Friday September 8, 2017
It’s a little after 6am and I’ve been basically awake the last hour watching the stillness of the crepe myrtles through the lacy drapes in Beck’s bedroom. There is a bright moon this morning so the stillness is visible. There is no stillness about 500 miles south of here as Irma, the record breaking hurricane is wreaking havoc and devastation on all the islands in her path, which evidently will eventually lead straight up the center of Florida. That is the big news item since Harvey, after dumping flood waters on east Texas, fizzeled into rain showers probably in Tennessee somewhere. The poor people in Texas are still trying to recover and the folks on the Caribbean islands hit by Irma are, well, homeless and isolated. Since it is inevitable we, too, will be experiencing hurricane winds, it is time to prepare.
The governor has been on television a couple of times a day all week telling people to get ready and even evacuate if necessary. He has been somewhat of a jerk the last seven years, won’t talk to the press and doesn’t even get along with his own party in the State House and Senate. Do not know how he got elected, twice! But, he has been quite personable and caring during this episode. Urging people to do the right thing, answering all the questions and assuring us resources are coming and will be available. He does not want to “lose one life” to this storm. Perhaps his experience with Andrew a few years ago when he had some nursing homes in the Miami area is why he is so concerned about Irma. As a side note it is said he defrauded the government out of Medicare money at the nursing homes and that is how he got so rich. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but that’s the word that’s out there. Also, being the cynic that I am, his performance during this crisis could help him with a run for U. S. Senate next year. Regardless of the reason, he has shown real leadership so far this month.
We will be picking up the loose items laying around in the yard and trying to mount some plywood over a few windows later today. We have only used the plywood a couple of times and just on the back side of the house where the trees are. When Bob built this house back in ’79 he said if there ever was a hurricane he was coming here because this was a strong house. It made it through Charlie which I always thought came very close to us and it seems there was a storm sometime before that with no damage to speak of. So we are going try to ride this one out, too. It looks like it will be the biggest challenge. We have an almost full tank of gas in the car and Sue has bought a bunch of non-perishables. She’ll fill the bathtub with water for flushing the toilet. Two bags of charcoal for the Green Egg cooker and some containers to store drinking water should see us through.
The nicest thing, my cousin in Atlanta sent me a text last night and welcomed us to their home if we needed a place to go. We said no thank you, but it was the nicest thing. Sometimes it’s just nice to know folks that you least expect are thinking and care about you.
Saturday, September 09, 2017
It’s a little after 7am and like yesterday it is eerily calm here. The latest Irma landfall projection seems to be around Ft. Myers and then straight line to Tampa. We are about 35 miles east of Tampa which puts us within the 70 mile radius of hurricane winds and on the wrong side of the eye for tornado probability. They think it may be here Sunday night/Monday morning. It keeps moving more west than the original consensus was. I read somewhere from a forecaster “that ridge was not as strong as we thought it was”. The weather ridge is what was supposed to turn Irma almost due north. The forecasted path has gone from a straight line between Miami and Jacksonville to a straight line from Ft. Myers to Tampa and it’s still trending west northwest. It’s over the coast of Cuba, the wind speed is down a little and the pressure which has been running around 925 is now about 930. I don’t know exactly what that measures, but I know the lower the number the more intense the storm. There will be a better report coming out at 11am.
We are still tinkering around with preparations. Lots of containers for water are laid out on the bar. The tub has been scrubbed for storing water and some of the little yard things have been picked up. Cut down a big camphor tree limb that has been a worry for some time and boarded up the dining room window. We’ll board up the family room windows today and trust the newer windows in the rest of the house to withstand the 100+ wind. There was a wind tunnel at MOSI, Museum of Science and something or other, in Tampa a few years ago, nothing is a few years ago anymore, and it was nearly impossible to stand in there with 75 mph wind…just saying. Sue is going to pack us up a small bag for grabbing and running if it comes to that. She is always prepared for anything. Will be picking up some of her medicine at Publix later today and maybe pick up fruit and nuts just in case. Got to figure something to do with a Staghorn fern hanging pretty high up in an oak tree outside the sliding glass door to our bedroom. That should be a fun little project. Definitely want to get that done before it starts getting breezy around here.
We had a few little showers yesterday that puddled up in the driveway. The ground is already saturated from last month’s rain so it won’t take much to leave water standing all over the yard. Chris and Khakie tried to get some sandbags for their front door day yesterday. Khak said there was plenty of sand but no bags. Chris dug some kind of ditch, put the dirt in garbage bags and that’s what they’ll use to keep water from coming under the door. Sue is worried about all the glass in their home. She has cautioned to have shoes and gloves available for dealing with broken glass…always thinking and prepared.
All the schools were closed yesterday including the colleges. The Florida Southern students had to leave their dorms and find other shelter. Sounds pretty harsh to me. I think they are going to be closed through Monday. The post office and mail delivery is suspended. Publix will be closing at 8pm tonight until I guess probably Tuesday. Our relentless Sheriff will be monitoring the public shelters for people with outstanding warrants. “No criminals or child molesters will be allowed in shelters with our children. We have a special shelter of them at the safe and secure jail.” I hope he is going to overlook migrant families and parking ticket violators.
The 8am report states Irma is still over the Cuban coast just south of Miami and moving west northwest. Because some of it is over land the wind is down to 135 and pressure is at 937.
Sunday, September 10, 2017
I think there is a nautical term, “cat’s paw”, that describes the first ripple on smooth water that the first breeze brings. If you have ever seen it you know what I mean. This morning at 8:05 the Spanish moss hanging from the oak tree outside our sliding glass door stirred slowly and reminded me of a “cat’s paw”. I don’t know if that’s really the term or not, but it sounds good here. The moss could have been blowing earlier but I had just woken up and that was the first thing I noticed, well, except for that lovely lady hugging my back.
It seems the eye of Irma is on Big Pine Island in the Keys. I think there are a lot of the cute little Key Deer on that island. They have been there for some time and survived hurricanes and people. Irma will probably have little effect on them now. The five o’clock forecast suggest Irma will run up the gulf coast, hit land somewhere around Naples or Ft. Myers and pass closest to us with eye at Palm Harbor. That’s probably 50 miles west of us and hurricane winds are still expected to extend 70 miles on each side. We are expecting 80-85 mph winds somewhere around 3 o’clock Monday morning. Everything that we were going to do has been done. We are just waiting it out. A little concerned but not too worried. Becky is far away and worried about us old folks. She has offered some pretty good tips. Never knew what “airplane mode” meant and had not even considered the wind noise factor. I’ll try to keep her posted as long as we have electricity. Sue heard from one of her best friends who is my cousin Gail. She tried to get someone to trim some of her trees to no avail but they will be hunkering down at their place anyway. Her daughter, Tracy, works at the Health Department and had to work at a hurricane shelter yesterday. It used to be voluntary but now it’s mandatory. Heard from Texas kin folks who are concerned about us. Reassured them we were doing fine so far. They are good people.
Last night we watched part of the Georgia/Notre Dame game and this morning we are watching those idiots who like to stand in a hurricane and tell you how bad it is. I think a picture of a tree blowing in the wind would get the point across just as well and no one would look like an idiot. I always assume the people assigned to that job are hated by their co-workers. Why else would they send them out in a dangerous hurricane…why else?
Sue says maybe we should wash the dishes by hand today so if the electricity goes out we won’t have stinking dishes in the dishwasher. I said the electricity will probably be okay until late tonight. “What about a tornado? Well, there may not be any dishes left in that case”, she says, answering her own question. The dirty breakfast dishes are in the dishwasher.
The 11 o’clock advisory reports winds at 130 mph moving north at 9 mph and the pressure at 933mb with hurricane winds extending 80 miles in either direction. My guess for us is about the same as it was before. I think we’ll be okay. So far, so good.
I think Jose missed all the islands devastated by Irma and will spin around in the Atlantic for about a week away from land and folks. Thank goodness those people didn’t get hit again…at least yet.
Monday, September 11, 2017
Starting this day as a leftover from Sunday. It’s no quite 1:30 in the morning and the last hour was why we did all the preparation. We thought we were going to be about 40-50 miles from the eye of Irma. As it turned out, she stared right at us. That storm passed right through the middle of town. We, unlike some folks, still have electricity. We lost our cable so don’t know exactly what’s going on with the storm except we can still hear it howling outside and things keep knocking on the side of the house. Everything is cozy and dry so far.
Well it’s almost 9 o’clock. It’s cloudy and the wind is still pretty brisk. After the rain stopped and things quit banging on the side of the house we fell asleep. Some of the neighbors are out looking around. We are amazed our lights are still on. There are tree branches and leaves scattered everywhere. In our yard one big limb broke off the old camphor tree (glad I cut the bad limb down before the storm) and a tree from a vacant lot fell on our property out back. There is nothing back there but water this morning. Yes, there is water everywhere, too. We’re okay. The house is okay and as near as I can tell the neighbors seem to be okay. There is a lot of clean-up work to do, but we are able to do it. That’s a good thing.
During the storm with all the rain and wind, we looked through the glass panes at the top of the front door and there on a decorative banister up under the eve was a little Carolina Wren. I am sure he/she was wondering what in world is going on. Well, maybe not, maybe it is the nature of other species to know more about what’s going on than our sophisticated species is aware. Anyhow, he/she didn’t stay there long though it seemed as good a place as any at the time.
On this date in 1960 Donna blew through our town much like Irma did last night. Sue’s daddy was a policeman and had to work that night so, being the noble young man I was at the time, I stayed at her house with her mother, sisters and grandmother. During the height of that storm the screen door on their back porch swung open and was banging around. Granny Williford walked out there and closed it. We were astonished at her nonchalant bravery! Later, as I was comforting Sue in my usual style at the time, Granny thought I was a little too comforting, “You two are getting mighty familiar over there” was her nonchalant style to set the boundaries. While the boundaries haven’t always stayed with us, the saying has endured and been used on several occasions.
Becky stood by us with e-mail and text through the worst of it and still made it to work this morning. Chris and Khakie lost their electricity last night, but they have made it through okay. The glass windows survived, thank goodness. These are wonderful people whom we love and who love us. Take that Irma!
It’s 10:15 and the sun is shining! I love Florida!
Friday September 15, 2017
It has been clean up and survive the last few days. We have done very well. We had electricity which means we could stay cool, cook, and flush the toilets with our running water from the well. We didn’t have television or the internet. Most of the days were spent resting up from chainsawing downed limbs and dragging them and brush out to the side of the road where hopefully the trash folks will pick it up next week. They cancelled our garbage day, which is not a big burden on us. Most of our garbage is recyclable so two weeks of garbage garbage easily fits in the supplied oversized can. The whole neighborhood has a big trash pile in front of their homes. Irma did a good job of stripping the leaves, twigs and branches from the trees. There is one giant oak tree down at the end of the street that toppled over from the roots. Luckily it didn’t hit anything. The rooster crowing was a welcomed sound as was the hawk screech and a pair of Sandhill Cranes flying over with their loud honking. The only other sound was the chainsaws. That lasted until probably sometime Wednesday. We had resorted to transferring old VCR tapes to disk which meant we watched Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations from twenty years ago. As far as the news here and from around the world, we only knew what was on the radio. Radio broadcasters today do not know about news. To them it is a five minute read at the top of the hour before they press the play fifty five minutes of music button or it’s play a song (I started to write ‘record’ but no one would know what I was talking about) and rave on about some mundane entertainment, sport or traffic event. Which is all fine and good because most of the radio listening these days is done in an automobile while commuting. But I diverse. (Is that the right word?)
Everyone was not doing that well. All of our family and friends are not only left with the yard trash, they are without electricity. No cooking, refrigeration and, most important this time of year, especially after a humid hurricane, no air conditioning. We grew up believing air conditioning was a luxury. The movie theaters advertised air conditioning along with whatever movie was playing. Back then homes were built to allow a breeze to blow through the house. Windows with screens to keep out the mosquitoes, another problem following a hurricane, on all sides of the house and even screen doors. You didn’t leave the doors and windows closed all day like you do today. And, as I remember, folks didn’t have as much self-insulation as they seem to have today. In any case, air conditioning is very important in this day and time and is missing with no electricity. There are tree trimmers and line crews from all over the country converging on our state to rebuild the electric system, but when the damage is far reaching it is a slow and methodical task. About half of the people we know are still without power. Chris and Khakie and Khakie’s family have portable generators, so basic needs are met. They saved their frozen and refrigerated food and have eventually rigged portable room air conditioners. This was especially important for Khakie’s mother who is almost wheel chair bound and has a hard time outside her room. We have heard of elderly people in a nursing home down south who died from the heat when the air conditioning failed. The heat and humidity can be fatal.
Unlike in the keys and southwest Florida, things are slowly improving here. There is still trash to pick up and roofs to repair but the stores are open and school starts Monday and the garbage trucks are expected to back in our neighborhood next week. The news will slowly change from the Texas and Florida disasters to the latest Trump tweets and the world will be normal again, unless you live on the Texas or Florida gulf coasts.