Posted Saturday, September 04, 2004 1:36:23 PM by Kim
We’re getting hurricane force winds here in Stuart Florida as Frances comes ashore. Power has been out since 11:30 this morning but the phones are still working. Gusts are up close to 100 mph at times, and we’re expecting the winds to grow until we have sustained winds of 100 mph for some time. That seems to be one of the big stories of this storm—just how slowly it’s moving. (The other being just how massive the storm is.) We’ll have winds of 70+ mph for another 10 hours or so, then 4 hours of calm as the eye passes over, and then another 12 hours of strong tropical force and hurricane winds as the back side of the hurricane passes over.
Nearly a million people are without power as I write this, and radio has taken over as the medium for getting information out to us. Reports are coming in of widespread damage all along the east coast, from huge trees across major highways, to a special needs hurricane shelter for the handicapped a few miles from me, which is being flooded as I write this. Rescue workers are on their way with pumps, but with trees down and power lines already falling all over the area, there’s little that can be done in some cases. And remember, these conditions are going to persist for another 26 hours, with those 4 hours of calm as the eye goes across the coast.
As for me, I’m in a very strong home with shutters and window coverings and things are as good as they could be. With a large overhanging wrap around porch, secured with massive posts, the house is ideal for weathering this storm. In fact, we’ve been spending time on the porch watching the storm whip the trees in the neighborhood and the blue heron hunker down in the pond. So far the worst damage we’ve had here are some fairly substantial tree limbs broken off.
It’s a bit bizarre to experience an event like this in such a disconnected manner—looking outside and listening to the radio. Meanwhile, I know there are houses out there that were not built to anything near the standards of this one. The same kind of shady contractors and corrupt inspection officials that were found to have operated in south Miami prior to Hurricane Andrew were active in this part of the state too. I hope those homes hold up in the storm.
For now we’re eating the food in the refrigerator and wishing we had more ice. We’re going to be without power here for another 36 hours in the best case, so some of the food that we have set aside is going to go bad. But if that’s the worst thing we have to endure then we will have been very fortunate.
Category tags: On the Personal Side
Posted Saturday, September 04, 2004 9:31:15 AM by Kim
When you have little to do except sit inside as a huge storm swirls around you, many of us here on the east coast of Florida have become weather geeks in ways that we never would have thought. Go ahead, ask me about feeder bands and freight-training thunderstorms and eye walls or squalls. A steady diet of local TV coverage of the storm has me prepared to talk about all those things with great authority.
As I write this another squall is passing through, bringing 60 and 70 mph winds. The power is still on, so I get to live vicariously through the TV reporters standing next to the ocean and the rivers in the area. Hopefully the power will hold out for a good long while but there’s sure to come a time when we switch over to radio.
You really have to hand it to the TV people. For the most part they are doing an incredibly effective job of handling the story. The weather guys (no weather gals in my area) explain things clearly and have all the latest digital toys to tell the story. They’re able to zoom in down to street level and show where the rain is worst or predict when a single cell in the storm will hit a particular area. Remote cameras from all over the area allow us to see how the storm is progressing as it happens. All in color and in real time. That’s a far cry from watching Hurricane Andrew only 12 years ago.
And mixed in with all the technical talk the anchors are all doing a good job of putting a more human face on things. They’re taking phone calls and answering e-mails on air, and asking the kinds of questions of the weather geeks that other laymen might ask. If you put the coverage into the context of telling a story, it really is amazing how effective TV is at doing this kind of job. Maybe we’ve been blessed with 3 very good local stations, but the kinds of things they’ve done, like reassuring an elderly woman who wrote in to say how scared she was with the strange noises as the wind rattles her walls and shutters, really show how powerful the medium is in this type of situation.
It remains to be seen how well people in the area have listened to the warnings about this storm. The TV people have been showering us with those for the last two days. My take is that a higher percentage than normal have listened to the warnings, boarded up or fled, and that there won’t be a large numbers of casualties here. Part of the credit for that will have to go to the weather geeks.
Category tags: On the Personal Side
Posted Saturday, September 04, 2004 9:27:44 AM by Kim
(It was my intention to post about Hurricane Frances at my personal blog. It seems like in the rush to get out of the house that I forgot to get my log-in information on to the laptop for the other site. I'll ask for your indulgence as I post here instead.)
I evacuated my home in West Palm Beach yesterday, not by choice. I’m now 30 miles north of West Palm, hunkered down with my father-in-law and brother-in-law. Since my wife and I weren’t sure that the family was completely safe, I headed up here with the dog and the cat and lots of groceries to ride out the Hurricane Frances.
As I write this on Saturday morning the forecast is better than it was two days ago, but still bad enough. Sometime this afternoon the hurricane force winds will begin in this area, and although the winds are not expected to be the terrible 140 mph that was feared, we’ll be in hurricane winds between 75 and 120 mph for anywhere from 6 to 12 hours. When you compare that to the 45 minutes to 2 hours that Hurricane Charley spent in Punta Gorda, you can see why everyone with any sense is taking this seriously.
As I left my home yesterday I was pretty certain that it would be safe through the storm. All the windows were boarded up, doors screwed shut, every bit of the (too many) things that we have in our yard put away in the garage. Basically everything I could think of to do was done, and what a fun 10 hours it was doing it all. Add in the hours I spent helping get Mom’s house ready and then doing it again for the elderly couple next door and then doing it AGAIN here in Stuart, well, you can understand how I might be just a little weary.
It’s not easy driving away from your house not knowing when you’ll be able to get back. Will everything be OK? Will the big avocado tree out back hold up? What happens if the roof gets blown off? Will the screened patio and aluminum carport still be there? Will the storm surge breach the barrier island less than a mile to my east? Will there be mullet in the front yard when I get back? It will be Monday at the earliest before I can get home to find out.
The house itself is almost bunker-like, so I don’t have any big concerns about structural failure. It was built back in the early 60’s by a family of Florida Crackers who remembered the severe storms that hit Palm Beach County in the late 40’s and designed their homes to withstand high winds. The roof is seriously strapped down and built from tongue and groove solid pine, and has a gentle slope designed to allow strong winds to flow over it more easily. A concrete block exterior and plaster interior makes the house a very sturdy structure, which is a comforting thought.
And my house? My sister lives just a few blocks from me so I can get her to check things out for me. At least I’ll know how things stand. But it’s such an unsettling feeling knowing that you can’t be there to do something about your home and that you’re essentially powerless in the face of nature.
Category tags: On the Personal Side
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