For days we watched TV and prayed that Hurricane Irma would not come toward Florida. Twelve years ago, I survived Hurricane Wilma and watched the devastation it inflicted to South Florida and my building: broken windows, snatched shuttered, cars smacked on top of each other, uprooted trees. We were left without electricity and water for a week and spent a year repairing the damage.
The mandatory evacuation order annihilated our hope to avoid the hurricane path. Evacuating was a big hassle.
Not sure if we should leave–to go where?
The airports were crowded with stranded tourists trying to go home. The three airports within a two-hour distance responded with a “sold-out”. We couldn’t just take the car and drive north, and risk being stuck for hours on a cluttered highway.
In addition, I was dealing with a fractured kneecap and a big brace to wear 24/7 and had trouble riding in a car for hours. At first, we decided to stay and brace ourselves to cope with the hurricane.
We stocked on water and food, and filled the car with a full tank. Remembering that big buildings can shake under the impact of high winds, we removed frames from walls and delicate bibelots from shelves.
Not sure if we should stay here. We live on the beach–first line of defense.
I spent hours researching Google for “How safe are high rises during hurricanes?” High rises are built to sustain 185 mph wind. The safest place is the stairs, completely built in steel and concrete. The safest apartments are those on the 7th to 10 th floors. Floors higher that the 20 th are exposed to horrible wind. Floors lower than the 6th face the risk of flood and flying objects.
We live on the 22 th floor. Back to watching Irma’s news. The Governor of Florida urged us several times to leave: “We can replace your material possessions. We can’t replace lives.”…”If you live in a mandatory evacuation zone and don’t leave, you will be stuck on your own. No one can access your place. The bridges will be open and we won’t answer an emergency call.”
Enough to scare the heck out of us.
Our daughter insisted we should stay with her family. All our friends in high-rises on the beach were staying home, claiming that these buildings are 50 years old, quite sturdy and have survived their share of hurricanes in previous years. Praying for their safety and for Irma to get lost over the ocean.
On Friday morning, we drove to our daughter’s house, an hour away, northwest from our high-rise on the beach. It was good to be with family. Surprisingly I-95 had little traffic that morning. The calm before the tempest.
The house was all shuttered and we had electricity. We couldn’t see what was going on outside, but we could hear the noise, the wind, the rain. Strident alarms on my cell phone alerted us to the danger of tornadoes and raised panic in my heart. My grandchildren decided they needed a break from bad news and made us watch eight Harry Potter movies over three days.
And we survived Hurricane Irma.
On Monday morning, we welcomed the sun and nice breeze and opened the doors for a peek outside. Fallen branches in the driveway and yard. A few broken or uprooted trees. My son-in-law cleaned the driveway.
In our area the bridges were now accessible and the elevators of our building functioning. We returned home. At the entrance of our evacuated zone, police cars patrolled to protect us from looters and asked for ID to check that we lived in this area.
Our hurricane high impact windows resisted the strong wind. No leaks. I sent a thank you note to the man who did a great job on the installation ten years ago. Many of our neighbors had to cope with buckets of water leaking under the windows or from the sides.
We stayed without TV and Wi-Fi for three days. The Comcast box supplying the building was smashed during the hurricane.
All in all we are grateful we survived without damage. Others were less lucky in Miami, Fort Meyers and the Keys.
Thank you for your prayers and support.