Most everyone who comes to this blog knows I live in Central Florida. Orlando, to be precise. Hurricane Irma is supposed to hit Florida head on, but hurricanes are unpredictable and nobody really knows for sure what is going to happen. Currently the hurricane is directly over Cuba.
In 2004, we sighed with relief when Charley went into the Gulf of Mexico. However, at Charlotte Harbor, Charley turned eastbound up the Peace River. My husband and his former souse were sitting in Orlando watching on the television as the eye of the hurricane moved over their investment home on the Peace River and leveled it. His boat ended up in his neighbor’s living room. Then, Charley headed north, and hit Orlando wide open.
Charley was small, fast and furious, cutting a path across the state before heading back into the Atlantic on the other side of the state. When it hit the Gulf, all of Central Florida had let down their guard. Tornadoes were spawned in Charley’s wake. So there was much devastation across the state.
In 2004, I had never experienced a hurricane. That night, I was off work and sitting on my front porch talking to my dad on the phone while watching the huge oak trees across the street kiss the ground in the torrential rains. My little apartment was on the ground floor of a two-story cinder block building on the NW side of town and I felt safe.
Little did I know that the SE side of town was ripped apart near the airport. I never lost power, so I had hot water and air-conditioning. But I was most fortunate, most were without power for nine days. Early the next morning I was called into work.
As an RN I was considered first responder during Charley and our employers made nurses stay at work 24/7….could not even go home to shower and had to sleep in patients rooms on the floor. I mean we chose that job…but that’s how it was. I lived five mins away and off the night of the hurricane, but was called into work that morning and had to show the police my “Disaster Preparedness Team” papers to be able to be on the interstate. I was in College Park and worked off Michigan. After 16 hours of work, they wanted me to sleep on the floor in a patient’s room because we received a huge amount of patients that had been evacuated from a facility in Lake Wales that had lost its roof. They let me go home for 8 hours, but I had to sign a paper agreeing to be back when I said I would….or risk termination.
We lost a lot of patients during that time. The Nursing Home was without power for nine days. The backup generator only supplied a few room’s outlets. The oxygen concentrators are electric, and once we ran out of O2 tanks, people started dying. We saved more than we lost, but people were literally dying in the hallways. A van of nurses came from Lake Wales to help take care of their patients every day. A couple of days after Charley went thru, the van was involved in a terrible accident in the torrential rain and two nurses were killed and one was paralyzed for life. I don’t think non-essential employees should be mandated to stay on their jobs during such a crises. But it’s crazy here and people can be fired for leaving a job at McDonald’s. Unless they live in a mandatory evacuation area, they are expected to stay.
Life is an adventure and then you die….seriously…we’ve been helping people board up homes and secure pets for those that need to leave. Some of our friends have relatives on the coast that can’t drive any distance (elderly people) so they are going to get them and bringing them to Orlando…I actually feel safer here in Central FL than anywhere else in FL at the moment.
In the aftermath of Charley all you could smell when you walked outside was Bar-B-Q. People were grilling meats that had thawed and was one big party from backyard to back yard…lol It was quite an experience. Free food everywhere….people helping cover rooftops with tarps. Chainsaw sounds were deafening.
But here is the real kicker: We just bought a house on Matlacha. The island is basically a sandbar between Pine Island and Cape Coral in the Gulf of Mexico, just behind Sanibel Island. Pine Island is a conservation island where no more development is allowed…no big condos, hotels or big box stores. Matlacha (pronounced Matt-la-shay) is that tiny red island.
The homes are three feet above sea level…the quaint bungalow we hope to retire to is on a lot that is built up by about 6 feet, and Irma’s storm surge is expected to be 6-10 feet. The Key Westy home is surrounded by coconut trees and sits on a deep water canal just a few yards from the channel that runs wide open to the Gulf. The home is waterfront with picturesque shuttered windows all around, opening views to the dock and the bay. Sanibel and the barrier Islands offer some shelter, but you just never know about these things.
So there is that. Sure hoping the 1964 house will still be standing when all is done, and the island property is not on the bottom of the bay. It’s been there for more than fifty years, so all we can do is hope it can at least last another fifty years.
At any rate, we have a generator for powering our a/c and fridge here in Orlando in case we lose power, and the family is gathering at our place to weather whatever part of the storm hits us here in Orlando Sunday night. There is still a sliver of hope that Irma will continue westward, but all hope of it turning north and heading up the eastern seaboard is gone at this point. It is currently bearing down on Cuba and when it hits the mountains it should weaken. The FL Keys are just starting to get hit with the outer bands, and they are warning them for Cat 3 with 105-125 winds with gusts to 145, and it’s not looking good for Matlacha. However, the house was built in 1964, has weathered many a storm, and we can hope to weather another half century.