The Day of the Storm

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.


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