a word we used liberally during the entire ordeal.

Hurricane Warning

By 2:20 PM our phones were going off like crazy with alerts. Watches turned to warnings. (Watches are issued when conditions are favorable for the storm. Warnings come when the storm or flood is imminent.)

The first rain bands arrived before 3 PM.

The wind significantly picked up by 7 PM. By 8:30, those winds became downright scary as they gusted over and around our house.

By 10 PM the rain was coming down in torrents. We experienced minor flooding over our front sidewalk. And the eye of the storm was hours away. FYI, we did not board up our house.

Our front sidewalk in the light of day. It took 3 days to dry out.

We decided to go to bed and get some rest. The worst was supposed to come around 2 AM. My parents seemed to go right to sleep on the other side of the house. Bob and I lay in our bed listening to the weird noises that the wind was making. I thought our roof was going to come off. I told Bob that I couldn’t sleep with all that noise. He said that he could.

And he did! I went to the center of the house and tried to rest in a recliner, but by then it was raining even harder and I could hear the dripping in the chimney while the weird noises continued. The wind whipped through our screened pool enclosure making eerie howling sounds. This was the first time in a long time that I can remember being legitimately scared. So, I ate some chocolate chip cookies.

The entire household was sleeping through this (minus me, of course). That amazed me, but I was thankful somebody was getting some rest! It was now clear that the storm was going to go right over Orlando. With the wind picking up even more, a little before 2 AM, I prepared the hall with cushions and chairs for my parents. Our phones, computers and car keys were placed in Ziploc bags. I was ready to take the hunkering to a new level.

I was awake and praying or chatting with other hunkerers on Facebook through most of the night – manning the conn from our recliner in the center of the house while eating the occasional chocolate chip cookie or three. I’d peek outside toward the east and look at the weird lightning and watch the trees bend in the glow of it. The water in the pool, though Bob had drained several inches from it twice, was over the edge. Irma was loud and violent, and the rest of my family slept through it.

With everything in place, I returned to my recliner. I must have dozed off, because I woke up around 6 AM and realized that it was over, and we still had electricity.

We live in the back of our neighborhood, which has 450 homes in it. A tributary of the Little Wekiva River flows through the center. Typically, it is a creek of about 8 feet width. Monday morning it was a raging little river.

The front of our neighborhood looked like a war zone of fallen trees and debris. They were without power. Our end of the neighborhood never lost it. But there were a lot of downed trees and fences and a new lake in our neighbor’s backyard. A wonderful neighbor had a front-end loader and went up and down every street clearing a path. Everyone was outside working and checking on each other.

Our next-door neighbor’s backyard

Bob looking at all the debris – our neighbor’s newly formed backyard lake in the background

Our damage was so minimal it doesn’t even count. I told my mother that we had an extra blessing from God because they moved in with us.

Bob and I put on our sneakers and leather gloves and got to work. Trees are no respecters of property lines. We have the neighborhood border wall behind our house. There is a vacant, treed lot behind us, so we got lots of debris from that. When I set foot in the yard, I was surprised to be up to my ankles in water. But there was no damage and nobody was hurt. We were amazed and grateful to God for that.

One of our sons and family showed up in the early afternoon. They were safe but without power. By nightfall, theirs was restored. Our other son and his wife were not so lucky. Theirs was out for nine days.

My parents’ home sustained no damage, but that area was without electricity for five days. It may be September, but it’s still close to 90 degrees every day down here.

 

     There are piles of debris along the roads that are taller than I am. And there is a subtle, funky smell in the air that is like a mixture of old diaper and chicken farm. Thankfully, the garbage truck removed the regular garbage today, so that may improve. Mass spraying has begun to combat mosquitoes. The sound of frogs in the morning is deafening as they take up residence in the newly formed ponds. We are keeping our eyes open for snakes. Alligators have been reported in some yards and pools. Flood waters are cresting along the St. Johns River. There are still some who have no power and others who can no longer stay in their homes. But we give thanks for being on the other side of this. It has been a blessing watching neighbor helping neighbor and churches joining together to serve. A lot of the differences that tend to divide us have taken their proper place, and we see each other simply as people going through something together.

I thought about being afraid in the middle of that night. I thought about how rare that is for me, and I was thankful. Now I think about people living in fear of storms real and imagined and how that affects their lives, and I pray that they will call out to God because He is there.

 

Advertisements

Nobody Likes You Irma!

Looking for the lighter side of Irma is similar to what it was like trying to find bottled water before she hit. Seemingly impossible. Water was the hot commodity – you had to search and search for it. For those who came up empty, all that had to be done was look down at the spigot in their very own kitchen and turn on the tap. Finding the good in a situation is like that – it’s often right under our nose.

My husband and I were prepared, as I felt prompted (no doubt by God) to make my preparations for a hurricane over a week before we knew she was coming for sure. Her fast development from a depression to a Cat 3 storm in less than 24 hours was impressive. Water, peanut butter, protein bars, apples, canned goods, and emergency M&Ms and Oreos (for keeping spirits up) were secured well in advance. Gallon Ziploc bags filled with frozen water from my tap and Tupperware containers with frozen blocks of ice were at the ready.

I am forever grateful to God for that, because by the end Labor Day weekend we needed to make our most important hurricane preparation – getting my parents out of their manufactured housing, about 30 minutes away from us.

That Monday night Bob and I visited them and basically told them that ready or not, they needed to come by the end of the week. Permanently. We had been trying to convince them to move in with us for months. Well, it took a hurricane. I had joked/not joked with them that if we had to evacuate them, we weren’t taking them back. Now they are residing here with us. I am so relieved.

My parents have been married for 69 years. They are mentally sharp. Mom has been taking care of my Dad for quite some time. He lost the remainder of his vision about 18 months ago. He is 94. Mom continues to be his caregiver, but now we walk alongside her. Mom and I laugh at the same kind of things. I think I got my sense of humor from her side of the family. It brings me great joy and peace to have them with us.

For me, having them here has lightened my emotional load. So, thanks be to God, who used a terrible hurricane like Irma to make this happen.

Bob’s birthday was September 10. I was determined to have some kind of celebration before the September 9, Irma-is-coming-to-town curfew was enforced. (Everyone to get from streets!) I thought it wasn’t quite enough that, not only was he getting a hurricane for his birthday and his in-laws, too. We had to have a party.

We gathered on Saturday for lunch and cake. Interestingly, I forgot to get candles for the cake even though I had plenty of flashlights and lanterns. Oh well! Our local kids and grandkids came over and we had our little party. Then everyone left to batten down the hatches in their own homes.

Saturday brought an uptake in winds, but it was the quintessential calm before the storm. The sounds of plywood being nailed over windows and lawnmowers making a final pass to shorten the grass were everywhere. People were filling their garages with all outdoor paraphernalia in order to eliminate flying debris. Neighbors were checking in with each other. Swimming pool water levels were being lowered.

Throwing furniture into the pool keeps it from blowing around. Our chairs seemed to want to exit up the stairs though.

Hurricane Irma was larger than the state of Florida – that included the area from the Panhandle all the way down the Key West. We watched her wobble along. Would she visit Orlando or Tampa? We prayed she would not go into the Gulf and hit Texas. It took her forever to make “the turn.” But when she did, it became clear that Central Florida was in for it. We had done all we could to be ready. Now it was time to wait.

In my next post, I’ll tell you what it was like to go through the storm. I said it was time to wait, didn’t I?

The Bands are Coming

Bob and I have been preparing and waiting for Irma. It now appears that the band is back together. That is, the rain bands.

We had decided it would be relaxing to sit in the hot tub and take a nice soak while there was a light drizzle gently falling.

And then this happened.

Thanks, Irma!

So I thought you would like a firsthand look at our weather this Sunday afternoon at 2 PM – from my phone, not from us in the hot tub! All it took for a band to come through was a decision to go outside. I think we’ll stay in for a while. Stay safe, everybody!