Today June 1st marks the return of hurricane season. I don't think any one in Florida is complacent about this time of the year after the pummeling we took in 2004.
My parents moved to Florida in 1976. I have lived in Florida since then with the exception of the time I spent in the Navy. Till 2004, a hurricane had never brought hurricane force conditions to where I lived. There were a few close calls, David in 1979, Andrew in 92, Erin in 95 but all passed at least 80 miles away. A few years ago a tropical storm named Irene came through south florida suddenly. So suddenly we didn't board up, but rather went to see a show in Ft. Lauderdale! Weird is the best description for the Irene experience. The worst tropical system to hit my area was a weak tropical storm named Gordon that seemed to have the mind of a wandering drunk. It loitered, veered, reversed directions for its 5 day sojourn in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic while dumping rain on us for 2 days. There was very little wind so we fared well.
I have to admit I had grown complacent. Hurricanes had missed South Florida for years, and I believed they would continue to do so. Pointing out that every tropicl system that passed north of Puerto Rico missed this part of Florida. That would change labor day weekend of 2004.
A few weeks earlier a Hurricane named Charly hit Southwest Florida leaving a wake of destruction in its path. As labor day approached another storm named Francis was angling its way towards the east coast of the USA and possibly Florida. Francis had passed north of Puerto Rico and at first I felt we would be in for another miss. I would be wrong.
The television news that I felt exaggerated over the years was more anxious than ever. So were my wife's friends. I have America Online and I began checking the National Hurricane website, they were putting up advisories for Francis every 3 hours. Every three hours the probability Francis was heading for Palm Beach County increased.
So we prepared, cleaned up the garage and pulled our car in. Put up the hurricane shutters and bring in anything not nailed down outside. Most all of this was complete the Friday before Labor day. Then the wait began. On Saturday the weather continued to get worse and worse and by eight in the evening we were beginning to feel the effects of Francis. While the lights went on and off during the day and evening we kept power till about 11:15 that night. Then it was gone and Francis was here pummeling our home. I tried to sleep that night but it was easier said than done with the wind swirling and the roof rattling, I dozed very little. Worried our roof would blow off or the tree out front come falling down on our home.
Francis made landfall on Sunday morning in St. Lucie county about fifty to sixty miles to our north.
Dawn broke the next morning but Francis a slow moving storm was still hitting us with wind and rain. This slowly subsided through the day. By late afternoon we were going out to assess what had happened. We had kept our roof, we had a toppled Orange tree and some fence damage. Compared to many of our neighbors we were fortunate. Fences were down everywhere, trees were uprooted and at least 1 in 8 homes in our neighborhood would soon be donning a blue tarp on at least part of the roof.
The family and I stayed home Sunday but on Monday our refugee phase began. We headed to my sister-in-law's in Miami, all cramming ourselves into her small apartment. There we stayed two days, eating warm food and getting our laundry done as we enjoyed the air conditioning. On Wednesday we returned home and stayed overnight in our stifling house. Electric would be out for almost eight days for us. Food in our refrigerator and freezer ruined. For three nights we stayed overnights at the Catholic Church my wife works at. The pastor kindly allowing us to stay. Finally the next Sunday arrived and our power came on. We began the cleanup process being thankfull we had little to clean up from.
But we weren't done yet. About 10 days after Francis, another hurricane named Jeanne was taking a similiar course. We anxiously watched this system then saw it veer to the north. Apparently we were going to be spared two hurricanes in a row.
We were wrong again. After veering north a bit, Jeanne stalled and then back tracked. Taking almost the same path as Francis. Again we went into the hurricane preparedness drill, except this time it went smoother and faster since we had just gotten over the last. This time we didn't ride out the storm, rather we bugged out to Miami on Saturday morning exactly three weeks to the day Francis had hit.
Jeanne struck Pt. St. Lucie County in almost the identical spot as Francis, except a few hours earlier and this storm was moving fast. While we lost power on Saturday night around 7 p.m. (learned by calling our front neighbor.) damage in our neighborhood was minimal. Our home was intact again. We stayed in Miami till Monday morning, expecting a long power outage again we were surprised to get a phone call from our neighbor. After a little less than 40 hours without it, our power was back. We came home thanking God we had made it through these two storms. Places like Sewells Point didn't fare so well, two hurricanes wiping out homes and businesses for thousands.
It's hurricane season, let all of us get prepared. There is too much at stake not to.