Hurricane Irma

Monday, September 11, 2017.
I won’t be able to post this to my blog until we have Internet access. Readers in other parts of the world probably have more details about the storm than I do. I have no TV, no internet access, no power, no phone service. One neighbor has cell phone service and I borrowed her phone to send a text to my family to let them know I’m OK. It feels strange without communications. I do have a battery powered radio for some news and announcements.

We were lucky here in Fort Myers. The storm went 30 miles inland. That caused it to weaken, but mostly it eliminated the storm surge. Instead, I heard that the water was sucked out of the Caloosahatchee River, which runs not far from my house. If Irma had traveled 30 miles offshore, which was predicted until very late, we would have been flooded.

Irma’s path was guesswork during the week before she arrived. Predictions showed her traveling up Florida’s east coast, west coast, and right up the middle, changing often from one to the other. It even changed after Irma decimated Key West and headed for the mainland. Offices and businesses were closed, and meetings were cancelled all over the state. Three of my mid-month writers’ meetings were cancelled. I wish they were still happening so that I could socialize and discuss the storm.

I have my neighbors to talk to, and a friend stopped by today on her way to check on her home. She drives a pickup truck so can get around fairly well. She lives in zone A and had mandatory evacuation early. The friend’s house she went to ended up directly in the path of the storm. The eye passed over them. Much more damage and water there than at her house.

Neighbors are wonderful. My front yard is mostly cleaned of debris thanks to them. I’m getting too old and my knees protest too much to do a lot of cleaning up on my own. I was here for Charlie (2004) and Wilma (2005) and spent the days after working in the yard cleaning up. I feel guilty not being able to do the work this time.

Irma was stronger, larger, and lasted longer than either of my two previous experiences. The winds were fierce all day yesterday, Sunday. We had horizontal rain, first from the west, then north, then east. The eye passed to our east about 7 PM. I stayed in my home, a sturdy cinderblock ranch built in the 1950’s. At 2 PM Saturday, we were told to evacuate (zone B) due to possible storm surge. By that time, all the shelters were packed and hotel rooms hadn’t been available for days. To go north made no sense. You would be caught in lines of traffic and probably couldn’t outrun Irma. They were saying if we had friends inland, like Lehigh Acres, go stay with them. (Guess what? The eye of Irma passed directly over Lehigh.) Many in my neighborhood stayed.

We all survived. Our homes are intact. One house has a tree propped against the back. Luckily no one is living there. An older couple recently moved out, and the house hasn’t been sold. There are many trees and branches scattered across lawns and streets. Some trees came up by the roots because the ground was already saturated from a “pre-tropical” storm a couple of weeks ago (15+ inches at my house). I have no idea how much rain came with Irma. My rain gauge overflowed at 5.5 inches. I emptied it early with 1.3, and after with 1.5, so we had at least 8.3 inches. Probably lots more. Our neighborhood was built very well for drainage. Even though the water covered the street during the storm, it was gone by this morning. No one’s house was flooded.

This is not true for others. My heart goes out to those whose homes were damaged or flooded and to the people on the islands that were devastated by Irma.