|This page is for
those who have yet to greet an imposing storm such as Hurricane
Wilma. The evening news has only a moment to portray an experience
that requires days of preparation, hours to endure and of course
weeks of recovery.
One Hurricane Wilma Experience
A hurricane is a most unwelcome guest. It consumes all the ice, batteries and water at your disposal. It deprives you of food, fuel, electricity and income as it topples the dominoes of society against your door until you have no way to leave and nowhere to go.
The winds gain strength throughout Sunday night. The window screens rattle in their tracks but nothing serious. Around 4:40 am the wind is too strong to ignore. It's as if there is a vicious animal just beyond the glass intent upon devouring you! Cable TV has already failed and if not for the one TV with an antennae there is no further viewing. By 6:41 am the power has gone. You now rely on the battery operated radio. Such daylight as there will be is still an hour away.
Fortunately Wilma is a reasonably dry storm. Our parking area floods readily in a routine downpour but not today. Those who live along the lake will later report the same conditions. The driving wind blows water between and around the window panes. Towel after towel is placed to sop up puddles forming on the sill. The intense wind whistles like a teakettle while the glass doors bulge on the verge of bursting. I troll window to window peering out. The car cover flaps in the wind until it is quite unredeemable! A paddle fan on the balcony spins uncontrollably. One paddle after another is eliminated until the fan itself is torn from the ceiling. A sunshade comes loose and is blown to bits creating a general mess on the back porch.
Media prepares us for a brief calm as the eye passes overhead. That never happens. The wind blows even more fiercely. Five hours later the wind slowly begins to subside.
Ironically, Key Largo's hurricane Katrina relief concert was rescheduled due to hurricane Wilma.
Recovery: Outside the truth becomes known. We lose 5 ancient trees and several sections of the pool fence. One tree falls into a balcony, another crunches the trunk of a BMW. Sections of sidewalk are raised by uprooted trees. A satellite dish is obliterated. A giant semi is toppled by the enormous wind.
A lake is a quiet place to live. Only a single home on our lake has a personal generator. It's very loud and annoying! In the still and dark of the night it is the only thing to be heard. One can only imagine the clamor created by personal generators in every home. Hopefully I'll miss that. The electricity will be out for days and it is pitch dark in the neighborhood after sundown (about 6:30 pm). Flashlights are our friends! Conserve battery power there is no way to recharge. Cell phones have no signal.
Candles and lanterns are lighted around the house each evening. Light switches are flipped on and off habitually. Sterno is used to heat cans of soup and beans. Water is warmed each morning and poured through coffee. Everything refrigerated is about to spoil so I use those items first. The fridge is opened sparingly to preserve the cool inside. If you have no gasoline you're probably out of luck. No electricity means no working pumps even if there is fuel in the tanks. There is no ice... anywhere. Those who have water treat themselves to a cold shower. A boil water order is in effect. How does one boil water without electricity?
FEMA treats those who suffer hurricanes with the same regard as any communist country... wait on line interminably for a small something and leave without when the supply is suddenly gone. Supermarket shelves are bare and there is no new merchandise in sight.
Many streets are blocked by fallen trees. There is a curfew. Only 18 of 2600 traffic signals are operational. We are told to treat each intersection as a four way stop but many drivers barrel through with little regard. Hundreds of homes suffer the loss of roofs and shingles. Damaged roofs are capped with blue tarps. Nearly anyone with an aluminum patio enclosure has had it ripped away. Such debris is bent like ribbons around standing palms.
Motorists desperate for fuel wait in long lines for only a few dollars of gasoline sometimes pushing their vehicle to the pumps; sometimes waiting to discover the location has pumped itself dry. It's unfortunate that cars do not burn wood because we'd have more than enough fuel!
These enormous winds rip bolts through an aluminum frame of the balcony and away from the structure.
Each morning a flock of Ibis prowl the turf in search of breakfast. I am amazed that these fluffy creatures weighing mere ounces have survived this killer storm far better than the sturdy constructs of man.
The power will be out until 3 pm on Wednesday (about 57 hours). Some neighbors are without power even with this writing (2 weeks). For some it will be nearly Thanksgiving before power restoration. I discover that it takes 30 hours for the burglar alarm battery to discharge. The last moments are a tirade of sonic desperation!
Prepare: Stock up. Floridians know that a storm can strike anywhere. Across the street there may be severe damage while your own home is untouched. You still must be prepared for the worst so anything and everything you can stockpile puts you in the best posture. Stock the cooler with ice, fuel your vehicle (s). Examine your circumstance and make preparations that can keep your situation afloat. Remember that access to emergency services, highways, groceries and electricity may be drastically limited.
Tough it out: The hurricane center gives us plenty of notice. Unlike an earthquake that strikes at unawares, these huge weather systems manifest days even weeks in advance giving us plenty of time to fabricate our best defense. By the way it's true, most hurricanes do indeed sound like a freight train!