Staying with my good friend in Florida, I am on a public service mission to write grants to fund the Homeless Coalition in Charlotte County. On my first day at the agency I was to meet with the …
Staying with my good friend in Florida, I am on a public service mission to write grants to fund the Homeless Coalition in Charlotte County. On my first day at the agency I was to meet with the director instead, I was greeted with an evacuation order! Hurricane Ian was coming up from Cuba, and the sixty-five people and ten pets staying in the homeless shelter, and surrounding homeless in the area, had to be evacuated. Wanting to help, I immediately jumped in to make peanut butter sandwiches for the group, the very large group. After everyone had been ushered away in vans and volunteer automobiles, I returned to my friend’s house which was in a much higher zone and not ordered to evacuate.
Hubby, ever the prepared Boy Scout, had spent the day preparing for the hurricane. He laughed inwardly as people waited in line for generators, then left with their new possessions without also purchasing the gas can needed to fill them. He also bought cases of water, bread, (no milk), food that did not have to be refrigerated, several candles and industrial strength flashlights with tons of batteries. Scouting around, he found most of the gas stations to be closed as their tanks were empty but did manage to find one to fill up both his car and the gas tanks. He joked that if the generator used up the gas in the tanks, he could start emptying the car’s tank for fuel. Having been through several hurricanes in Rhode Island, Hubby felt fully prepared. Of course, those storms had been years ago, and society and technology has changed a lot since then.
My friend lives on three acres with many artistic doodads, thingamabobs and gizmos adorning the yard. We helped her carry these inside the house, lest they get caught in the wind of the storm and blow away. A six foot, fully colored, metal peacock joined the porcelain pig with the big grin, the vibrant glass light fixtures, the abundant dog and frog statues and the many decorative chairs were pulled into the living room. The large garbage cans were placed up against the house with the assumption they would not blow away. In good spirits, we all sat down for a gourmet meal of meatballs and pasta, prepared by Chef Hubby, to await the Ian’s arrival the next day. All that evening we watched the live news on television trying not to get hyped up by the dire forecast. My friend, who is from Rhode Island, had also lived through hurricanes and we thought we were all set, but we were wrong.
The next morning, we again sat around the television, glued to the commentators and their calamitous predictions. It had not yet hit land and was destined to directly smack our area. We viewed pictures from the coastline prior to the hurricane’s arrival, with waves pummeling the beaches and hotels precariously close to the action. I shuddered to think of what that area would look like after the storm was done. It did not dawn on me to think of what OUR area would look like after the storm was over.
We lost electricity and our connection to the outside world at 11:30 a.m. with Ian due to hit our area at 1:30 p.m. As we sat on the couch, alarms shrieked from our phones telling us that it was a serious situation, to “shelter in place”. The rain and the wind started up and the trees started swaying, branches breaking off here and there, as the alarms continued on phones that no longer had any other connections. The water from the pool overflowed and joined the rainwater encroaching on the house, making its way under the doors and into the living room. While the doors held a watertight seal, the nooks and crannies under the doors burst forth with the water, exposing cracks never before witnessed. Another heart stopping announcement came that the situation was dire, and to huddle in the middle of the house to stay away from flying debris. The wind picked up tremendously, sounding like the roar of a freight train, and the bending trees were now a blur of fury, bent sideways by the gale, huge cracking, and crashes to be heard. This was the first time in my life I was truly frightened, my heart in my stomach, just like at the top of a roller coaster, but that awful sinking feeling lasted for ten more hours.
Making small talk now and then above the tempest that swirled outside, we grabbed blankets and slept fitfully on the couch where we had previously enjoyed watching television. The wind eventually died down, but then flared up again as the other side of the eye of the storm pummeled the area. The water in the living room fortunately only came in a few feet and my fears of being flooded alive were alleviated, although being speared by a tree branch was still a possibility.
In the morning, the wind had stopped, and the sun shone brightly, and it looked like any other beautiful Floridian day until I looked out the window. I was met with a scene from Jurassic Park with huge trees bent sideways almost to the ground, some of them actually ripped from their enormous roots and strewn about the yard. Trunks four or five feet thick, garbage cans, shed doors and debris from the garage, (whose door had been torn off) lay about the terrain. The street and the yard were flooded up to the house. There were two huge trees across the driveway, another humongous tree landed on the fence, taking it down, and yet another skewered the telephone pole, dragging the electric lines into the water that flooded the street. Most of the power lines on the street had been taken down by trees which similarly lay amidst the water.
For four days now we have had no electricity, with the generator strewn around the dismantled garage and deep in the water. There is no running water, although we anticipated the pool would provide some relief from the relentless heat, but we were wrong. The pool, filled with branches and yard debris, has become a breeding ground for mosquitos and the voluminous bites on my body resemble a grave case of the measles. We cannot leave because we cannot get out of the driveway, and if we did, we wouldn’t be able to get down the street because it is flooded. We have no cell phone service and, of course, no Wi-Fi. The biggest concern is that we have no connection with the outside world. We have not been able to tell if other people are alive, and we cannot let our loved ones know that WE are alive. For some reason, many texts from people asking if we are okay have come through on my phone, but there is not enough signal for me to answer them.
The only sign of life are the helicopters that have been flying overhead all morning. Air boats and police patrol boats whizz up and down the street, rescuing anyone that does not have dry land on which to stand. Although it might sound like a tempting offer to leave, they are bringing people to storm shelters at local schools which are sure to be more crowded and humid than the house in which we are staying. Additionally, my friend has dogs which she refuses to leave. Thanks to Hubby’s pre-storm preparations, we have an abundance of water to drink and plenty of food to eat as long we do not mind eating canned pasta cold and peanut butter sandwiches.
It feels like we are in a science fiction movie, along with plenty of interesting sights; a cow swam (floated?) down the street until a neighbor coaxed it out of the water onto higher ground, kayakers from the neighborhood gawked as they passed by the wrecked homes; one man, in a canoe, was actually fishing with a smile on his face. He explained that he never gets a chance to go fishing in the ocean and was taking advantage of the one time the fish would come to him. I was too flabbergasted to ask if he had caught anything.
My friend is understandably distraught. Her oasis on three acres is ruined, the banana and orange trees smashed to the ground with the fruit still attached. Her ceramic yard ornaments are smashed and the pergola and its flowers in a heap in the water. She laments the loss of all her beautiful trees and the charmingly coiffed grounds on which she lived. Myself? I am just happy to be alive, mosquito bites and all!
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