From The Heart

Hurricane Irma, My Ride Thru The Storm

Hurricane Irma was heading to South Florida. All signs pointed to a catastrophic landfall in South Miami and stomping its way up through Fort Lauderdale and then north through Orlando and Jacksonville. There was no escape. Millions in South Florida prepared for days. We bought supplies, gas up our cars, and evacuated the area, but in reality, nothing can ever prepare you for the sheer size of this storm. Hurricane Irma was over 500mi wide. That’s almost a straight line from Miami to Tallahassee and the storm was growing larger still. It dwarfed Hurricane Andrew.

I’ve been through Hurricane Andrew in 1992. I may have been a child in junior high but I remember the mess it left in its wake. It swirled into South Florida at a record-breaking Category 5 hurricane. The first of its kind and Miami didn’t know what to expect. I remember my family took shelter in our North Miami Beach home as the storm steamrolled into South Florida. What we [Floridians] didn’t know was Hurricane Andrew took a turn south and completely flattened Homestead. It almost wiped it off the map. Hurricane Andrew destroyed over 63,00 homes and caused 26.5 billion dollars in damages*. Fast forward 25 years and here we are again with another Category 5 beast, Hurricane Irma. And she has her sights set on South Florida.

And we dodged a bullet in South Florida. What we got in South Florida was a major tropical storm with wind gusts reaching hurricane status. The Caribbean islands took to the business end of the Category 5, glanced off the Cuban mountains, and dropped to a strong Category 3 before Hurricane Irma made U.S. landfall at Cudjoe Key. Not that it’s any less damaging of a storm. The Florida Keys took it pretty bad. As of this writing, Irma caused the death of 22 people on the islands.

As for me, I live in a condo complex and I rent. Preparations consisted of several days of food supplies, a week’s worth of water, and hoped power restoration within a week.  I put up the landlord’s hurricane shutters and moved all my tech and furniture away from the windows. I packed three days worth of clothes and recharged my camera’s batteries and heading west to Plantation, Fl where I can be with framily. The next night the storm’s feeder bands began pounding South Florida.

We had door window view to the outside world. From there we saw strong gusts of winds that knocked over branches and left deep scratches, some busted windows, and fist-sized dents on our cars. Power was knocked out 12 hours into the storm. We were left in the literal dark when our phones rang of tornado warnings. I lost count at 7 tornado warnings and 3 confirmed touchdowns.

A couple of hours after losing power we saw the constant shift of wind gusts. Left to right. Then right to left. Which slowly led to the next big worry. Falling trees. Right next to the door was a giant 30-foot black oak tree and it began to slowly sway back and forth causing the roots to lift the surrounding earth one to two inches with every wind gust. At that point, there was nothing we can about the cars. We worried more about the home it may fall on. Our shelter from the storm. The storm’s feeder bands raged on. Defeated and tired, we sat around a lamp and listened to the radio simulcast of the local news weather meteorologists. As they spoke and reported the severe weather, each of us tired from the worrisome slowly fell asleep. One by one.

The following morning we all woke up. A little less worry free and much more hopeful knowing we were not at all awakened by a crashed sound and a tree where the kitchen was. As the winds of Hurricane Irma died down we slowly made our way outside. Thick large branches fell and bounced between our cars. Smaller branches were all over the neighborhood. Trees toppled over to the ground. Power lines came undone by fallen trees. Traffic lights were strewn about and dangled by their chords. Back home, much of the surrounding area by my apartment was more of the same. But that was the worst of it.

Hurricane Irma had gone. Yes, it sucked not having power for air conditioning and lights. The days to come had proven to be very hot, averaging in the high 80s and feeling like low 90s with the humidity. And with no power for millions across Florida that sucked. But it could have been much worse. These pictures were damages from low Category 1 storm and many many miles away from the eye of the storm. Yes, we did get the dirty end of the storm with all the tornadoes and rain and powerful storm surges. But I’m grateful we didn’t get the storm we prepared for. I’ll settle with fallen trees and the inconvenience of no power for weeks as opposed to losing my home, months of rebuilding, and human lives.

Hurricane Irma Relief Links: Unicef and American Red Cross