Hurricane Irma- The Waiting Game
Originally written 9/10/17: Day of Hurricane Irma
We first learned of Hurricane Irma threatening our state over a week before her landing.
As technology gets better and better, the forecasts can expand longer and longer. Part of me loves the advanced notice, but a much bigger part of me hates it.
With such a long forecast, it leaves the “cone of uncertainty” wide and completely unpredictable. With Irma, the original forecast showed the east coast getting totally hammered with a Category 5 hurricane- the most powerful we’ve ever seen. Then, a few days later, it showed Irma heading up the spine of Florida, affecting all counties in some way.
A day or two before official landfall, Irma was headed West as a Category 3, right toward the Tampa Bay Area.
And now, 12 hours before she hits, we’re looking at her heading more East.
With such a huge threat to our state, the panic ensued almost immediately. First, in Miami, with people fleeing South Florida in droves. The news was reporting water and bread shortages, which caused a mad rush in all of Florida (the entire state) to find items for survival. Then came the gas shortages. Day after day, we were hearing stories of hour long lines at the gas stations for people to arrive only to find out that there was no gas left to be had. We saw picture after picture of empty grocery stores and hardware stores. No plywood, no sandbags… basically no hope.
Next were the mandatory evacuations. First Zone A in Pinellas County, then Zone A in Hillsborough County. Shelters were opened, then getting full. I-75 and I-95 were jam packed with people trying to flee the state. Some people fled Miami to come to Tampa to only take refuge elsewhere as the track changed by the day.
In reality, the mass hysteria made it worse than the reality of the situation. I was able to get gas freely on the way to the office one morning during the craziness. We bought plywood and boarded up our house the day before Irma was scheduled to hit. We stocked up on plenty of canned goods and have enough perishables for a family of 5 and 2 animals.
Every station was playing some version of Irma coverage, and at one point, I just had to turn it off. The national news sensationalized it to be much worse than it was, calling it “DEADLY HURRICANE”, where the local news just repeated themselves hour after hour. I know the names of all of our weather gurus, and learned more about the locations of the cities within our neighboring counties.
As I sit here, about 12 hours away from whatever this storm will be, I’m nervous. Who wouldn’t be? I don’t know exactly what to expect, but I know we’ll get through it, either way. We’re going to get some wind. We’re going to get some rain. We’re probably going to see some damage no matter what. But tomorrow evening, it’ll be over, and we can assess.
Written on 9/19/17
We awoke the morning of the 11th, at 5 AM, after just mere hours of sleep. Overnight was really terrifying. We could hear the wind whipping outside, but it wasn’t bad enough for us to officially “hunker.” All I could think was that we were going to wake up the next day to one of the cars being destroyed, or another tree through the house.
At first light, we assessed my parent’s house. Aside from the pool cage screens taking a beating, and a lot of downed branches and debris, everything was completely fine. Sigh number one.
They lifted the curfew for our county at 8am, and we immediately got into my car and headed to our house in St Petersburg to see what the damage looked like. After a tree coming through our roof last year during Hurricane Hermine (these bitches!) we were convinced that somehow we were going to be facing a similar scenario.
We pulled up and could see the back of the house first. Nothing. We ran inside, checked all the rooms, and ran out to the back yard to see that our sweet, wonderful, hundred year old bungalow was just fine. The chickens were just fine. We were completely fine. Albeit without power, but at that point, WHO CARES? Sigh number two.
We spent the next few days without power, cleaning up debris and getting back to normal life. We had to clean out our fridges to remove spoiled food, and head back to the office once all was safe and sound.
“We got lucky.” It was the headline that was all over the papers the next day. And it’s true… we did. The islands that Hurricane Irma hit first at her full strength have been destroyed. The Florida Keys are being assessed and rehabilitated. But the Tampa Bay area dodged a huge bullet. We did all we could to prepare, and scared ourselves into submission, but in the end, it could have been a lot worse, and thankfully, it wasn’t.