First of all, I noticed several of my followers left comments while I was away showing concern for my safety while this whole thing was happening. With that said, I want to thank them for their concern for my well-being during Irma, as I would certainly extend the same if anything as disastrous came near their homes.
As you can see, I did indeed get through the storm in one piece. And now you all get to hear about my experience of living through Irma!
Before I get to the Irma Saga proper, it’s probably best if I fill you in on my history with hurricanes. Of course, I am a lifelong resident of Florida, so for many of us here, tropical cyclones come with the territory of living here, and we are very acutely aware of the risk that they pose. I was too young and too far north to remember Hurricane Andrew, and while my family evacuated in anticipation of Hurricane Floyd in 1999, that storm ended up staying out over the ocean. My first real experience with a hurricane came about at a very active and transitional time for me: August, 2004. My maternal grandmother, one of my closest relatives, had died of cancer just a month earlier. Nine days after her death, my senior portrait was taken. In the very beginning of August, I started my senior year of high school. But it was barely a couple of weeks into that school year when Hurricane Charley set his sights on Punta Gorda, Florida, and the I-4 Corridor from there. I remember having to hear the sounds of the storm the night it arrived. I could hear the thud of a tree falling by the edge of the woods near our house. Our power was knocked out, and would stay down for a week due to the electric company not getting the call to fix our power grid, for some reason. We ended up missing about two weeks of school because of Charley, and just as we were settling back into a routine, another hurricane, Frances, also decided to set her sights on Florida. I remember our air conditioner blowing out just before the storm took out our power. But that wasn’t the kicker. On top of that, a pine tree in our backyard slowly fell onto our house. However, it fell slowly enough that the wind basically cradled it to our roof instead of smashing it through our walls. We were able to run across the street to our neighbor’s house before the tree hit the roof. It did leave a hole in our roof, which we were able to patch up. I can still see in my mind where that tree was, too. Three weeks later came Hurricane Jeanne, and by that point I was simply thinking, “Not again…”. And although our power was eventually restored after each hurricane, they left an effect that would last long after the storms passed, most notably when all the rainfall compromised the ground enough to cause a sinkhole to open in the road right by my high school a month or two after the hurricanes, one that would take almost the rest of the entire school year to fix. A large maple tree that has stood across the street from my house for as long as I can remember has been slowly dying since those storms. I remember when it would be full of green leaves in the summer; now, the top half of the tree is dead and a shadow of its former self, but somehow its lower branches still produce leaves year after year. Those three hurricanes (and some of the last gasps of Hurricane Ivan) taught me so much about how to approach future hurricanes. We now have our own plans in place for when storms like this come around. But just because I know what I’m dealing with now doesn’t make dealing with them any less easier.
When the forecast models became clear that Florida would be affected by this storm in some way, shape, or form, my nerves began to build, only getting stronger and stronger as the days to landfall grew closer. By the time Irma started making her approach towards Florida, my nerves were at such a level that was only rivaled by the health scare that my dad had a year ago and had to spend the night in the hospital. From its landfall in the Keys until the remnants of the eye wall passed right by and right through my hometown, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of the storm coverage. For some people, watching all that may be stressful, but for me, knowing what to expect actually helps to ease some of my worries. Irma’s fury was getting stronger and stronger by this point.
At the storm’s peak, I remember the sounds of howling wind, rain slapping the sides of my house, and the *bang* of an exploding transformer on a nearby street. Somehow, we managed to maintain power (with the occasional flicker) throughout the worst of the storm…only to have a fallen oak tree on another nearby street take ours out at 6:00 Monday morning, setting off a saga of its own. Our house, thankfully, suffered no structural damage. The worst storm damage we got was a couple of fallen oak branches to our Chrysler (which seems to be purely cosmetic damage). There were two small dents in the hood, and there was a huge dent in the left front fender.
You see where the reflection caves in, just above the tire? That’s where the dent is, and it measures about the size of my hand. Luckily, the car is currently not in driving condition, as it is awaiting a replacement alternator. Our truck escaped any damage. Even now, two weeks out, my street is still lined with piles of dead oak branches with their now-brown leaves 🍁, all blown off from the numerous oak trees that populate my neighborhood. Of course, as the destruction in the Keys has shown, we could’ve had it so much worse. My family and neighbors only had to clear away oak branches. People in the Keys will have to rebuild everything because of Irma.
We also did not flood, by virtue of sitting on land that is 60 feet above sea level and, in addition to that, being high enough and distant enough from our nearest waterway, the St. Johns River, to avoid it at its flood stage. As of this writing, two weeks after Irma, the St. Johns is still at flood stage and is under an indefinite Flood Advisory until the waters finally begin to recede. We also have a pretty good storm drain system for being in a neighborhood that sits on unincorporated county land. While this storm was a rainmaker and singlehandedly put a lot of major places in Central Florida back into a rainfall year-to-date surplus, in my area it was nowhere near 2008’s Tropical Storm Fay, which spent a week over Florida and made landfall four separate times. It drenched the entire state of Florida and had periods of almost stationary movement similar to that of Hurricane Harvey just last month. (Fay actually did give us some street flooding, but no house flooding; I live on a hill.). However, places like Miami, Jacksonville, Shingle Creek (considered to be the headwaters of The Everglades), and even places relatively near to me like Sanford and Astor got some pretty nasty flooding.
Waiting for Irma was quite stressful. Going through Irma’s wrath was a bit scary. After Irma, I’m glad that I still have my life, health, family, and a roof still over my head. There are many who were not so lucky. I hope those who lost everything in this storm are able to rebuild their lives and are able to return to some sense of normalcy. And these sentiments also go out to those who’ve lost everything because of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico 🇵🇷 and other places around the Caribbean that were hit by both Irma and Maria.
Coming soon, I will be posting about the power outage we went through in the aftermath of Irma, which I felt deserved its own post. It was an…interesting experience, to say the least. Until then…best wishes to you all.