So last night on the way home I stopped at the gas station to grab another 10 gallons of gas to power our generator set up for another 24 hours.  I was trying to use up some of our stockpile when I was told we should have power by Monday morning, but since that fell through I had figured I needed to keep ahead of the curve.

As I turned back our street I heard the familiar sound of generators drowning out most everything else.  When I entered our driveway for some reason I got a weird urge to hit the garage door opener in the Tacoma, even though I knew it wouldn’t work.  Imagine my excitement when the door started to go up, holy shit, the power is back on….

Elsa shared my excitement when I came in the door, Cindy was teaching a class and had no idea the lights were back on.  I wasted no time buzzing around the house undoing the tons of no power fixes I put in place over the the last nine days.  I was still actively undoing when Cindy got home and kept going until daylight was pretty much gone.  I got things pretty cleaned up but there will be more to do tonight.

Last night I left the big generator run one last time until it emptied the gas tank, making it more ready for storage.  In a strange way it will feel a little weird to not have the sound of a four stroke engine buzzing all night long.  This nine days post Irma have been filled with challenges that Cindy and I have tackled one at a time.  Through some creative efforts and considerable expenditure of cash our daily living without utility power got better over time.  I never expected us to be dark for this long, close to triple what we were for Wilma in 2005.

Going through situations like this certainly are character builders and make you appreciate the things you normally take for granted on a daily basis.  Now that the initial wave of physical discomfort is passing I now get to tackle the job of damage remediation head on.  Dealing with adjusters, contractors and insurance companies will be a whole different type of pain.

So on Sunday the guy that redid my pool screen a couple years back stopped by to hand out business cards, hoping for more business.  He doesn’t know that I was less than pleased than his work so there is a chance I might not use him again but I don’t have a clear picture until I talk to my home owner’s insurance company.  However I was more interested in other news he told me.

The mediocre screening guy said he talked to a utility crew doing work down the street before he stopped by.  They told him that power to the street should be restored by Sunday night or Monday morning at the latest.  I thanked him for the good news.  I of course immediately told Cindy the news which excited both of us.  We were hopeful the info was indeed accurate.  Well of course we still have no power as of 9:45 PM Monday night.

To say I am frustrated /annoyed is putting it lightly.  At the same time, after 8 days of dealing with the situation, like anything else, you adapt to it.  I have two generators, working water, and two window AC units so it has made day to day living about as good as it can be without utility power.  Of course Cindy and I are both always hoping for that magic moment where the house lights back up and our lives can start to return to normal.  I wish I had an idea when that may be.

Tonight I had another source of frustration as I had to rip the mower deck off the tractor.  As I tried to mow Sunday night the tractor all of a sudden came to a loud and violent stop.  When I looked under the deck I was not very happy.  Someone had left a red dog run lead in the high grass.  The wire core cable instantly ensnared the blade and wrapped itself around the spindle like a boa constrictor.  I spent close to an hour trying to futz with it in the yard before darkness made me relent.

Tonight I decided to just bite the bullet and pull the deck off the tractor so I could turn it upside down and have better access to the tightly wound mess.  Even after doing this it was still a major hassle getting the wire out.  While I had the deck off Cindy helped me clean it up.  Our soggy yard coats the deck with wet grass shavings that turn into grass cement.  With the deck off we were able to get it pretty clean.  Once I reassembled the deck I mowed the section of the back yard I did not get to complete the night before.

So I still have not heard from the insurance adjuster assigned by my insurance company however I took a step today to further aid me in getting a fair settlement, contacting a public adjuster firm, a suggestion by a friend.  He used a public adjuster for a recent claim and he wound up getting a LOT more for his claim than the insurance company originally offered.  It sort of is a no lose situation.  The public adjuster charges you 10% of the final settlement.  The insurance company adjuster is working for them, a public adjuster is working for you.  The better they do for you, the better they do for themselves.  I like that sort of built in motivation.

So our holding pattern continues.  I am hoping soon I can get off the $30 a day gasoline bill that it costs to keep the generators humming.  I was at least glad to see the forecast path of Hurricane Maria, which originally was being pitched down here as a possible Irma 2.0, instead is forecast to hook safely northeast and back out to sea, after it smacks the hell out of the leeward islands and Puerto Rico, again.

Disclaimer, trying to accurately recount the events of the last 5 days with steadfast accuracy is beyond the scope of my current memory limitations. I’ll do the best that I can.

So the first morning after Irma was one of assessment. Not only did we want to do a full assessment of the damage on our property but also news on how our area in general did. Normally the internet would be our primary way of doing this, followed by TV. With no power and my OTA tv antenna hanging off the side of the shed those options were off the table. In addition both my and Cindy’s phone had absolutely no service. Our only real source of info was our battery powered radio.

The word that was used most to describe the situation was “lucky”. Although the wind had caused humongous power outages and damage, the luck was referring to the lack of storm surge which could have pretty much obliterated the coastline. As we reviewed our property I guess I felt lucky in a lot of ways. Repeatedly to others I have described our damage as significant but not catastrophic. The fact that the coop survived was really a bright spot for me in this big mess that was now in front of us.

So Monday we spent mostly just taking down the various protections we installed around the house. We put a lot of work into boarding up and battening down the hatches and the same if not more amount of work putting it away.

Cindy could hardly wait for me to get the coop opened up so we could get the chickens out of the garage. Their two nights indoors was not much fun for them or for us. Monday I did my first of many, many comfort increasing efforts. I figured out how to get the house RO water system running off the generator. It did take some trial and error to get there.

I used an accessory that connected to the 220v twist lock outlet on the generator. On the other end of the cord is a four outlet box, two 220v outlets and two 110 outlets. Well I discovered that if I tried to connect a 220v and 110v item simultaneously, the 110v circuit was sent 220 volts. I damaged the UPS in the chicken coop and smoked a triple tap adapter and likely the LED spotlight before I realized what was going on.

However once I figured out that little detail we had clean usable water through every faucet in the house which was awesome. We could flush toilets, take showers, and do anything else water related with a few extra steps. To run the RO requires two 220V circuits. One is used to power the well which gets water into the RO system. The second circuit drives the pump that provides pressure to the house itself.

I discovered that if both of these pumps were running simultaneously for any prolonged period of time it would pop the circuit breaker on the generator. The workaround has been to run only one or the other. When the water in the holding tank is low I plug in the well pump. Once the 300 gallon tank is full I unplug the well and plug in the other line, delivering pressure to the house.

Cindy was cautiously happy about my success with the water equipment. She went through the devastation of Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and dealt with a complete lack of services for weeks. She expressed concern repeatedly that powering the water equipment would consume too much power. I assured her that it would be fine.

My neighbor from Michigan next door had no generator. As I was outside working on the big one I told him that we could run a line from our generator to his place to give him power to run a fan, their refrigerator and a few other things. I figured it was not a huge deal as I also had my smaller Honda generator going to provide power inside the house, I had juice to spare.

So on Monday basically everything in the area was closed. I didn’t even bother to go out trying to find gas. I had 15 gallons to get me going, I figured I would start the gas search on Tuesday. It was really frustrating having no phone service. We could not call/text anyone to let them know we were ok outside of very brief and predictable moments where we may see a single bar of service come and then go. We made some good progress on Monday doing the initial wave of clean up.

So on Tuesday we headed out for our first gas search and it was not a good scene. The roads were a mess. Trees were down everywhere and most traffic signals were dead. It quickly became extremely frustrating seeing how many people did not observe the four way stop law when signals are out. People would just roll through the intersection with no concern for others.

We made a bunch of stops during the drive, including going to try to see Cindy’s daughter, her mother, and we even went down to my office. I wanted to see what sort of shape it was in. The outside of the building did not look good. The canopy that leads up to the front door was destroyed and a large section of a tree had fallen in front of the employee door. I crawled under the branch to get inside.

I was surprised to see power to the building although it was being applied via the large building generator outside. I walked the entire building and saw no real damage so that was good news. Being downtown also gave us our first chance to have semi-consistent phone service. We put out word that we were safe on social media.

So early in the week everyone in the area dealt with a huge shortage of gas stations that were open. Even if they had gas in the tanks, most of them did not have the power to actually pump it. A Wawa that was a couple miles from work was open and word of it spread like wildfire. When I passed the station with the loose idea of getting gas I reconsidered after seeing impossibly long lines snaking from every entrance to the store.

On Wednesday we finally got some additional gas thanks to the neighbors who waited roughly two hours in line to get gas at Sam’s Club. Cindy actually tried to get gas as well the day from Sam’s. She had 90 minutes invested in line when a cop came out and put a cone of death in front of the Tacoma as that was the official end of the line. She was rather frustrated as you can imagine.

Wednesday was also the day that I decided to add another creature comfort to our existence, live TV. Years ago I installed an over the air antennae that I used for a couple years when I dropped Comcast cable tv. Although I resumed cable service a number of years ago I left my OTA set up intact.

Well my antenna was one of the casualties of Irma. It’s mounting pole was bent over in a way that the antenna was a few feet off the ground. I decided to try to resurrect it after confirming I still had some left over mounting pole in the big shed. After removing the bent pole and installing new stuff I carefully dragged the antenna up the ladder and reattached it to the new pole.

Once I got it secured with U-bolts I noticed that the center portion of the antenna was bent upward. I tried to move it back down to straighten it and of course the aluminum shaft broke 80% of the way. I was too invested now to give up so I looked at a way to artificially support it. My initial attempt with nylon rope didn’t go so well but my second attempt using unused dog run cable was much better. I wrapped one end around the broken shaft and the other around the mounting pole. The combo seemed to more or less work and the antenna was more or less lined up like it should be.

So now the next step was to hook it up to a tv to see how the signal was. My initial attempts failed inside the house. Outlets in rooms that should still have the OTA jack working showed no signal. I needed to figure out why.

I decided to lug the tv that was in the guest room out to the trash bins which I used as a makeshift table. The antenna wire was spliced there to the interior wiring. I connected the wire directly to the tv and BAM, I had crisp HD signal on the tv. Ok so I knew the issue was something inside.

I placed the TV in our bedroom and changed the wiring in the sweltering attic, connecting the piece of coax in the bedroom to the splitter for OTA instead of cable. When I went into the bedroom I was again greeted with NO SIGNAL, damn it.

My trouble shooting process lead me to suspect the splitter the antenna connected to in the attic was bad. Perhaps it took a surge at some point. Well my suspicions proved correct when I was able to connect directly from the antenna to the bedroom line and get a signal. Success felt good and Cindy was happy that I was able to add TV back into our existence as it allowed us a better source of post storm info since our phones still hardly worked at all. Later in the week I bought a new splitter and was able to get TV on the big 70 inch tv as well in the great room.

On Wednesday I met management and some key accounting staff at our office. The plan was to bring the systems up to see if we had the connectivity necessary to allow accounting to process our payroll, a rather important duty. If we were unsuccessful people would not be seeing their paychecks direct deposited as they count on.

The building was still being powered by our huge diesel generator but everything we needed worked. Our Comcast internet connection was down but thankfully we have a second connection via Century Link that was still working. I spent about half of the morning in the office. After the work was completed the systems were shut back down as a safety measure until utility power could be restored (which happened on Thursday).

After the office visit I decided I wanted to get some more gas for the generators to stay ahead of the curve. I had heard repeatedly on the radio that gas in Fort Myers was more available so I decided to give it a shot after seeing horrid lines at the few stations in Naples that were open. My gamble paid off when I found gas at the Costco in Fort Myers. My wait was “only” and hour but they did have a limit to only filling two gas containers (I had three). Still I was thankful to have found gas.

When Cindy’s daughter visited us on Wednesday night she said the gas station that is only two miles from us actually had gas and the line wasn’t horrible. I figured I may as well take advantage of it. Much like Cindy’s experience earlier in the week, I got turned away when a clerk informed vehicles after a certain point that they were beyond the cut off point and the gas was running out. The clerk did say they expected another delivery around 6AM Thursday morning so I figured I could take advantage of it by getting up early the next day.

One thing that has been surprising all week has been the quality of sleep I have been getting. It’s been no worse than and possibly better than normal. Perhaps the extreme exhaustion I have felt from a week of hard labor in the boiling sun has helped facilitate that. But for whatever reason, sleeping with a fan blowing directly across me at night as I lay on top of the covers has been sufficiently comfortable to sleep. Pretty much every morning I have been able to sleep until close to 7AM, something I can’t do consistently normally.

So anyway, I awoke Thursday about 6:15 and wasted no time, hopping in the truck with two 5 gallon jugs for more generator gas. On average to run the big generator 24 hours was taking about 10 gallons of gas. Well I was not very happy to see that evidently word had gotten out and the line was actually longer than the night before, at 6:30 AM.

I sat there towards the end of the line for nearly 45 minutes watching absolutely no gas being pumped. I figured the promised 6AM tanker truck perhaps was held up so they were waiting for it to show up. Nope, all of a sudden at 7:15 AM they started allowing people to fill up. Of course I had a severe WTF feeling about this. Two hours after I entered the line I was finally able to fill my two 5 gallon gas jugs.

Later in the day Thursday we made one of our now daily trips to Home Depot to get supplies. I was amazed to see they had a HUGE amount of generators on hand which was cool. Of course getting gas to run them was another challenge.

During the day we also discovered another Irma related home issue. The guest bedroom had wet carpet in the corner. Great, just what I needed. It wasn’t dripping wet but damp. When we pulled back the carpet the floor underneath it was pretty much dry. My immediate diagnosis was the small hairline crack in that area of the exterior wall allowed some water to enter during the two to three hours hurricane Irma was smacking it like a pressure washer. (room was on the east side) We brought in a couple of our standard fans and propped up the carpet as best we could to allow it to dry out. Of course the dripping humid air inside did not help accelerate the process.

We got some unwelcome theory from a guy doing work on the neighbor’s broken water equipment that it was possible we could be without power for an additional two weeks. This seemed utterly impossible but also fueled my rash of additional buying at Home Depot on Friday.

Like I had mentioned, we had been going to Home Depot nearly everyday. They were getting huge shipments of various hurricane related supplies daily. I had already bought a chainsaw earlier in the week that I used to chop up the massive fallen coconut palm. Damn was that thing heavy.

So anyway I got it in my head that if I saw a window AC unit I was going to grab it. Imagine my excitement when I saw they literally had a 100 or more 5000 and 6000 BTU units stacked high against a wall. We happily grabbed a 6000 BTU LG unit. While we were at it they also had one of those high velocity fans used for drying out spaces, a perfect fit to accelerate drying out the carpet in the guest bedroom. It was like Christmas on a very hot and sweaty day in September.

When we got home we wasted very little time before installing the AC in the bedroom. Once it was in the window I flipped it on with great anticipation. When I started getting blasted in the face with ice cold air it was simply wonderful. We let the unit run all afternoon to cool down the bedroom. It may have done a little bit too good of a job, Cindy was actually a bit cold, a nice problem to have after the week we have had.

In regards to an overall description of the week, I would call it grueling. Cindy and I worked countless hours trying to fix what we could, clear what we could and make adjustments to adapt to the prolonged power outage that at this point has more than doubled what we endured with Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Friday was the day I officially started to lose patience with the pace of the power restoration in our immediate area.

By this point a huge amount of people had had their power restored. Some got it back as early as Tuesday. I actually rode up and down our street looking for power pole damage and found none. I guess it is natural you are feeling neglected after being without power for so long, despite the assurances that literally thousands of utility workers are working non-stop to restore power fully. Despite knowing that my various efforts have us living better than most without power, we both were just tired of the situation. Of course griping about it doesn’t do much good so the complaining passed eventually.

If we needed to appreciate our position more, all we had to do was drive down Bonita Beach road where Home Depot is located. Two of the three lanes were pretty much impassable due to ridiculous high water and the houses on the north side of the road were underwater. The deluge of rain over inland Florida from Irma caused massive sheet flow flooding days after the event. The end result was areas being under as much as 8 feet of water, nearly a week after the storm. Sure our lives have been inconvenienced and impacted from the storm but at least they weren’t destroyed as surely as most of the people that lived in the homes are. I am sure every home in that mess will have to be knocked down and rebuilt, if they are even rebuilt at all. If my house was in an area that can become an 8 foot deep lake I would not want to roll the dice that it won’t happen again.

Today, Saturday we got out early to do some of the remaining yard clean up. A lot of days this week the first thing we did was get out early to go hunt for and sit in gas lines. The end result was we would be doing the yard work during the heat of the day which is just grueling and dangerous. Despite drinking a TON of water, some days I would only have to take a leak two or three times a day. When I weighed myself a couple days ago I had lost something like 6 pounds, more than likely water weight.

But I digress. So we knocked out the yard work. We headed to Sam’s Club where I was able to pull right up to an empty pump, something that would have been impossible 48 hours prior. Cindy went in and loaded up on some groceries to set us up if our power outage is as prolonged as possibly predicted. After we got home we unloaded and got right back in the truck, this time to go to where else but Home Depot. We hoped to maybe grab ANOTHER window AC unit to put in the main living space to help pull some of the moisture out of the house. Obviously it can’t actually cool such a large space but it may be able to keep the interior temps from reaching 92 degrees as it did most days. Unfortunately we struck out, I was amazed they sold all of those AC units however they did still have a good supply of generators remaining.

So when we got home we thought we were pretty much staying put for the day. Instead we got a call from our neighbor whom we have been supplying power to via our generator. He said he stopped at Rural King and was going to buy one of the big generators we told him we saw there the day prior. There was one problem, the box was huge and massively heavy, something like 225 pounds. He asked if we could come get it in our truck. We thought it was good for him to have his own generator for multiple reasons so we said we would be right out.

When we got there Walt was sitting on the massive box in front of the store. The thing felt very, very heavy. I saw why he could not get it into the trunk of his Crown Vic. The generator actually had higher output than mine and had cool features like a digital meter and electric start. After picking him up we made one more stop at Home Depot to grab stuff like some more extension cords and a few other things.

When we got back I helped my neighbor unload and put together the hefty unit. After adding oil and gas it fired right up within a second of hitting the start button, sweet. I made an attempt to direct wire his generator to his circuit breaker box but was unsuccessful. After throwing the main breaker to cut him from utility power I wired his generator to the 220v well pump circuit using a twistlock rig I made for Wilma 12 years ago that I used to run some stuff in the house.

The way it was supposed to work was once I wired into that 220V circuit it should backfeed the rest of the panel. Before making the connection we of course turned all breakers off as even a 10,000 watt generator can not power an entire household. We figured we would do a small test so I threw the breaker for their fridge. When we went inside to see if it worked it, we thought it did as the power light on the outside of the refrigerator was on.

However, when Walt opened the door to the fridge the light flashed brightly as we heard a popping sound. Oh shit, I told him to unplug it immediately. I was worried that we just fried his fridge. I breathed a little easier when we plugged it back into one of the 110 outlets on the generator and the fridge came back on normally, whew.

I went to the house and dug out my volt meter to see what was going on. I had a bad feeling that for some reason 220 volts was just delivered to the fridge instead of 110. I was wrong, the meter actually showed only 75volts at that outlet and got the same reading when I read that circuit at the fuse box as well. Well I had no idea why this was but I wasn’t willing to fry electronics and appliances in his house to find out. He was fine using a myriad of extension cords to connect the essentials, just like we have been doing . He has TWO 14,000 BTU AC units that he is able to run simultaneously now. His house should be a lot more livable tonight than it has been.

Cindy has done an amazing job with meal prep during the outage. She has been able to prepare food using our inductive cooktop, toaster oven, and gas grill. She also has tirelessly assisted me in the recovery process, sometimes to her own detriment.

Oh, today was a noteworthy day in a less than stellar way for me. On our way home from Home Depot the first time we both agreed we had a desire for some good old McDonald’s French fries. I figured I could get a fish sandwich meal and Cindy could eat whatever she wanted. Well after waiting in a long line we got up to the ordering window and saw a piece of paper taped there. It said they only had a limited menu consisting of quarter pounders, 20 piece McNuggets, fries, and Coke or Sprite (in a can).

Well I broke my roughly five year hiatus on eating beef, pork or poultry and ordered myself and Cindy a quarter pounder. The fries and burger tasted as I remembered, satisfying in a greasy, salty, devious way. I enjoyed the burger but have no concerns about falling off the pescatarian wagon. It was good but not good enough that I can’t live without it.

So this brings us to current day of my tale of life post Irma. I am sure there are some interesting details I have glossed over or missed completely but you get the idea. This story is not over yet but I certainly hope Cindy and I can enjoy a return to normalcy before we officially transition into the fall season.

Well when I last left you roughly six days ago I was prideful from my successful resurrection of the big generator by removing the defective low oil kill switch. In light of what has transpired since then, the generator fix has become an incredibly important part of our daily existence since as of the time of my creation of this entry, Friday night, we STILL do not have utility power, more on that later.

So let’s talk about last Sunday. When we went to bed Saturday night I fully expected to be awakened during the night from the beginning of the onslaught by Irma including loss of power. When I awoke around 6AM and heard nothing significant I was baffled. For a brief period of time I hoped the track of the storm perhaps continued to drift westward into the gulf instead of the predicated northern turn. A quick check of the latest NHC forecast track dashed those hopes.

Irma had almost ground to a standstill off the coast of Cuba as it’s direction was forced to change northward instead of westward. This delay had slowed down the movement of the storm but not it’s intensity.   Irma was still coming although the official track had it still following the west coast of Florida which would be better for us personally but would have been catastrophic for the coastal areas as MASSIVE storm surge of 10-15 feet was predicted. I actually was worried that my office, which is maybe 5 miles off the water could be flooded.

So of course most of our day was spent watching tv. I was amazed that we had power to do so. Power in our area goes out quite often just from our normal thunderstorm activity. There was some incredible video of the water being pushed out of the bays and inlets from the massive force of the unrelenting west winds from the top of the hurricane.

Somewhere late morning as the winds started getting more severe I secured the last piece of plywood to the rear sliding door, securing us inside the house. Our only exit was through the garage door where the chickens were all jammed into the chicken tractor. Cindy and I felt badly for the birds but it was a far better alternative to them being out in their coop since we were skeptical it would even survive the storm.

We took Elsa out for her last bathroom break early afternoon as the wind and rain was getting pretty serious. The forecast path of Irma had now shifted and it was not in our favor. It looked like the center of the storm was literally going to go right over us. Well we had no options now, we were bunkered down and just hoped the 16 year old poured concrete block structure would survive the severe test Irma was going to inflict.

Our power looked like it was going to go out no less than a dozen times. The lights would blip off for a few seconds but kept coming back on which I couldn’t believe. Finally, around 3:45 they went off for the final time and stayed off. Cindy had candles lit very quickly and we used my portable battery bank inverter to power a fan while we listened to the radio.

Having the power had allowed us to still see outside even though all openings to the house were closed. We were able to see out into the front and back yards via our security dvr footage. What we saw before the lights went out was pretty scary. Even after the power failed we powered the DVR with the battery bank to keep eyes outside as long as possible. What we saw, heard and felt was scary.

While we watched the camera feed the winds were mostly striking the property from the north and east. The sound and sensation of hurricane force winds hitting a house is something uniquely terrifying. I was much more interested in the rear yard view as I nervously monitored the status of the chicken coop which is officially wind rated to only 70mph. Each time I heard a severe gust I would look at the camera, hoping that was not the one that ripped the coop from the deck. I did see that the right roof panel on the coop run, which was first in line facing the eastern wind onslaught tore off but that was minor.

Before things went dark we did see our beautiful huge coconut palm that was off the corner of the pool cage had snapped at it’s base and was laying on it’s side. It gave us a good visual as to just how strong the winds were. Unfortunately once the lights went off the worst of the storm was yet to come for us.

So like I said, the last track I saw had the eye of the storm basically going over us. I assumed at some point the roaring winds would subside briefly, allowing us a brief chance to survey the damage. Well things never relented. It turned out we were in the northeast quadrant of the eye wall which is pretty much the worst part of a hurricane track to be in as you are exposed to the huge wind and rain for the longest period of time.

The wind gusts were relentless. On the radio we heard an official gust of 142 mph at the Naples Airport. As the storm passed us the winds shifted from the east to the south. The direction change did not lessen the intensity, it just gave the front of the house an equal beating as well. At one point we stepped into the garage to check on the chickens and witnessed the door bowing dangerously from the wind pressure, even with us having two vehicles parked in front of the door. For a brief moment I imagined the nightmare scenario if the garage door failed. Thankfully it did not happen.

Cindy and I could not believe how long the winds lasted. We did not dare to even step outside until somewhere after 7PM. I rolled out under the garage door while Cindy held it open. It was still very windy but I was able to at least keep my footing. I wanted to do a quick survey of the damage. Cindy soon came out as well to see it for herself.

The landscape took a beating. In addition to the coconut palm there were a number of other uprooted/snapped trees. The pool cage was intact but more screens ripped out and a couple areas were bent. The most worrisome thing was seeing the amount of shingles that got stripped off the roof. Three sides of the hip roof had them missing.

There were some good visuals as well. The water equipment roof I made last year survived without a scratch which was awesome. However, miraculous is the word I would use to describe the survival of the chicken coop which as best I could tell was fine beyond the ripped roof panel on the run. My hardening efforts paid off, allowing the coop to stand up to winds almost double it’s normal wind rating.

In addition to the incredible wind we received around a foot of rain during the storm which turned the already water logged property into a temporary sea. At one point almost everything outside of the house mound was underwater. So our immediate feeling was we took some damage but nothing catastrophic.

There was some light in the end of the tunnel as far as the hurricane path. Since it drifted more inland, the coastal storm surge was nowhere near as severe as predicted. There was some but for the most part the coast escaped major water damage, and that’s a good thing.

So it was now late and we were exhausted from the stress of the day. Before going to bed I only removed one panel from the slider so we could get out back. I also fired up the generator so we had power. I was determined to not let our first night post hurricane be miserable. So in addition to the fan I also hooked up the bedroom tv and a bluray player. Sunday night we actually watched The Avengers on blu-ray as we drifted off to sleep, I kid you not.

Let’s cut this entry here. It’s long enough and I have much more misery and my unrelenting efforts to combat it in the days to follow.

 

So Cindy and I continued our final hurricane prep on Saturday with urgency as some of the initial outer bands of wind and rain began to push through.  We did decide to sacrifice 8 panels of pool screening on the  outside corner of the cage in order to reduce the wind load.  Even with some of the gusts yesterday I felt good about the decision to pull them.

We buzzed around the property trying to pick up loose ends wherever possible.  I also tried to start the problematic large generator so it would be good to go when we need it.   Well it wouldn’t start of course.  This generator is key to our existence in a no utility power scenario as it has the 220V outputs I need to drive the water equipment.  My little Honda generator only has 110 output.

So I have had problems for the last year or so getting this generator started during my regular runs I try to do every three to four months.  The last couple times I would pull on it forever and get nowhere however after I would let it sit in the sun and bake for a few hours it would magically start.  Well there was no sun to bake the unit yesterday.

Well I simply could not shrug this off, I NEEDED this thing to work so I grabbed some tools and started doing more in depth diagnosis.  I blew out the fuel lines and carb with cleaner, hoping it was just a fuel flow issue.  It didn’t help, I pulled and pulled on the start cord until my hands were sore and it didn’t come close to starting. I was pissed.

So I next pulled the spark plug.  It looked fine, not oily or fouled.  I then hooked it up to the plug wire and had Cindy help me check for spark with her holding it against metal while I pulled the start cord again.  There was no spark.  Ok so I know where the problem lies, now I had to try to find a solution.

First we tried something simple, pulling a spark plug from the tractor to see if it generated spark, it did not.  I then retreated inside and got on my computer to research the problem.  A saw a couple references to the low oil sensor killing the ignition.  I went out and checked the engine oil which was actually somewhat low so I topped it off.  I pulled on the cord with anticipation that I found a stupid easy fix to my issue.  My hope was dashed as still I had no spark.

Well I was not ready to relent so I again headed inside and looked some more.  I read on a forum a post from a guy with the same symptoms as mine.  In his case the low oil sensor was defective.  He got around the problem short term by disconnecting the sensor.  To get to the wires I needed some minor disassembly of the generator but I did locate it.  After yanking the kill wire I pulled the starting cord one final time, hoping for spark.  A sense of triumph flowed over me as I saw that beautiful flash of light arcing across the plug, it worked….

I put the parts I removed back together and gave the cord a pull, bam, the generator started right up, first pull.   For some reason my reflex reaction to my success was to give the generator a double middle finger salute and telling it to go f itself.  I was 80% certain that this generator was going to be out of service for this hurricane.  Being able to bring it back to life as the clock is ticking down felt good.

I finished up the coop hardening attaching makeshift hurricane shutters to the windows and totally covering the front door with clear roof panels.  I even dropped the small automatic chicken door and drove a screw into it to keep it in the down position.

When we grabbed the chickens to relocate them to the garage it was already raining hard.  We each grabbed one soaked chicken at a time and carried them up.  For the most part the chickens were agreeable.  Once they were all in the chicken tractor you could tell they were confused why their living quarters suddenly became so cramped.  However when we checked on them later they seemed to be pretty settled. They have something like 16-17 feet of coop/run to exist in for a day or two.  It’s not ideal but more space than a lot of chickens get.  Somehow all the birds managed to squeeze up top to sleep during the night.

So of course we watched a lot of hurricane coverage.  We went to bed last night expecting a bad night of sleep, possible loss of power and waking up to a pretty big mess already.  Instead I more or less slept through the night and opened my eyes a little before 6AM and heard nothing, weird….

So I hopped up and got on the computer hoping that maybe Irma continued to roll west.  Well the track was slightly more west than when I went to bed but the weird thing was it looked like the hurricane hardly moved off of Cuba.  The slow speed is not good news as it means more exposure to high winds and more potential for storm surge to accumulate.  I am hoping it continues to wobble more west.

So for now, life continues on in a pseudo normal way.  I plan to do some normal things like pay some bills, play some WoW and try to not hyper focus on what is to come.  Like most I wish it would just hurry up, smack us and move on.  By lunch time things will start to get pretty real.  The local wind forecasts I saw showed periods of time where it could hit 120mph+ in our area which will not be an enjoyable time.  Sometime mid morning I will likely place the final board across the rear slider, locking us in tight for pretty much the rest of the day.  See you on the other side.

So unfortunately the forecast track for Hurricane Irma has been consistently getting worse and worse for us.  The track which at one point was very east coast has now become very west coast and depending on it’s final steering winds there is a possibility the f’ing eye of the storm could be crossing our property.

Cindy and I busted our ass all day yesterday as you can imagine.  We had my plywood shutters I made back in 2004 up on the house by 9:30.  Unlike prior hurricanes where I left a small section of the rear slider exposed we are thinking about boarding it up completely.

As we took stock of our hurricane supplies I pulled out the portable AC wall unit I bought back in 2005 and plugged it in.  At first I was excited that it seemed to still work despite a noise like the fan was hitting something as well as a bunch of dirt/animal/insect excrement that blew out the front.  Well my excitement was short lived as soon the fan stopped and the unit just started to buzz.  I pulled it apart to see if I could fix it but was unsuccessful.  Something obviously was inside at some point and gummed up the works.  Until I can secure a new unit, if/when we lose power our only cooling will be via fans, not a great option in Florida in September.

So although obviously we are focused on keeping the house intact, I spent the most time of all yesterday hardening the chicken coop.  I do NOT want the coop destroyed and I did everything I can possibly think of to prevent that scenario.  I screwed a bunch of boards into the deck along the base of the walls inside, hoping to further lock the floor of the shed to it’s sturdy platform.  I then used two pieces of 2 x 2 lumber to connect and further support the interior trusses to give them additional stability.

My most drastic coop work was criss-crossing ratchet supports across the roof and securing them to the deck underneath.  One of those straps is actually our slack line which was a great suggestion by Cindy.  Not only was the strap long, it’s incredibly strong with a breaking strength of something like 2.5 TONS.  Today after the coop is cleaned I will be doing even more hardening, blocking the windows and front door.  If the coop goes down it won’t be from a lack of my effort to save it.

We were buzzing around the house until damn close to 6PM.  We were both exhausted but knew there was more yet to do.  We did our best to enjoy what may be our last “normal” night in quite awhile.  We watched some hurricane coverage on the news but found it to be rather less than helpful after awhile.  I tried to escape the drama for a short while in WoW, knowing the next 48 hours were going to be pretty hellish.

The scene here as you can imagine is rather chaotic.  Pretty much all businesses closed yesterday.  People are scared and even I, whom does not easily succumb to panic am worried. People are FLOCKING to the emergency shelters.  The first round of shelters reached capacity quickly so they opened more.  Cindy just saw pictures of people sleeping outside of shelters that are scheduled to open today, just so they could get in when they open mid-morning.  It’s crazy.

I am considering cutting my pool screens this morning ahead of the storm to try to save the pool cage.  Replacing pool screening is a lot more feasible than waiting months and months for someone to rebuild your cage at premium post-hurricane pricing.  We will likely be working well into the afternoon trying to secure every possible thing we can.  Our final tasks will be closing up the last section of the slider door and transporting the chickens to their temporary housing in the garage.

I did walk the property and shoot video of the prep.  I also put the Mavic up in the air to get some aerial views of the property before that can be contrasted with after.

This will likely be the last blog entry out there before some basic services are reestablished.   I will continue to hope for a best case scenario and even if things don’t go well I am confident Cindy and I will be able to handle whatever comes our way.

So the Prius was between a quarter and half tank of gas so I wanted to try to fill it on the way home if possible.  I passed a number of stations that had bags over the pumps or had lines that were just insane so I kept rolling.  As I approached the intersection of Pine Ridge Rd and 951 I saw a tanker truck in the lot of the Circle K, meaning they have or will have gas shortly.  I took a chance and spun a U-turn.  All of the pumps had cars already waiting for the refill to finish but I did manage to be second in line.

I had no idea how long the tanker had been there but I certainly didn’t mind waiting.  Wait I did, somewhere between 30-40 minutes until the refill was done and the attendant unbagged the pumps.  It was an odd thing.  If I was in the back of a 30-40 minute long line of cars waiting for a gas I would be very annoyed and frustrated.  However waiting the same amount of time, knowing I was second in line didn’t hardly bother me at all.  I just rolled down the windows to watch and listen to the growing hysteria of people trying to converge on the fresh supply of gasoline.  By the time I left, the station was surrounded in every direction by vehicles trying to get in.

So Cindy was busting her ass at the house yesterday doing some preliminary hurricane prep outside.  She was doing her best to clear the patio deck and secure smaller things in the sheds. She also waited in line to get two more of the five gallon gas containers refilled which will give us a solid fuel supply for the generators. I really appreciated her efforts and I am sure she will be helping me tomorrow with the very ugly job of boarding up the house, unless the forecast track of the storm shifts dramatically east.

Even though it seems like the full fury of the storm will be more of an east coast event, at least at this point, we likely still will be smacked hard by Irma.  My biggest concerns are the outbuildings, the pool cage and my water equipment shelter I built last year staying intact.

Along with that is of course the chickens who live in one of those outbuildings.  The shed we converted to a coop is wind rated to something like 70mph, which means it will probably survive slightly higher wind load.  I am hoping to snag a couple 2×4’s and some u-bolts after work so I can build some additional temporary bracing for the trusses inside the coop.  The coop has been exposed to a lot of severe wind from numerous thunderstorms and has performed very well.  Of course a hurricane is a different beast. We are still planning to relocate the chickens to the garage once things start to get serious.  Catching/carrying the ten hens up to the garage should be a lot of fun.

The office is officially closed on Friday and likely Monday depending on how severe the impact is in our area.  I may pop in here before then just to let you know if we are alive or not.

That is the question I have been asked quite often by both people near and far regarding the impending doom that is Hurricane Irma.  It’s been 12 years since we had our hit from Wilma but I still remember how surreal and dangerous it felt.

So what am I going to do? Well first of all, not panic.  The hysterical/mob type mentality that these sort of events bring to the surface so easily in many people bothers me.  I absolutely hate it.  It demonstrates to me just how quickly people can devolve when faced with a crisis.

There have been a surprising amount of people that have chosen to pack their shit and get out.  I think the images of widespread destruction in Texas from Harvey being so fresh in people’s minds has ratcheted up the panic level here.  When you hear numbers like 185mph sustained winds and things like “most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean”, any person would have to be concerned, which I am, but packing up and leaving never entered my mind as a remote possibility.

I did have some concerns with gas.  I wanted to make sure the Tacoma was fully gassed up since it would likely be the primary post storm vehicle due to it’s ground clearance.  During the day every gas station you passed was mobbed by cars, like fire ants converging on a victim.  I told Cindy I wanted to try to go out later at night and to head east instead of west.  During previous hurricane episodes I actually had luck finding gas in Immokalee, I figured I would try again.

At first it looked like my plan was going to be a bust.  The first four or five gas stations we passed were out of gas.  We then spotted a convenience store with cars lined up for the pumps, normally not something I would be excited about.  I swung a U turn and got in the line which was probably around 10 cars deep.  We waited in line for around a half hour, both of us hoping they would not run out of gas before we reached the pumps.

Luckily we were able to get some gas.  Even though I had three empty 5 gallon gas jugs in the back of the Tacoma I only filled one of them in addition to topping off the truck.  I already had one full 5 gallon container at home so I didn’t want to partake in hoarding mentality.  There will still be gas deliveries this week that will allow me to fill the other cans if I want to.

As far as other prep at home, if the the forecast path remains in a direction that could hit us with major weather I still have my plywood I cut to size for the various openings on the house.  Affixing them is a long, difficult, and tedious process.  We also would have to try to get EVERYTHING that is not in the ground outside, inside using a combo of both sheds for storage while crossing our fingers that the hurricane straps that hold them to the ground do their job.  Our new RO system has a 300 gallon water tank that should be able to provide us water as long as I can provide the system power via generator.

I have two generators, a big one that is 12 years old that does not want to run continuously for long periods of time and a smaller Honda that is less powerful but very reliable.  I would use the big generator to power the water system in spurts the keep water flowing.  The little one would be used to power a few key things inside like the fridge, maybe a fan, and hopefully my window AC unit at night if it still works.  We have some rechargeable lights and battery banks to charge things like phones as needed.

To be honest my biggest concern of all is the safety of the chickens.  The shed we converted into a coop is wind rated to something like 75mph.  I am hoping it being braced against the attached run gives it some additional strength.  However if the forecast is for winds approaching triple digits I think we will use the old chicken tractor and relocate the chickens temporarily into the garage.  If they were hurt/killed from us rolling the dice with the coop staying intact I would feel absolutely awful. For this plan to take place I would need to pull my Tacoma out of the garage and park both it and the Prius sideways in front of the garage door to offer additional wind protection buffering.

So as I said, I won’t be panicking but I will be watching the updates carefully and acting accordingly.  There is nothing in my lifetime that matched the sights and sounds of the absolute fury of a hurricane ripping down my pool cage in 2005.  I am hoping we manage to not reach that magnitude of intensity this time around.

 

So I have spent the majority of my 5 day long weekend as I normally do, trying to front load all of the work, projects, and tasks  so for the last portion of the time off I can chill out.  Well to finish that front loading process consumed nearly three full days unfortunately.

On Thursday I got a head start on the weekend chores by weeding and weed whacking the yard in the glorious heat and humidity of a late August Florida day.  I was pooped afterward but wanted to try to get one of my “fun” projects done, replacing the case on my Msuper EUC.  I damaged the case learning to go backwards and recently got a brand new case and trolley handle to undo the damage I had done.

Changing the case on an EUC is a MAJOR operation that requires you to take the unit pretty much entirely apart.    Of course I had never attempted such a thing but I had watched a video of the process and was confident I could do the work.

Well in the end I did indeed do the work but I hit some major delays along the way, all of which are documented in the nearly hour long video which was a condensed version of the nearly three hours I spent in the process.  In the end I found a way to circumvent my issues and the new case looks sharp.

On Friday the front loading continued in earnest.  This time I jumped on the tractor and mowed the grass, taking advantage of the relatively low standing water levels.  During the afternoon I started my second major hobby project of the weekend, installing a new logic board and auto leveling sensor into my CR-10.

Like the EUC work, this project required me to rip into the hardware in a pretty significant way.  I once again had a lot of struggles with the install.  A lot of the problems came from my relative inexperience with 3D printing hardware but as I usually do, I managed to find my way to the finish line in a circuitous fashion.

On Saturday half of my day was consumed at work.  I had to replace the two main backbone switches in our NOC, another part of our renovation project.  Doing so required me to unplug every wire connected to the old switches, install the new switches, and then run new wires in a more organized and orderly manner.

I asked Cindy if she wanted to come in to help as I could use her to help me document the connections so I didn’t miss anything.  She said sure and we decided to bring Elsa with as well.  Elsa was a bit freaked out being in a foreign environment and did not want to be out of eye contact of myself or Cindy.  It took awhile but eventually she settled down enough to take a nap while we worked. For the most part the work went smoothly and having Cindy there easily helped me shave at least 30 minutes off the job.

After the office work was done we ate lunch at Panera and then stopped at Rural King and Home Depot for some more supplies.  By the time we got home it was after 3PM so the majority of the day was eaten up.  Last night we vegged out while trying to continue consuming the backlog of DVR content we have from being away on the roadtrip.  If I didn’t have EUC’s, 3D printing, and WoW as hobbies I would be able to get through shows faster but to be honest, I’d rather have other things to help split my attention between.

We had some incredible lightning and thunder Saturday night.  At one point I thought a bomb went off in the atmosphere.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw a ball of light out of the bedroom window and what seemed like 10 seconds later the shockwave hit and it hit hard.  Even inside you could feel the power of the blast, it did not seem like thunder from normal lightning, it sounded like a bomb.

All weekend I have had various episodes of limping and walking like a geriatric.  Regardless I tasked myself with getting up early this morning and going out to run.  I think I may have run lap 6 twice but either way I did somewhere around 5K of running, once again feeling very labored to do so.  I need to just keep pushing myself to get out there.  Even though things hurt the first few laps after I warm up the pain sort of fades and general discomfort sets in.

A little later in the morning Cindy and I headed out to ride our wheels.  It was my first chance to give the Msuper a thorough test after all of the work.  It seemed to ride normally which I was very happy about.  Katie and her friend Kendal joined us briefly on the ride but their one wheel ran out of battery power so they headed back early.  After the ride we made another Home Depot pit stop as well as a stop at Micahel’s for Cindy to grab some crafting supplies.

I currently have both 3D printers cranking out two different projects and I hope to be able to take a good portion of the rest of my time off doing exactly what I would like to do. We will see how that turns out.

So last night was the annual fantasy football draft party that I have hosted at the house for something in the neighborhood of 10 years.  When I got home I was pleasantly surprised that Cindy had actually done pretty much everything ahead of time in regards to prep.  All the furniture was moved, the house was cleaned, and the food was staged. It was great.  All I had to do leading up to the party were a few technical details and drink some beer.

I had sent out an email the night before encouraging people to arrive a little early so we could start on time.  I was amazed that for the most part people did just that.  Unfortunately we still got a late start due to some problems a couple remote owners were having getting their Skype connection up.

Cindy and I assumed Elsa would hide in the office or bedroom all night with all of the people in the house.  She did sort of hide under the table I had set up for my laptop but she also cautiously interacted with some of the guys which was cool.

As is always the case, I put little to no effort into draft research other than printing out an ESPN player ranking sheet by position.  I have found that years I thought I had a good draft didn’t necessarily translate into having a successful year due to injuries or just bad luck.

Somewhere around halfway through the draft I started letting Cindy help make picks.  I had a number of beers at that point and just didn’t care much about the bottom half of the roster.  She picked players based on names she liked first, their placement on the ranking charts second.  Although the end result of this system was an overall D rating of my draft it was still a funny way to do it.  If Tom Brady and the Gronk stay healthy all year I might still have a chance.  My running backs are very mediocre and that may hurt me a lot.

As usual I over indulged in food and drink but not as severely as some parties in the past.  The party broke up somewhere around 10:30.  Cindy and I busted it to get things 95% cleaned up before taking showers and hitting bed.  Today I officially begin my 5 days off.  I have a number of projects rolling around in my head that touch many areas including 3D printing, EUC, car upgrade, and of course house maintenance.  I hope to of course have some just chill time thrown in there for good measure.