Category: Anything and Everything

When I got home yesterday, after a frustrating day of dead ends when it came to trying secure someone to look at our pool cage and roof damage I decided I needed to get on the roof to do a few stop gap repairs.  When I did my roof survey after the hurricane I took note of a couple spots where the shingles were ripped off all the way down to bare felt/tar paper.  I read online that the underlayment will only hold up a short period of time when exposed to the elements.

We had made a nice pile of shingles that had ripped off the house.  I had Cindy toss a few of them up to me which I used to tuck under the intact shelters and then nail into place so water can run off instead of possibly under the shingles.  There were only three spots I found with bare paper so it didn’t take very long.

So as I survey what the hurricane remediation landscape, it is looking like a long and expensive path.  In anticipation of this I started the process of reopening my home equity line of credit for withdrawals.  It closed three years ago after 10 years.  At the time I didn’t feel like going through the hassle of the reapplication process however with a potential slew of home improvement expenses coming up it made sense to do so at this time.  If I am going to spend the money, I may as well do it in a manner that allows me to write off the interest on my taxes.

Like I said I have run into a lot of dead ends when it comes to getting estimates on the work I need.  I had one pool cage contractor said they are only doing full cage rebuilds, not repairs.  Another said they weren’t willing to drive so far because they have enough work by them. Others either don’t answer the phone or just never respond back to you.  I did however have the luck to find a co-worker whose husband works for a roofing company that has an interesting way to handle the estimate problem.

The company will present you an estimate without even coming out to your property.  How in the world can they do that accurately you may ask?  They use GIS imaging and Google Maps to gather the measurements they need.  They then feed these numbers into some program and generate estimates remotely, pretty cool.  I have not seen the estimates yet, I requested one for doing shingles again and a metal roof.  I have a feeling I will be in for some sticker shock.

 

 

So my goal to finish my massive to do list for the weekend came up short but it wasn’t from a lack of effort.  Mother Nature threw a big roadblock in the way when we got absolutely drenched on Friday, turning what was a dry landscape back into something that look similar to a rice paddy field.  Thankfully Cindy got the back half of the yard mowed on Friday before the rains came.

On Saturday we worked ourselves silly, busting ass around the wet yard.  I was doing weeding, debris clean up and weed whacking mostly.  Cindy spent a good portion of the day with the electric pressure washer, cleaning the pool cage and pool deck area.  Later in the afternoon we ran out for some more supplies at Home Depot.  When we got home the rain had returned.  I was so motivated to continue crossing off list items that I threw on my rain coat and worked through steady precipitation.

Despite being beat up and sore from Saturday’s work I set a 6AM alarm for Sunday so I could get out and resume my weekend 5K track runs.  Because of road trips, work commitments and hurricanes my running has fallen off a table.  I think this was the second time in three months I got out to run.  Of course my expectations were low, my goal was to simply survive the run as in not stop short of my 12 lap goal.  That goal was accomplished although I felt pretty miserable trudging through the extremely warm and humid air, mostly in total darkness.  As the sun began to rise it revealed that the school grounds took a beating from Irma as well.  The bleachers and part of the baseball backstop were mangled from the winds.

During the morning Cindy and I did get out for a quick ride around North Collier Park on our wheels.  Once again the power of a hurricane was on display.  Pretty much every direction you turned you could see damage from the storm.

Before the Eagles game started Cindy and I worked on yet another list item, washing all three vehicles.  I used it as an opportunity to make a Tacoma mod so far video, something I had intended to do for a little while.

I got word during the week that supposedly the NFL Sunday Ticket problem that I spent over two hours on the phone trying to remedy last weekend had been corrected.  I was skeptical Directv actually fixed the issue but I was pleased to see I actually had the package when I turned on the tv this week.  It was the first Eagles game I have gotten to see this year.  It was interesting game to see with a solid close win, capped off by the Eagles executing a time expiring long drive at the end to seal the game, something I am not accustomed to.  Their 3-1 start to the season is good news but I have been an Eagles fan for far too long to not know better than to get too excited at this point of the season.

So this morning I woke up to the latest in a far too common scenario in today’s world, another horrible mass shooting.  You have to wonder what snapped in this old man’s mind that would push him to raining down bullets from 32 stories up upon a massive crowd of unsuspecting victims.   I suppose this will once again spin up the circular gun control arguments which inevitably lead to nothing as both sides call the other names.  At this point I am pretty certain that there is no gun related tragedy that would be able to move that needle in any direction.

As I mentioned yesterday, my to do list for this weekend is massive.  With that being the case I tried to at least put a small dent in the list by hopping on the tractor and attempting to mow the back yard.  The grass in some areas back there was incredibly thick, requiring me to slow down to snail speeds at times to get through it.  Because of just how slow I was going I was unable to get it all done before sunlight expired which was a bummer.  I am hoping Cindy has a chance to knock out the rest today. My weekend workfest looks like it may be a wet one as there is a tropical depression nearby that could bring a lot of rain our way, something that is less than welcome.

It’s so reassuring to see the majority of the American public focused on whether a NFL player is standing or kneeling for the national anthem.  I bet even the people in Puerto Rico understand why this would take precedence over something like their personal hell and humanitarian disaster.  It’s an odd thing how many Americans seem to think of Puerto Rico as a foreign nation, not worthy of the same support and assistance we would offer an official US state.  Odd is just one word I would use to describe the state of the world right now.  Moronic, ignorant, and hypocritical are a few more that pop into my mind.

 

So with our latest building swap complete (one more to go), things at work have finally settled down a bit for the time being.  It couldn’t have come a moment too soon as the combo of hurricane issues combined with massive requirements at work were burning me down to a nub big time.

Last night I continued my struggle with my CR-10 printer, trying to get an annoying clogging problem corrected.  I wound up eventually doing so by putting in the spare nozzle that was provided with the printer.  I finally got the last part of the latest EUC stand printed overnight although it was a bit buggy.  At random times little snot balls of filament were created and scattered around the print.  I am hoping the reason for this is the filament itself which was out in the open during the power outage when the air inside the house was incredibly hot and muggy.  PLA filament actually “goes bad” when left exposed to air for prolonged periods of time, especially humid air.  I am hoping the bugs I saw were just related to that.

So I have already begun crafting a list to consume a good portion of my first “normal” weekend in quite awhile.  We have been enjoying a rain free period which has allowed the property to dry out completely.  I want to take advantage of this by mowing/weed whacking EVERYTHING which of course will take hours to complete.  The grass however is only a couple items on a long list that consumes the entire piece of note paper it is written on.  It will be a very busy weekend and although it would be nice to just chill, stuff just won’t get done by itself.

Well it seems like life the last few weeks has just been a big blur.  Between post hurricane things and our renovation project at work my normal routines have just been thrown out the window.  In the last three weeks I think I have gone to the gym once.  I just have had no time. Blogging obviously has taken a severe hit as well.

Today I met with an insurance adjuster so he could document our damage.  Of course the biggest concern of all is the roof, followed by the pool cage damage.  The adjuster, who was a nice guy that came down from Mobile, Alabama seemed thorough in his documentation.  He showed me the drawing he made of the roof damage and commented that he would assume with it being as widespread as it is that the insurance company would agree a re-roof is necessary.

If that is indeed the agreed upon remediation I need to then see how I can work something out where the house gets a metal roof instead of another shingle job.  Metal lasts forever, will reflect heat and is very wind resistant.  The adjuster said he saw lot of damage to tile roofs, less to shingle roofs and no damaged metal roofs so far.  I am hoping going the metal route is as simple as me agreeing to pay the difference between a shingle and metal alternative.  To be honest I think the cost might be very close because with a new shingle roof they would have to strip all of the old shingles first which adds a ton of labor cost to the job.  A metal roof can go right on top of shingles.

The property is pretty cleaned up from the hurricane, as much as it can be at least at this point.  I still need to find a home for the two new ac units in the sheds and devise a way to store them so they do not become housing units for insects and/or rodents.  I have a few minor repairs to tackle which hopefully can get crossed off the list this weekend.

I have finally resumed my 3D printing projects however my big CR-10 has been giving me some annoying problems I am trying to sort out.  The user community for the printer is incredibly robust so there is more or less no question you can ask that someone does not have an answer to.

Oh I forgot to mention, in the way too busy theme, this past weekend I worked half the day Saturday and then drove with Cindy to the Coconut Grove area for her class reunion.    I have never attended any of my class reunions so this was a first for me.  Even though I obviously knew noone except Cindy, I managed to mix in pretty well thanks to a steady flow of Budweisers.  As I was finishing off my 7th or 8th I actually ventured onto the dance floor with Cindy, who had been dancing up a storm with her former classmates a good portion of the night.

We stayed at the same hotel the reunion was held at, The Mayfair.  It was one of the most unique and beautiful places I have EVER stayed.  If you are in the Miami area and want to treat yourself, book a room at The Mayfair.

 

 

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.