Hurricane Hermine is threatening our shore line. Earlier today I turned on the TV, and the Weather Channel was in Tallahassee. Oh Crap! It is never a good thing when Jim Cantore shows up in your town.
August 31, 2016
By nightfall the storm begins coming ashore just east of Tallahassee between Monticello and Greenville, Florida, about 25 to 35 miles away to our east. Monticello is my hometown.
Our power goes out around 10 pm. Hurricane Hermine has begun to do its damage.
It will be all over the next morning, and tomorrow will be a very busy day. I make sure that everyone in the house knows that we’re in a “no flush” zone. You only flush the toilets periodically–on an as needed basis. Jamie has to explain what this means to Patrick.
We have no idea how long the power will be off, and the water in the tubs are there to bucket water from the tubs to flush the toilets. If you just need to pee, don’t flush. Only flush when needed. The water has to last. Not only is the weather deteriorating, but our lifestyle is, too.
Also, everyone understands that we do not open the refrigerators for anything. They will maintain food longer if they are not opened.
Finally, we all go to bed.
Friday, September 1
I wake up around 2 a.m., and the wind roars outside. I hear things hitting the outside of the house; but thankfully no big crashes, yet.
Around 4 a.m. I check my iPad for the latest weather update. Hermine is moving northeast and away from the area; but I can tell by the radar that it passed closely to our east. Luckily, we are on the good side of the storm, the side with less wind. I try to go back to sleep.
Finally, it is daylight. Outside it’s raining heavily. The oaks are still thrashing about, and I squint to see how the yard looks. Within minutes, I can tell that the pool is green with fallen branches. It is full of debris, but the fence around the pool is intact.
Then I see a very large tree down between the oaks, on the path down to the lake. One of the big Longleaf pines fell. I pull on a robe and go downstairs out on to the back porch.
The entire back yard looks like a bomb hit it. Oh dear!
The front yard doesn’t look any better.
There is another big pine tree down east of our house. It fell between ours and the neighbor’s house. The kids are downstairs sound asleep.
Thankfully, all the portable cell chargers were charged and ready. Our iPads and cells will come in handy now. We’ll need to begin making phone calls, checking on others, and trying to get help.
Chuck and I throw something on and decide to take his car and investigate our neighborhood, but we quickly realize that we cannot go east. A large pine is laying across our street, which is a circle.
So we go west and have to go around another tree in the road that leaves us us just enough room to squeeze by. Up on Lakeshore, we realize that we cannot go west because of downed trees, nor can we take Sharer south; but we are able to get out to Meridian going east.
Street lights are inoperable all over the city, and we see numerous occurrences of people barreling through these intersections. We quickly realize that it has been a decade since the last storms in Florida and over two decades since Kate.
There is an entire generation of drivers in town that have no idea that when the lights are out everywhere, every intersection becomes a four-way stop. The radios quickly begin trying to educate all of us before someone is killed.
Speaking of mortality, electric lines are down everywhere on sidewalks, in streets, across driveways. It is quite scary because people are outside walking around trying to assess their damages.
We also realize that this is beginning to look like the aftermath of Hurricane Kate. Everywhere we turn, streets are blocked by felled trees and downed powerlines. We now know that it will be days before our power is restored. Thankfully, Hurricane Hermine came ashore as just a Category 1 hurricane.
We use the radio to help us get down to the coast to check out the coast house. WFLA, 100.7 radio station with Preston Scott is taking calls from residents to let everyone know which streets are blocked and which aren’t. We use this to worm our way across town and south to the coast.
We learn that the Woodville Highway is closed, but not the Wakulla Springs Road down to the Bloxham Cutoff Rd. Wakulla Springs Rd. is closed from here, but we jog right on Bloxham and pick up Spring Creek Road all the way down to Shell Point and Live Oak Island Roads. All the while we fully expect for any one of them to be blocked and closed.
A Wakulla County deputy stops us to check that we are island residents. We are lucky and get all the way down to Live Oak Island.
As we drive across the causeway, we begin to see debris from the storm surge. Someone’s floating dock is on the side of the road. All the docks near the bridge are capsized and strewn about. You can tell that the island was inundated in areas. The storm surge did come across the island, but most houses are up off the ground.
Then we turn on to our road, and quickly realize that the it is strewn with many floating docks. We have trouble maneuvering and have to get out a couple of times to squeeze by debris until we find ours.
Our floating dock is no longer in the bay behind our house. It is sitting in the road right in front of our neighbor’s house.
Inside the house, everything is thankfully high and dry. We are blessed. Outside, though, we realize that the kayak is missing, along with the ramp leading down to the floating dock, and a set of steps down from the sea wall to the Gulf.
Walking around, we find the kayak in a wad of flotsam near the other neighbor’s house along with the missing ramp.
Chuck and I begin trying to remove the debris so we can move the kayak.
Other neighbors come by in search of their missing items, and most of us find what we’re looking for in this pile. It is strange how a storm does this, affecting one house but not the next. Underneath our house, it is swept clean. Under our neighbor’s is everyone else’s debris.
Finally, we finish what we can and drive back to Tallahassee. The kids called; and they are already trying to check on their home, which has several trees down on their well house and pump. They have Talquin Electric and already learn that it may be a week or more before their power is restored.
We return to the house in Tallahassee and begin the cleanup there. Our son-in-law is our hero. He picked up almost all the debris in our yard stacking it for our next really big bonfire. We usually have at least one during the winter holidays.
We realize that we’ve seen no power trucks yet in our neighborhood–not a good sign. We learn through the radio that the City of Tallahassee Electric has to restore the infrastructure first, which was also damaged by the storm.
We saw the trucks and tree trimming crews working out on the main roads. It will be some time before they get to little neighborhoods like ours.
The day goes quickly; but it hasn’t been all bad. When the storm pushed through so did the little front. Behind it is cooler and dryer air, which is unusual. Usually it is hot and humid behind these storms. So the cleanup this time is less painful.
By late afternoon, though, it begins to change. It begins to get humid; and we have no power, no air conditioning, no running water. We live on well water, which requires electricity to run. We tip toe through the house with flashlights and a kerosene lamp that hazily lights the kitchen.
Around 9 pm a bat flies into the house, sending everyone ducking and dodging in the dark to escape the little varmint. The bat finally finds an open door and flies back out after circling the house for about ten minutes.
My son in law Patrick who is an Air Force brat born in England and raised all over the world is getting his Ph.D. in becoming a true Floridian in one big hellacious weekend. He leads the effort to get rid of the bat.
Exhausted, we try to get some rest; but it is a little uncomfortable, nothing like the next night will be, though.
Saturday, September 2
All day Saturday we are cleaning up and setting all the lawn furniture back out. It is hard to get through the living room because it is full of pots, plants, and lawn furniture. Outside Chuck continues pulling leaves and limbs out of the pool.
We know it will be days before we get electricity. I’m already tired of bucketing water to flush toilets, sweating, and eating cold food. I wrench my shoulder and it hurts. We also worry about the food in the freezers, which we haven’t opened yet.
So Jamie and I begin to look for a generator to replace the one we had that won’t start. We call several stores, but they don’t answer their phones. Later, we learn that no one has regular phone service.
The stores who have no power are either running on generators or remain closed. Fortunately for us Florida’s hardware stores, grocery stores, and banks are almost all powered by generators during the aftermath of these storms.
At Home Depot there is a short line for 70 generators coming in around 5 pm on a truck. I count the number of people in line and think I have a shot at getting one, so I jump in the line and send Jamie and Thomas to Lowes to see if they can find one there.
She in turn gets in another line, but the line at Lowes requires a ticket. There are 96 generators and she gets ticket 96. Her success is more certain, but what if someone miscounted and there are only 95 generators on the truck. So she stays in that line with instructions to call if she gets one first, which she did.
By the way Jamie almost witnessed a fight. A man from a country, where obviously only the strongest survive, jumped ahead several people and snatched a ticket from someone in the line, who was less able to defend themselves. She said that the man almost got a ass whippin from some of the good old southern boys nearby, before he (the one who snatched the ticket) apologized and returned it.
With a new generator in tow, we get home and realize that this one is big enough to carry almost all of the appliances in the house, except the HVAC systems. We run big outdoor extension cords everywhere, first to the refrigerator/freezers. I check the food in the freezers and everything is still ok. Earlier we had begun bringing in ice for things in the refrigerators.
Too bad that we didn’t have a small air conditioner, though. It is still humid and hot at night. It would be worse, though, without the big ceiling fan over our bed and two old house fans that I’ve had since I lived in Monticello over 27 years ago.
We’re already talking to a tree service company to remove the two downed trees. Many people have trees on their homes or across their driveways, while ours are not as big a problem. They ask us to wait for a later time, and we agree to do so.
Saturday night, we are hot; but we have TV and lights. Life is much better.
Sunday, September 2
We begin to find pockets of the city open for business. We have lunch at Vertigo’s, which is packed. Everyone else had the same idea.
The house is strewn with electrical cords leading to the refrigerators, fans, and lamps all over the house. Can you say fire hazard? We call our electrician, and he hooks the entire house to the generator, except for the two HVAC systems. Then we spend the next hour trying to figure out why the breaker keeps flipping off. It turns out that there is some type of short in the water pump. So we turn everything else off when we need to use the water pump.
We spend a second afternoon finishing packing. Did I tell you that Chuck and I leave tomorrow for China? For two days before, I packed early in the morning for the best light, otherwise I’m packing for a seventeen day trip in the dark. One has to laugh to keep from going crazy.
Later, we notice that there are Gulf Power Co. bucket trucks and linesmen working up on Lakeshore. They are from west Florida and helping us in Tallahassee to get our power back. It is a relief to see them finally in our neighborhood.
It’s like the cavalry came. That is how we see our heroes–the linesmen. I honk and wave, give them a thumbs up, and scream “Thank You” from my car window. The lady driving back of me did the same thing. They’re working in our neighborhood, but not on our street yet.
Sunday night is the hottest night yet. Still no power. We see their lights up on Lakeshore. We heard that the men work 16-hour shifts. We both have trouble sleeping.
Monday, September 5
Monday comes, and we still have no power. We finally packed for China, and we leave. Final packing done; but much of it without lights, so I have no idea how prepared we are for China.
The floors in the house are littered with trash, leaves and mud, tracked in from the outside. Unfortunately, we leave everything in a mess and our daughter in charge. Jamie is our angel.
About half way to the airport, our daughter calls and the power is on. Thank the Lord and Gulf Power.
The house smells with the heat, humidity, two dogs, one crochety old cat, four adults, one five year old, and lots of smelly laundry. It needs the dehumidification that only a central air conditioning unit can provide.
Return From China
Seventeen days later we return from China. Tallahassee has power. Most everyone gets their power back within 10 days, but there are piles of yard debris everywhere still waiting for final cleanup. Many of the piles create a wall of debris next to the roads. People swerve to miss them.
The two trees are still down in our yard in Tallahassee, but our neighbor at the coast got our floating dock back in the water. It is anchored so it won’t float off. There is no ramp to it, though. It is just an island. Jamie and Patrick got their power back 8 days after the storm.
And on Monday, October 3rd, we had the decks and porches pressure washed to remove all the debris stains. We finally get back to normal just as we begin to watch Hurricane Matthew cross Haiti and threaten the other side of Florida. Monday, several computer models showed it coming into the Gulf.
And so we began the cycle again; but thankfully, this Hurricane Matthew went elsewhere.