Sep 15, 2017

My Hurricane Irma experience

It was Labor Day weekend, and I would be lying if I didn’t say I had a slight eye on the storm. They said it would be a category 5. I lived through hurricane Andrew 25 years ago. A cat 5 is no joke and nothing to mess around with.

I got to work on Tuesday, and we were all monitoring the storm. On Wednesday, it was all consuming. Then they canceled schools, and everyone was hunting for water and gasoline. I do have to say, I’m not sure if it’s the fact, that here in South Florida we don’t play around with anything over a category 3, or if they effects of Harvey were still fresh in everyone’s minds, but people sprung into action to prep for the storm. As we prepared, we all watched the cone, hoping to be out of it soon.

Thursday, with all the schools and most office buildings closing to prepare, I was home. I woke up to see us still in the cone. I headed to an Orangetheory class to burn off some of the crazy. Lucky I did, cause they closed later that night.

After class, I helped my brother put up boards on the windows of his apartment. Another workout for me. Those plywood boards are really heavy. Then I came home to soak in the air conditioning and comforts of home.

It was a gorgeous blue sky, puffy white cloud day. I knew this didn't bode well, cause that whole "calm before the storm" thing is totally real. I still remember how gorgeous the day before Hurricane Andrew was. Everyone was on social media posting storm prep and tips and tricks. Out-of-towners urging Floridians to flee. Now, if you’re not from Florida that’s easy to say. But… to get out of the state normally takes about 10-12 hours. To get out of Irma’s path would take so much longer. The keys, beaches, and other people in evacuation zones really had to get out. I am not in an evacuation zone, so there was no need for people like me to be clogging up the streets for the people that really needed to get out.

Friday was another prep day, but we got moving on this storm early. So it was a sit around and wait day. Friday night, the winds did pick up a little, and I got a little scared. We were still home, but Grandma and I were going to Mom & Pop’s house to ride out the storm, since their house has shutters. I thought we were already getting bands, but Grandma was already in bed. After texting with mom, we decided to wait until the morning to move over. In the morning we grabbed our bags and headed to Mom & Pop's.
Blunded up from the cold AC!

Saturday, we sat around and chilled. In the early afternoon Pop and I closed the last few shutters (they have accordion shutters), and we came in to wait out the storm. Mom made some arroz con pollo al la chorrera for dinner. It was delicious.

We were all sitting after dinner watching the non-stop hurricane TV coverage to see when it would be here, and first the lights flickered, but then bam, power was gone. It was just before 8pm. We turned on the radio for the simulcast of the TV stations and kept listening to the updates.

At this point the tornado warnings had begun. They came fast and often, but thankfully none in out area. We went to sleep and began to hear some of the winds begin to pickup. As the winds got stronger you could hear it whistling and howling. It did wake me up a few times. The storm kept going and when we got up in the morning the hurricane force winds were still there. We found out that they eye made landfall in the keys at about 9am, but with Irma being so wide, we had been having effects on our area for a while.

Most hurricanes I’ve been through have come at night, so by the time you get up in the morning, it’s all over. But this one kept going and going. Finally the news said that hurricane force winds should be gone by 8pm on Sunday, and tropical storm winds would be subsiding by 7am. Imagine over 24 hours locked in a house, in the dark, cause the shutters are covering all your windows. It’s nuts. Thankfully my parents front door has a little window made of hurricane proof glass, so at least we had a little light.

The little red dot is the radio.
Our outdoor kitchen including plantains from my godparent's backyard
There should be a sidewalk next to that tree

Eventually on Sunday night, we had to let my parents’ dog out to pee. Poor guy was not about having to go on a pee pee pad. When there was a lull in the winds they let him out. They said it was mostly just trees down from what they saw in the backyard for a few minutes.

Finally, the next morning, Monday morning, we were able to open the shutters and see what had happened. It was mostly tree damage. I didn’t see too much roof damage around their neighborhood, if any. So when we had some light, we got into the yard to deal with the debris. A few substantial branches from their tree in the backyard had come down.

A part of their fence also came down, cause the neighbors fence fell over. Overall, the damage wasn't too bad.

Debris piles in front of every house

Huge tree by Mom & Pop's being cleared 
Mom made breakfast on our propane camping stove in the makeshift outdoor kitchen. She was using up what we had as it defrosted. The bacon was in the freezer and was delicious along with egg whites. 

Then I got back to clearing out the backyard. When I was done with the back, I started on the front. This wasn't too bad, just mostly getting rid of the bigger branches. But man was it hard work. Did a few squats emptying out the garbage can with branches and leaves. After a rest from cleaning up the front yard, we headed over to see what happened at my house. My brother, Angel, had come and told us the damage was minimal, a few roof tiles in the front, my pool screen was in tact, just a few beams needed repair, and some tree debris. 

Mom and I got there and noticed a couple of trees had some bigger limbs down. We cleaned up the front, then went to the back and cleaned out the tree branches and other leaves and junk in the yard.

Around our neighborhood, between Mom & Pop's and my house

We trimmed back one of the trees to be able to leave the sidewalk available. I totally count all this cleanup as my workout. I had 10,000 steps by 12pm. A cold shower, cause no hot water anyways, cooled me off for a little bit. But then it was just hanging around, trying to stay cool in the humidity.

Mom made tacos for dinner, cause there was ground turkey that needed to be used. We ate pretty good dinners for it being a hurricane. The day we "chef-boy-ar-dee"-ed it was Sunday, cause we couldn't go outside. But mom did heat it up on the propane stove. Then once the sun went down, we went to bed pretty soon after that, cause there's only so much you can do by the flashlight light.

Tuesday, Mom ventured out to find coffee. She ended up with instant coffee from the grocery store, which had no power, but was open. Publix also had gas in their cooking areas, so she also scored us some croquetas and chicken tenders for dinner. No power, but eating pretty ok. In our boredom, and need to get the leaves off the cars anyways, Mom and I washed our cars. We were hot anyways, so we cooled off with the water and got our cars clean while we did it.

We sat on the front porch and read, cause there was a nice breeze. I caught up on all the Runner's World magazines that come to my house and I never get a chance to read. But it made me wanna run. I actually did see someone running, and would have loved to get out there too. But then all I could think was how horrible it would be to get out there and run, and then come home to heat and no cooling off.

After another no power night, I woke up Wednesday and noticed I had a little internet on my phone. I was in my car getting a little charge on my cell, and noticed the internet was working, so the first thing I did was check FPL (our power company) to see the status of our power. The radio kept telling you to check the internet or the app. All really easy if you have internet access. But I did see that tickets were open for my house and my parents' house. We still didn't have power though, so I checked myself safe on Facebook, and that was it.

My mom had to go into the office, but I stayed to watch Grandma. Pop was able to get an extension cord over to the neighbor's generator and hooked up a fan. Just having that moving air was so great. I also plugged in my phone to get a full charge for the first time in days.

Angel came over to drop off some tools and his plywood. Might as well keep it for the next storm, right? And Mom's office closed early, cause there weren't a lot of doctor's there. So she came home right as Angel was getting the generator from my house. The generator was in the garage, so he dug it out and brought it over. Pop and him got it started and we were able to plug into our own generator.

Mom and I needed to get some gas cans at my house to keep the generators going, so we went back home to get some there. As we were chatting with my godparents (who are also my neighbors behind the house), another one of the neighbors shouted, "we have power!" And we did. Power at my house. I went in and cranked up the air conditioning units. We got the gas for the generator to keep Mom & Pop's fridge going, and then we moved Grandma and our party to my house.

At this time, my parents still don't have power, so the campout here continues. Their area seems to be one of the only ones without power in our area. But hopefully, it'll be soon. At least we can all sleep at my house in the AC.

The cleanup here in Miami still continues. Most of the sidewalks where I run are covered in fallen trees. Power is still a commodity, as is ice and hot food. But slowly it will all get back to normal, just with a lot less shade. I was disconnected for a few days, but I thought I'd share what I was going through. A hurricane is never fun, but we prepared and heeded the warnings and made it through another storm. Just the price we pay for living in paradise.

*Note to the hurricane gods, I'm good for a few years on storms. Thanks!*

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