Grace's Mosaic Moments

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Tale of Irma, Part 2

The "spaghetti models" a couple of days before Irma struck Florida. We were rooting for the two on the right. The 7th & 8th from the right are closest to the path Irma finally took.
Before the 4x 4, my neighbor's fence was leaning at about a 45° angle. I like to think my vines helped keep it up when nearly all other wood fences in the area have been smashed to kindling.

When I went to my daughter's house on Monday night, Mike & girls had finished picking up branches and were relaying flagstones - or maybe just playing in the mud after a long, hard day

Although there was still some wind & rain on Monday morning, there were birds sitting on the wrought iron fence wondering what happened to their birdfeeder. So up it went, even before I made coffee on a Sterno stove. Shot taken through the screen to keep from frightening the birds - with neighbor's debris in the background.


 Special note: I set out to write a personal story of what it was like when Central Florida was threatened by a major hurricane, and I am going to do just that. But with apologies to all those who lives were shattered so much more thoroughly elsewhere - from the floods in Houston, fires in the American west, earthquakes in Mexico, and the utter devastation in the Florida Keys and the Caribbean islands, most particularly Puerto Rico and St. Martin's. (Murmurs of the Apocalypse have been heard.) The personal pleas, day after day since Maria struck, have been agonizing as the large PR population in the Orlando area tried to contact friends and relatives and couldn't because not only was all the power out, all the cell towers were down. The latest wrinkle - seen on the noon news on Thursday, September 28 - there are hundreds of containers full of supplies sitting on the docks in San Juan, none of them being off-loaded! (Excuse: lack of gas for the necessary trucks to haul the goods where needed.)

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Grace's Personal View of Irma

Monday evening, September 11:  My daughter had no power, but they had a generator for basics and an outdoor grill, and I was happy to accept an invitation to supper. But oops! It was dark and I hadn't gone half a mile when I saw cars from both directions slowing down, taking turns driving the middle of the road through a flooded area, maybe fifty yards long. No place to turn around, so I did what the others did, even though most of them were vehicles with better clearance than mine. Next obstacle - no light at the intersection. Fortunately, traffic was light and I made the turn without incident. But when I entered my daughter's neighborhood, I had to negotiate an obstacle course, with just a narrow path cleared between the piles of debris (cut logs & branches  on both sides of the road). 

My daughter, son-in-law, and the three grandgirls had worked nine straight hours that day clearing debris. Piles of tree limbs, mostly evergreens, rimmed their yard. They lost about a third of the screen panels in their pool cage. Supper, however, went off well, with about ten family refugees eating together - except every time Susie used the microwave to heat up side dishes, the generator blew, and someone had to run around turning off as many lights as possible so the generator would come back online. 

Later, when I tried to think of an alternate route home to avoid the flood, I was stymied, because both routes involved major roads with multiple traffic lights. None of which were working. I braved the flood, arriving home about as tired as I'd ever been in my life.  Stress, pure stress. My sympathy for people with severe damage was strong. I vowed I wasn't driving anywhere until the water was down, the traffic lights were back on

Tuesday afternoon: my daughter brought the girls over to clean up my yard - an easy job compared to their yard. Naively, I still thought my debris would be picked up on the usual Yard Waste day, Wednesday. It is now two weeks later, and everyone's debris is browning in front of their houses. One giant tree is down two houses east of mine. It may be weeks before our debris is gone.

Meanwhile, TV is doing 24-hour news coverage, and I learn the damage is extensive. Even if we didn't get the brunt of the storm. Central Florida is a land of lakes, lakes, and more lakes, with one major river, the St. John's, and many smaller ones. There were trees and power lines down everywhere, many blocking roads. Some houses had their roofs shattered by falling trees. The storm surge was less than expected on our Atlantic Coast since Irma went north closer to the west coast, but boats still suffered, many of them breaking their moorings, sinking, or being tossed everywhere from on land to miles away. 

And the inland flood problem was growing worse, as the 16-23" of rain we had in our area poured into the rivers and lakes, plus the rains from south Florida pouring into the St. John's, which flows north. People whose homes had survived the storm now had three feet of water on their floors. Roads and bridges washed out. Sinkholes began to open up, some just gaping holes in the ground, some swallowing houses and causing a new round of evacuation orders.

Thursday, September 14: I ventured out for the first time since Monday night, getting groceries at Publix, where the shelves were almost back to normal. There was still little traffic on the roads, but the stoplights, thank God, were working. I still had no phone or Internet, but since I had power, I wasn't complaining.

Sunday, September 17:  Church was held in the gym of the church school, since churches were low priority for power. (Not restored for 13 days). The lakes and rivers continued to rise, many well over flood stage.

Monday, September 18:  I'd been checking my Internet two or three times a day for the last eight days. At 3:30 that afternoon, to my astonishment, I discovered I was back on line. I lifted my phone, got a dial tone. Which meant my cell phone could now update without my leaving the house.

The flooding on the St. John's and other rivers and lakes was beginning to go down, but not by much more than an inch a day. As of today (the 29th), flood conditions are still in effect.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Lee turned north into the Atlantic. Maria did not. News of Florida and its problems was suddenly replaced by news of Hurricane Maria obliterating Puerto Rico and St. Martin's. And today they tell us a tropical low is forming just off our Atlantic Coast, and then it's likely to move west directly across the state, perhaps developing into "Nate." Sigh. I have not put my lanterns away, or my bottles of water. The porch is still bare and uninviting. The yard waste still lies out front, turning brown. But every time I think, "I'm really tired of this," I see pictures of what's happened in Puerto Rico and understand why Father Paul, on Sept. 17—only partly with tongue in cheek—absolved the congregation from "survivor guilt" for having come through the storm as well as most of did here in Longwood.

Sunday, Sept. 24:  Services back in church, but the church school gym where we met last week is closed due to enough rain leaking in that black mold is feared. So tarp on the roof, inspections, cleansing - it'll be a while before all is back to normal.

Tuesday, Sept. 26:  The Orlando Sentinel said that 176 trees came down in our local botanical gardens (Leu) and a large tree fell on Dr. Leu's historic home, causing water damage to one wing. It is indicative of the massive amount of damage in our area that the disaster to our beloved Leu Gardens—much like churches being at the bottom of the list for power—was not reported until more than two weeks after the storm. Which reminds me, there's an Eastern Orthodox church about two miles from me with a mound of browned debris (logs & limbs) about fifty feet long and six feet high.

Wednesday, Sept. 27:  The TV news reported that black mold is already settling in in every house and business that was flooded. 
The weatherman announced that the series of violent storms we suffered in September broke all previous weather records.  

Friday, Sept. 29: The news at noon today announced the closing of a five-story waterfront condominium in Titusville (home to the Space Program). The roof came off in Matthew last fall and again in Irma. The water damage has led to black mold, a severe health threat.

After the news, I had my hair cut and met the Irma disaster up close and personal. My hairdresser lives on the St. John's River and lost her house. Permanently. She was on the phone to FEMA for the umpteenth time just as I arrived. And no, the house isn't salvageable. Two trees fell on it during the storm, prompting her to rent a storage unit and call a truck to move her furniture out. (To the amusement of her neighbors who told her she was overreacting. Two days later, as the water rose to engulf her neighbors' homes, she was helping them pack up.) There was no flood insurance on the house. She is living in a rental. (But her furniture was saved.) FEMA is offering nothing more than a loan when her expenses have already soared sky high.

And, of course, you can multiply the story above by the thousands if you count Harvey, Irma, and Maria. I keep telling myself we re-built western Europe and Japan after World War II. We ought to be able to rebuild the damage from three hurricanes. It's just that this time, the devastation is closer to home. And no amount of political diplomacy can keep it from happening all over again. 

Friday evening news: 350,000 claims for hurricane damage have been submitted to FEMA in Central Florida.

Friday evening, 8:40 p.m.: Regular TV programming was interrupted while the weatherman detailed the movement of a tornado in south Brevard county - on the shoreline some 30-35 miles away. The new storm front, the one that wasn't supposed to be anything more than a rain event, was showing hurricane quirks, such as leading with a string of tornadoes. Enough, already! Yet they tell us this one will be with us through Monday. Sigh.

I'll shut up now, but not before expressing the hope that this is it for the year. That flooding from this new Low will be minimal and not afflict more pain on those who already have holes in the roof, ruined appliances, molding couches, etc. Survivor guilt again - I am so glad I live on top of one of Florida's excuses for a hill!

~ * ~

 Likely topic for next week: Back to Basics, a look at some of the most common writing mistakes.

If you missed the Citrus Singer's second video, the parody of "These Are a Few of my Favorite Things," here's a link.

For the Citrus Singers' new video, click here.

Thanks for stopping by,


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