Fear and Loathing in Central Florida
Waiting for Irma....
The hysteria started on September 6th- 5 full days before Irma's expected arrival at our home-threatening not only our land home in Ocala, Florida, but our floating home in Palmetto two hours south, like a sitting duck, waiting for Irma.
The clock started ticking.
Irma is huge. 5 days ahead of time she is breaking all records for size and wind speeds. There is talk of creating a new category 6.
This is one week following the devastation that Harvey caused in SE Texas and Houston, and with this fresh in our minds, people are taking it very seriously. The store shelves are wiped out. We are being told we may be without power for weeks. We are told winds of 145 Mph are going to rip through the middle of the state and leave a path of destruction. The gas stations are out of fuel and no one has bottled water. There is a state of panic, everywhere you turn.
On Thursday the mass exodus out of Florida begins. The roads are completely clogged going north. There is no fuel to be found. Those of us that are left behind get ready to hunker down, tie down, provision ourselves, and wait.
We watch in horror as Irma tears through the BVI and VI, leaving in it's wake flattened buildings and flooding and widespread damage. St Martin, Tortola, all the little islands, are devastated.
And the boats, so many boats, thrown like toys into piles of rubble.
I am angry when a reporter makes the comment, well, "these are just boats" because I know better. These are people's homes, their livelihoods, their investments. Our boat represents our early retirement, and our dreams for the future. The fleets of charter boats destroyed are the economy, tourism, and lifeblood of these islands. "Just boats" ....shut up, stupid.
Irma boards the coast of Cuba like an amusement ride, and Cuba slows her a bit, and changes her path a bit- now she is turned towards the west side of Florida and the Gulf.
She takes aim at our beloved Keys.
We are watching and waiting, waiting and watching- her every wobble brings us hope, or brings us despair.
It's going to hit Tampa head on, no, it's going to hit Naples, no,wait, it's going to strike Miami-prediction after changing prediction comes across the airwaves. I vow to stop watching the news, then I have to watch it, each time hoping for a retraction or correction. Tell me Irma is going out to sea...tell me she lost her power.
For those individuals who tried to use Irma as a political platform...there's a special place in hell for you.
S/V Neverland sits in the yard at Snead Island Boatworks, on the Manatee River, on large stands. We should have taken down her solar panels, bimini, and sails, but we are unable to get there. Or we should have sailed her away. But she is in the yard for repairs that didn't get done, because Irma forced the removal of dozens of other people's boats, instead of the repair of ours.-All we can do is hope. And wait.
Here's what happened to my mind- first, I had to realize and come to terms with the fact that we could lose not only the sailboat, but who knows how much damage would happen to our other home-
Meaning financial devastation-
Then, I had to try to believe that wouldn't happen, because I believe in positive thinking and the energy it creates.
But Irma was a big bad bitch.
So this was an instant recipe for insanity- and an excruciating five days of anxiety...sadness for those who stood in the path of Irma before us, and fear for what might come next. Back and forth, back and forth feelings of hope and hopelessness.
And let me say this about the technology we have today- it's wonderful and it's terrible, all at once. Because when you almost instantly receive the images of destruction from the places Irma already visited, it is hard to convince yourself it is all going to be ok-
Yet, it's so wonderful to have instant confirmation that your friends and family are fine, and to share your feelings and fears and know that you are not alone.
And why did it piss me off so badly that my husband was completely calm??
I guess that's an answer for the analyst's couch. At 5 am on Monday morning when the worst of it blew through, he was snoring. And I was sitting awake in wide eyed terror. Did my being awake change anything? Of course not. I wish I had been sleeping instead.
And I should be grateful and appreciate his calm. I know it is his way of trying to help me be calm. I count on him for that. I love him for that. So why was I angry that he wasn't joining me in howling at the moon? Because, emotions aren't sensible.
I guess maybe he also counts on me to do my nervous actions. Nervous cook, nervous clean, nervous organize ....
Maybe I am just jealous that he is able to not worry about what he can't control. While I was part of the mere mortal group that was worried and scared and trying really hard not to think the worst.
Because Irma had the power to change my life forever. While I stood helplessly by.
So.. we waited for Irma for 5 days, and she came, and the wind howled fiercely for over 16 hours outside and around our home, with that erie, unnatural howl. And it rained and rained and rained.
She slammed into the Keys. She dumped winds and rain on Miami in unprecedented amounts..She did hit Naples. And Fort Myers, our former home,and then she wobbled again, and eventually when she reached us at a Category 1, it was frightening as hell, but not deadly.
Monday morning, we surveyed the damages. Downed tree branches, and one broken gutter down spout. We are humbly grateful that we have been spared.
Around mid morning, the boat yard miraculously, announced on Facebook, that all the boats there were fine. And I went back to the bedroom and cried, out of relief. I felt bad for feeling happy, when so many others had lost so much ..because I could be them, and they could be me.
I spent the day trying to manage my workload and the rest of my work team's workload, from home- in between trying to contact everyone and make sure they were ok.
Overwhelmingly, most reports were very positive. One friend even had a boat survive in Key West!
Each time I got the news that people were ok, homes were ok, and boat homes were ok, I said YEAH! Take that, Irma.!
The worst pictures and news was coming from the Islands, our "St Somewheres", and we are so sad to see many islands so devastated.
Parts of the Florida Keys were also damaged beyond belief, with boats laying in the roads! Buildings flattened and moved across the road from where they originally stood. But many parts also made it through ok- and we have to believe, we do believe the Conch Republic will rise above.
We also heard from so many people, family and friends, who were worried about us. We were amazed, and grateful for their thoughts and prayers. And, even though our boat didn't happen to be at Regatta Pointe Marina, it would have been, if not for the happenstance of a broken prop shaft. So we are also very grateful for those marina neighbors checking, adjusting lines, and most of all sending pictures of the boats to those who couldn't be there. Thank you! You are our family too.
Today was all about getting back to work, checking with co-workers to see what they need- covering for the ones that are still cleaning up trees and patching houses. Trying to find fuel and water for everyone - Lending our generator to a co worker because we somehow have power when 60 percent of Floridians do not..a staggering 6.5 million people without electricity.
And tomorrow - how can we help others with their rebuilding? That's our next goal, to help.
Someday soon- we will go sailing -and we will be more grateful than we ever dreamed, to be sailing.
Because,we will never forget waiting for Irma.
"Night-time. Why is it, I wonder…
Always, always it is at night when
The fury of a hurricane makes itself felt.
Perhaps it is because the spirit of the storm
Delights in the darkness, for there it can
Unleash its rage most potently, most
Anonymously, upon the element of earth?
Or perhaps it is simply because we
Humans are afraid of the dark.”
― Stephanie Osborn, Stolen Moments"