Everyone knows Florida equals hurricanes. It’s the same as Buffalo equaling snowstorms or LA being prepared for earthquakes.
I’ve experienced natural disasters. I was in Istanbul during the huge 7.2 earthquake in 1999. Two ice storms in Rochester, NY (1991 and 2003). More snow storms than I care to count. But Irma was different.
We made it 4 1/2 years without having to deal with even a tropical storm (since Matthew veered East and left Kissimmee virtually untouched), but last week that streak ended.
What started out as a “normal” week (or as normal as life can be when you’re in the process of packing up to move a few miles away) became a mad rush to hurricane-proof the house. Josh got some of the last pieces of plywood on Wednesday. It took a total of three days (measuring, planning, cutting, and then installing) all the sheets and 2x4s.
I did as much as I could to plan food in case of power outage. Did all the laundry on Sunday. Then we moved everything special (scrapbooks, etc) upstairs in case of flooding. Central Florida is low-lying swampland, after all.
Sunday afternoon we had times where it was windy or rainy, but if we didn’t know what was coming it would have seemed pretty normal. Slightly windier than we usually experienced but nothing that out of the ordinary.
But by mid-afternoon we started hearing reports of tornado warnings for various areas. (I had no idea that tornadoes are a common part of the hurricane experience before we moved here and started to learn about our weather) After supper, we got a warning for OUR area.
So we all went into our room (the safest room in the house) and turned the radio on in there. A minute or two later, the power went out. (7:00 or so)
Once the tornado warning had expired, we finished getting the kids’ bedding situation ready. They were sleeping around our bed, so we could keep the door closed and not have to have the radio on all night. We all tried to sleep in the pitch-black room. So much for my plan to have fans provide some ambient noise to block out some of the wind: losing power took all of that away!
Because I didn’t have any way to tell the time, I had to just guess what was happening.
None of us slept well, but since everyone did a good job being quiet, no one knew we weren’t the only one awake at any given time.
I woke up at some point (my best guess is midnight-ish) to silence. No wind. No rain. I hoped it meant the storm had actually passed, but it was more likely the eye. I couldn’t get out of bed or I would have stepped on my eldest, so I had to just stay there and listen and wonder what was happening out there.
Later I heard wind again, but thankfully no more rain at that point. The floor stayed dry (which is good, since all three kids were sleeping on it!) and I hadn’t heard any big crashes telling us anything had broken through a window.
(side note: we covered MOST of our windows. Two of the windows were too hard to reach/get to so we left them exposed, and a couple others were protected by the neighbor’s house so we didn’t have to block those off. It meant we did get a tiny bit of natural light in, which we were thankful for)
When we got up in the morning, it was still on the windy side. This surprised me. It actually stayed windy enough to be a tropical storm warning until 6 pm on Monday. I had expected by breakfast that the wind would have been gone. I guess I didn’t take into account the size of the storm!
We ate breakfast by candlelight (thankful that the milk had stayed cold enough for one more breakfast), took quick showers with what remained of the hot-ish water, and then we all headed outside to see the damage.
We saw the majority of our neighbors outside doing the same (and starting to clean up!) so we jumped in too. We made quick work of the fallen branches, except for a couple in the muddy back yard that we couldn’t get to without getting filthy.
The lanai lost 3 panels of screen. The ceiling is wet in spots, but we think we know what caused that and it’s likely not an actual roof leak. And the power was still out. We spent the bulk of Monday putting things back away, taking down the first-floor plywood, and tidying up.
So Tuesday morning, we ate breakfast (dry cereal) and headed over to Josh’s parents’ house, 15 minutes away. They hadn’t lost power, so we got hot showers, enjoyed hot coffee and air conditioning, and could charge our phones again.
We decided to keep sleeping in our own house so we’d know what was happening power-wise (and so we didn’t need to pack suitcases), and when we drove home Tuesday evening we all cheered to see our lights on!!!
We still have to get up to take down the second-story plywood (we had to be sure Jose wasn’t going to head this way first), and the lanai needs to get fixed, but otherwise we feel like life is slowly getting back to normal.
Which means we can get back to the packing fun…
Here are a handful of short videos I took on my phone:
What it looked like at 12:30 pm
What it looked like at 2:20 pm
What it looked like at 4:50 pm
What it looked like at 6:07 pm
What it looked like at 7:41 pm
What it looked like at 9:30 Monday morning
another view of what we saw in the morning
The “angel window”