Saturday, September 9, 2017

Preparing for Irma

This past week has felt like it lasted a year. As Irma strengthened, Matt and I prepared the house.

After putting it off for years, Matt bought some hurricane shutters (he found them for $3 a shutter - they are usually $6 a foot) and spent Tuesday cutting them to size and fitting them on our house. I helped him finish up on Wednesday. The original shutters were plastic and the bolts were unevenly spaced, so it was quite a project.
He worked all night Tuesday to get the shutters ready.
He also put out all the sandbags we got from last week's storm, but the two layers of bags we have probably won't do much good against the projected storm surge. (Some of you may have seen the videos I posted of that flooding on Instagram last week.) Finally, we went to his studio and cleared out all the ceramics.
Wrapping a tarp around his kiln. We're not sure if the cabin will make it through the storm. His kiln, wheel, and slab roller may all be lost.
For awhile we were unsure what Matt's mom would do, as she lives in a mobile home and has a small dog, but eventually decided whatever we ended up doing, she would join us. So Thursday, as Irma's path turned ever more westward, we finally decided we would evacuate.

Our home almost flooded just the other weekend from a rainstorm that sat over us for awhile, so we were sure the house would flood from Irma. As we saw that the wind gusts would possibly be 150 MPH, we became worried that our roof wouldn't survive, so we had to evacuate.
We are in Fort Myers. My parents live in Sarasota, between Tampa and Fort Myers.
We were able to book an Airbnb up in the panhandle. We finished cleaning up the house and removing things from our sunken living room, and after taking a video of each room to document our belongings, we hit the road around 2am on Friday. Because of my surgery, I was told if I evacuated I should keep my foot elevated and my leg outstretched to avoid the risk of blood clots, so Matt drove the entire way to Tallahassee. He used backroads and we used Gas Buddy to find fuel along the route, and we made it to our first destination (Matt's cousin's house) around 8am. Traffic was heavy for the dead of night, but we didn't encounter any gridlock.

Saturday afternoon, we completed our journey out to Miramar Beach. The panhandle is unlikely to have more than a tropical storm, so we will be safe here. Once we arrived, my mind was finally able to start processing that we may not have a home to return to. Irma's eye is aimed directly at our city, and our house was built in the 1970s. It wasn't until after Hurricane Andrew (1992) that more stringent building codes were enacted. It is extremely likely that the 15 foot storm surge they are expecting will get into our house, and it's very likely that our roof won't hold out against category 4+ winds.
Road tripping. You'd never know a hurricane was looming based on the weather we're having.
I am relieved for my friends on the east coast, but devastated thinking of what the west coast is facing.

I keep thinking about the things I had to leave behind, most specifically my grandma's crystal, which she gave me as a wedding gift, and the handcrafted menorah Matt got me for my birthday two years ago. I took all my heirlooms/good jewelry. I am trying very hard to come to terms with possibly returning to utter destruction. (The Weather Channel predicts our area will suffer somewhere between "devastating" and "catastrophic" effects.) If I expect that the house will be totally destroyed, then I can be happily surprised if there is anything left at all.
The Waterford crystal only comes out for Passover.
After all the work we've put into it, I can't really explain the emotions I am going through right now, but I'm sure you can imagine.

Before they evacuated, Elizabeth went to my house to grab my A1A marathon medal for me.

My parents and siblings (and their pets) are all in Sarasota at my parents' house. Their house was built in 2007 so it should be safe, and Irma should be a little weaker when it hits Sarasota. I am anxious about them staying behind, but I'm sure they'll be fine.

There is still time for things to change, as Irma won't hit Fort Myers until Sunday night. There is time for it to slow down or weaken. There's time for it to curve. Hurricanes are tricky in how difficult their paths are to predict.

I have dozens of friends who either evacuated or have prepared their houses to weather the storm. Needless to say, I am anxious for my friends and family. I appreciate everyone who has reached out with well wishes and offers to help. I will need them.

So...yeah. I am trying to be objective about this, because I can't find it in me to be positive. We will survive and that's what matters. But the road ahead is sure to be difficult. Please keep Florida in your thoughts. I don't believe thoughts and prayers make any difference, but it helps to know people are thinking of us.



  1. I had chills just reading this, and yes I may have shed a tear reading about how you might lose your home. I know nothing I will say will make things better but I truly hope that you do have a home to come back to and that your 1970's house will make it through with very little damage.

  2. Agree with the above poster. I can't imagine what you all are going through. Thinking of you and your family. <3

  3. I am so sorry you have to endure's so scary. I am glad you got out but that doesn't help the feeling of despair at possibly losing your home. Stay are strong and don't forget it.

  4. I have always felt as long as me, Paul, and the kitties were safe, I'd be fine. But as soon as we were fine, I'd worry about our house. I love our house. Our HOME. It would be so sad if it were destroyed. I am so sorry you have to go through all of this. I wish I was able to come to FL so I could help you any way I could.

  5. I am trying to imagine the emotions you must be going through... leaving behind your house, not knowing what you're going to return to must be the most stressful thing you guys have ever been through. I really hope that the storm continues to weaken in the coming hours/days. I am just glad you got out and will be safe. Your life is the most valuable thing after all.

  6. I hope you and your family are safe. and I hope that your house will be ok.