Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A Tale of Irma, Part 1

A surprise addition to this week's Mosaic Moments. The Citrus Singers have come up with another video, this one very much "off the cuff," as they wanted to coordinate with the Girl Scouts' current fund-raising campaign that will end in October. It's a parody of "These Are a Few of My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music. No costumes, no studio with AC - just a whole day "street side" in the 90+ sun and heat following Irma's departure. (Ironically, hurricanes sweep all the moisture from the air, leaving days of bright sunshine behind.) The Hispanic couple (experienced performers) who were to play the roles of customers couldn't make it - their car wouldn't start. And when Susie (the director) still hadn't found the young man needed as another customer, the teenage deliveryman for a nearby pizza place was pressed into service, as were some of the girls' parents. My eldest granddaughter also appears as one of the "cool" customers, the one requesting food with "no calories." Anyway, you'll find a link below to another GS video, scripted by my daughter, with all three of my grandgirls performing.

The Citrus Singers meet a genuine Drill Sergeant

The "cool" crowd asks for GS items with "no calories"!

For the Citrus Singers' new video, click here.

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Grace note: Residents of Florida and Texas can stop reading. Been there, done that. But there are a lot of people who have NO idea, so . . .


Most of us spent the last week of August and the first week of September being horrified by the news out of Texas. A Cat 4 hurricane, followed by record-breaking rainfall - in one place 51.2 inches! Flooding, a Dunkirk-like fleet of private boats rushing to help local first responders, some from states as far away as Florida. Homes and normal lives destroyed, but relatively few deaths due to excellent forecasting and lessons learned about shelters from the disaster in New Orleans when Katrina hit.

But oops! There was something else brewing in the Atlantic, a storm so big it became a hurricane shortly after it was born. Here in Florida we began getting daily bulletins about Irma. Our specially trained rescue workers and their air boats came back from Texas just in time for a couple of days rest before they had to do it all over again at home.

On Monday, September 11, word came: it looked like Irma, a Cat 5, was headed straight for Florida. When I went to the grocery store the next afternoon, there was already almost no water or bread left on the shelves. The evening news said the same of generators. And of course the rush became worse as the week progressed, stores struggling to restock and not quite managing. Peanut butter, jelly, cheese vanished. Along with every kind of battery and stoppers for bathtubs! (For those who don't know the drill, bathtubs have to be filled so toilets can be flushed when the water pumps shut down.) Three tankers made it into the port of Tampa, bringing much-needed gasoline, as of course there was a huge rush to fill up.  

Weather bulletin: Irma was 500 miles wide, its "eye"winds 185, with gusts to 200. I had grave doubts about my 1970s-built villa withstanding such ferocity.

The governor made numerous appearances on television, issuing warnings: residents on the barrier islands and those living in mobile homes must evacuate. Those living below the giant dike at the southern end of Lake Okeechobee as well. (The dike was expected to hold, but it was possible excessive rain and wind would whip water over the top. All tolls were suspended, so evacuation traffic would flow as smoothly as possible. Everybody else needed to stock up on food, water, lanterns, and flashlights, and hunker down. Frankly, I've never liked Florida's governor, but in this emergency he was superb. If he hadn't reached his term limit, he'd win the next election in a landslide.

On Tuesday, I moved all the container plants on my stone-walled embankment onto the ground, counting on the rise of land behind to shelter them. I uprooted down tall wrought iron plant holders, laid them flat, and put the flowers hanging from them onto the ground. (The birdfeeder I left up - not taking it down until after Sunday afternoon.) I stripped my porch, folded up tables, took tablecloths & decorations inside. Also, the cat climber (which Squeak never uses). I damaged my big begonia getting it through the opening in the sliding glass doors (narrowed by the cat door), but it spent the storm safely on my dining room table and is now back outside, still blooming happily when all my other plants were destroyed.

Wednesday Weather bulletin: Irma destroyed 90% of the Caribbean island of Barruda and was expected to skim north of Puerto Rico. After that . . . look out, Florida.

  On Thursday, when it looked as if Miami would take the brunt of the storm, the roads north were bumper to bumper with those trying to escape. Schools were canceled, beginning Friday, even in our area - not because the storm was imminent, but many schools needed to be prepared for use as shelters. On Friday afternoon, I baked up a big batch of scones. With those and the aid of my little Sterno stove, I would at least have my morning fix of coffee and something to nibble on.

Weather bulletin: Irma was angling more west - the so-called "spaghetti models" were shifting from Miami and the east coast to a track up the center of the state. Namely, Orlando. And Longwood (where I live). Yikes!

In the midst of all this the Episcopal Diocese in Orlando announced that the convocation ceremony for new deacons in Central Florida would go ahead as planned on Saturday morning at the downtown cathedral. Most of us in our choir, who had promised to sing, had an "You've got to be kidding" moment. Sunday services had been canceled, but not the convocation?? So there we were, driving a deserted I-4 into town at 9:30 a.m. (Everyone was supposed to be off the roads by 5:00 p.m., but most sensible people were already safely shut up at home.) Really strange to have a major superhighway almost to ourselves - and to discover that every billboard between Longwood and Orlando had been stripped down to its wooden frame. To save the advertisements, or to allow wind to pass through the boards, saving the frames? Truthfully, I have no idea.

As mentioned in a previous post, the convocation ran over two hours. Two choirs never made it all - one, the choir from Okeechobee - and another choir sang without robes, because when they went to pick them up, their church had already been sandbagged and they couldn't get in. Believe me, by the time I got home around two o'clock on Saturday afternoon, I can't ever remember being so tired. The strain was getting to me.

Sunday morning. Quiet - really strange, since I live only about forty feet from a busy road. Maybe five or six cars passed by between dawn and noon. Then . . . nothing.

Weather bulletin: Irma's track kept inching west - it was beginning to look like it was going to pass over Key West and go up Florida's west coast. A little better for Orlando but not good for my many friends who live in the Naples, Fort Meyers, Venice area. 

At the last minute, shortly before the power went out - and just as our area was beginning to breathe a bit easier - it was announced that Irma had shifted back to the east. She was going to travel INLAND, up the peninsula between Orlando and Tampa; i.e., CLOSER. The only good thing—going overland would reduce the storm's strength. 

Sunday, 2:00 p.m. The deluge came, the rain descending like a waterfall on steroids, making me very glad I live on top of what passes for a hill in Central Florida. The winds came later - but at minimal hurricane force - predicted for 75-90 mph in our area. I  think we ended up on the low end of that.

At 10:30 p.m. the power failed, but that was, of course, expected. The wind continued to howl against the east side of my house for several hours, but just as I was bracing for it to come from the other way, it began to fade. Amazingly, the eye passing over land had reduced Irma to a tropical storm. 

I went to bed, still expecting the storm to worsen, but it didn't. I woke to light rain, downed trellises, the neighbor's fence leaning into my yard, minor tree debris scattered over my lawn, and that was it. There were birds waiting on the wrought iron fence near where my birdfeeder usually sits. Even before making my coffee, I put the birdfeeder back up. 

Even more incredible, by 3:30 that afternoon, my power came back. Days before I expected it. No phone, no Internet, but I had power. Wow! Which meant not only light and stove but AC, computer, and TV - which made me aware of just how lucky our area was. I also had phone & text capability on my cellphone, thanks to AT&T, just no access to Internet services from home. but I had to use it sparingly as I had no way to recharge. (When I ventured out twol days later, my cellphone was able to update email and Facebook from wifi systems that were functioning.)

Monday, September 11: the curfew was lifted in Seminole County (where I live) at 11:00 a.m. All other counties kept their curfews in place until 7:00 p.m. The main problems: debris, including huge trees down, blocking the roads and lack of stoplights. Dramatic photos paraded across the TV screen 24/7. ranging from destruction in the Caribbean islands to Key West, the south Florida coast, and our own local pockets of disaster. 

Weather bulletin: Jose, following on Irma's heels, was predicted to turn north short of the Florida coast. The Carolinas and New England, however, should keep a close eye on Jose. Local joke as Jose turned north: "They wouldn't let him in." [Told to me by one of my half-Hispanic granddaughters.]

No way, Jose! But oh-oh! - Lee and Maria were coming off the African coast . . .

To be continued 

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For a link to Blair Bancroft's Facebook Author Page - with a new post - click here.

For a link to Blair's Website (which may not have my latest book, as my web guru lives in Texas!), click here.

Thanks for stopping by,



1 comment:

  1. Well done video! Still, the only product that interests me is the Thin Mint cookies, which I sold myself when they were 40 cents a box. For decades we would buy one case every year, freeze them, and enjoy one box each month.