My Experience with Hurricane Irma

I am writing about my experience with Hurricane Irma. I live in the Tampa Bay Area. I have dealt with many storms before. I experienced Hurricane Elena back in 1985. I was only 15 at the time. I just remember that storm kept doing a dance up and down the Gulf of Mexico till it finally made landfall Biloxi, Mississippi. During breaks in the feeder bands, we kids would go outside to get away from being shut into homes all boarded up. The kids tied a bedsheet to two poles then hop on skateboards and surfed the wind through the puddles. I just watched them glad to be outside. Another Tropical System came through our area drenching our area sometime before 1992. I can’t recall the name or the time. I just remember coming home from work to find most of my normal routes was flooded. I eventually had to come into the neighborhood from a different direction and drive across some people’s yards to get to my parent’s home. I remember the no name storm of 1993 which occurred in March caused a lot of flooding in our area.

Once I became a Florida State Trooper, I was sent up to Pensacola in October of 1995 for Hurricane Opal. The detail of Troopers from all over the state stayed in Tallahassee at the academy the night the storm came in. We left as a group in the middle of the night heading across Interstate 10 towards Pensacola on the backside of the storm which had weakened from a Category 4 prior to landfall. We traveled convoy style dodging downed trees along our path. We made it to Pensacola and stayed there a total of 9 days. I saw the devastation to the barrier islands there first hand. The intercostal waterway was filled with debris swept off the barrier islands from the storm surge. I got to be observer in a helicopter one of those 9 days. The intercostal waterway was filled with debris swept off the barrier islands from the storm surge. We saw washers, dryers, fridges, cars, boats, and such in the water. The bridge appeared to just end at the barrier island due to the sand that had been washed all over it. We landed in a safe area and went looking in some homes that were still standing searching for those that stayed behind. It was such an eerie sight. That last day before our detail left, bulldozers had opened some of the roadways on the barrier island. The mounds of sand reminded me of snow drifts in the Midwest after a blizzard.

I will always remember the Hurricane season of 2004 which Florida which seem the constant crossing route for Hurricanes that year. That season was very taxing with the many twelve hour shifts and cancelled days off. It started with Hurricane Charley which was aiming right for Tampa Bay. It was a Cat 4. I remember helping Pinellas County evacuees on Interstate 275. Some were heading to friend’s homes in Orlando. One young family was heading to their father’s house in Punta Gorda. Then Hurricane Charley pulled a fast one and veered right off the projected path and made landfall in Punta Gorda. Hurricane Charley rode right across the state emerging back into the Atlantic Ocean off New Smyrna Beach. Barely a month later, Hurricane Frances hit the east coast of Florida coming in between Fort Pierce and West Palm Beach. Hurricane Frances crossed the state coming off into the Gulf of Mexico near Tampa Bay. Hurricane Frances then went up into the panhandle and northeasterly back out into the Atlantic Ocean as remnants. Barely a week later, had Hurricane Ivan come through the Caribbean Sea and into the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Ivan made landfall near Alabama but Florida felt some minor effects from the rain bands. Next came Hurricane Jeanne about a week after Ivan. Hurricane Jeanne hit near Port St Lucie and went through Pasco County almost emerging into the Gulf of Mexico before it tracked northward into Georgia. Three major hurricanes hitting central Florida in six weeks and those three Hurricanes crossed the same area of Polk County all three times.

There were other storms here and there that we had to respond for in Central Florida. Then after my crash in 2007, I became non-essential personnel. The offices have been closed a few times in the past 10 years. Nothing more than a day of the office being closed. This monster of a Cat 5 Hurricane was bearing down on the entire state of Florida. The storm was twice as wide as the state. We were going to get more than a small percentage of winds and effects with this one. Before the storm, I was checking in with each update. I would look at the models. I had a feeling it was going to go right up the middle of the state. The two most dependable models were showing that. I checked in with the geezers as Florida started being more in the cone of uncertainty. I was checking to see if we were going to hunker down or evacuate. The choice was to hunker down. I knew the roads were going to be clogged and with the track of the storm it was going to be hard to find somewhere to go. We couldn’t go north then west due Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath. Going north was not going to be a good option because that was going to be everywhere that those fleeing the state were going to go. I remember when Hurricane Floyd was bearing down on the whole east coast of Florida. All those Floridians evacuated to the west side of the state and caused major gridlock. I went and got extra pet food for Batman. My parents insured me that they were going to get the generator gassed up and prepared. They were going to get water and supplies. It wasn’t discussed any further.

Hurricane Irma devastated islands in the Caribbean to the point that they are inhabitable due to the infrastructure being destroyed. We received word on Thursday that the office was going to be closed Friday and Monday due to the storm. I worked diligently to get work done and to stay busy. I worked on getting my bag packed for going to my parent’s house on Sunday. They actually expected me to go sooner. The storm wasn’t due in our area until Late Sunday night. I advised them I would be over with Batman on Sunday afternoon. I packed Batman’s bag. I then worked on securing my home office and my TARDIS. It is hard to decide what you will actually take and what will stay behind. I only had one tarp and I used that on the TARDIS which covered that and half of my entertainment center. I live on the second floor in a no evacuation zone so flooding was not a concern but losing the roof was a worry. I packed Boo’s ashes, her paw print, and a sample of fur. That cannot be replaced. I felt if me and Batman were going to evacuate then she would come along. I filled my freezer with extra bags of ice from my ice maker. I also placed extra glasses of water in the fridge. I was going to take all my leftovers which were going to leave the fridge pretty much emptied. I lowered the temperature on both the freezer and the fridgerator. I had frozen a glass of water then placed a quarter on top. This way I could know how much the freezer defrosted if power was lost. I did all the laundry just in case the power would be off for a long period of time. I felt I had prepared my place as best as I could.

With my Twitter friends being from all over the world, we had just prayed for those in Texas. Now those in Texas were praying for us joined by those from the rest of the world. Several close Twitter friends are in Florida. We all promised to keep in touch as a group. I left home around 2pm on Sunday and headed to my parent’s house. There was no one on the road. It was a ghost town. Batman was not happy with the wind. Normally he enjoys riding in the car. We got to their home. My parent’s helped me unpack the car. Batman walked into the house and looked around. He explored a bit. Zoey was not happy at all. Batman approached her to make friends. She was so mean. My Mom put Zoey into the master bedroom with their Quaker parrot. This way Batman had the rest of the house. He settled down pretty fast. We all stayed glued to the TV. I spent a lot of that time talking with my friends on Twitter. Everyone was concerned how Batman was doing. It kept my mind off the impending storms approach. My Mom was pretty wound up. She was constantly changing channels taking in every livestream and report. As the night wore on, the wind and rain got worse. Batman stayed close by me. He was safe with me. We tried to sleep but the wind howling woke us a couple times. I was on the couch bed while Mom was in her recliner. We kept hearing loud bangs on the roof followed by scraping. The power flickered on/off a few times. The power finally stayed off around 2am Monday morning. The TV had drowned out some of the wind noise. Now the house was dark. We had our flashlights. Mom had lit all her battered operated candles. I had brought over some extra. This way we could have some light as we needed to go to the bathroom. It was a restless sleep that night. We awoke to a breezy, partly cloudy day. We went outside to survey the damage. We found lots of broken limbs and leaves from the trees. Some of Mom’s plants in the backyard were blown over. We made breakfast on the grill. We discovered that Kcups were not going to work for coffee. Luckily the neighbor that shares the generator with my father had some ground coffee. Lesson 1, make sure you have ground coffee and either a French press or camping coffee pot to make coffee with. The breeze kept the humidity at bay as we all went out front to rake up the storm debris. My father and neighbor started the generator only to discover that it was running but eventually stopped generating electricity. Mom and I ran over to my place to find there was no power at my place. My condo was safe with no damage. The carports sustained damage. Also the storm had broken a pipe in front of our building so no water as well. Mom and I grabbed my bacon and eggs to take back to the house. With no Wi-Fi, the cell signal at my parent’s house is not enough to fully get onto Twitter or Facebook.  I was anxious to check in. The entire Florida group was accounted for and safe. That eased my mind. I was able to answer many text messages inquiring about my safety.

Tuesday was more humid. We fixed breakfast again. Dad said this was camping without the fun. Dad sent Mom and I out on ice run to try and keep the freezer okay. Dad and the neighbor were working on getting the generator fixed. Another neighbor helped them as we were gone. We drove all over seeing lots of damage. Mom and I found a Village Inn open and had lunch. We had to wait on a table. There were some college girls next to us that found out that there was no school for the rest of the week. Many people looked weary and tired. We overheard many conversations about the power being out and damage sustained. We get seated and order. I was able to get good signal at the restaurant so spent a lot of that time getting caught up. I was able to learn from Facebook that Town and Country area never lost power. So I told Mom that was where we were going to head to in order to find ice and something to bring home to the boys. Most of the people in the restaurant were nice and understanding of the limited menu items, the extra time that it was taking to get orders filled. They had limited staff and only had gotten power back on that very morning. Then came in some entitled persons who feel as if the world owes them. All they did was bitch and moan. Seriously? We all just went through the hurricane. They skipped out without paying. People frustrate me that act like that. Unfortunately, the world is beginning to fill up with them. We finished eating and found a Publix opened which had ice. Their deli was operational so we decided to get some chicken for the boys. That Publix had a 20 minute wait on chicken. We stopped at another one on the way home to find some hot wings for the boys. The boys were happy with the hot wings. The other neighbor allowed the boys to borrow one of his generators which they shared to get the fridge and freezers back to temps before switching back to the other house.

With the heat and all, it was getting old pretty fast. We had plenty of water. I had breakfast food covered. We didn’t have enough other food once the leftovers were gone to sustain other meals. We were praying that the power would come back on soon or at least some of the local restaurants to get their power back. The two Publix locations that we had went in there was no bread, snacks were gone, no water, canned goods were scarce. We awoke Wednesday morning after hearing a generator going on all night until it ran out of gas around 430am made sleep very interrupted. We planned on clearing out the backyard. Dad used my diced ham to make omelet with the last of the eggs. To out delight, we saw the lights come on. We closed up the house so the AC would cool it down. We all worked hard on the back yard. Mom started to not feel good. Dad and I cleaned up after finishing our yard work. We went to local Publix and got some food and chicken soup for Mom. Dad and I also stopped by my place to find out the power and water was back on. I was overjoyed because I had enough. Batman was such a good boy and all. Work still was without power until Wednesday evening. I got us all packed up and back home after having lunch with my parents. I only got unpacked enough to be ready for work in the morning. I was exhausted. Still others were without power through until that weekend. The damage to the keys is horrific.