Thursday, June 01, 2006

June 1st, Its Hurricane Season.... again

Its June 1st, and I have a knot in my stomach; Its hurricane season.... again.

The 2004 Atlantic hurricane season became one of the busiest ever. 4 hurricanes hit the state of Florida along with one tropical storm. Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne made landfall within 2 miles of each other, just three weeks apart. Those two intersected the path of hurricane Charley in the Orlando area. Orlando; the place that most south Floridians at one time used as their destination during a hurricane evacuation. Back then, no one could foresee another season like that.

But the 2005 season was the daddy of them all. The season had 28 named storms, 15 named hurricane, 7 of them major. 4 hurricanes again hit Florida. The National Weather Service ran out of names for the storms. The 'poster child' , the most infamous storm of the season, and so far history, Katrina (pictured above). The pain that we witnessed in New Orleans will never be forgotten. However, Katrina was not the strongest storm of 2005. It was a system called Wilma. Now the most intense storm ever recorded. The last name on the list of storms for 2005, but just the 22th of the season.

Katrina became a hurricane two hours before landfall at Hallandale Beach, Florida; a linear 10 -12 miles away from where I live. However, my area was not affected much. About 30 miles south, a lot of people lost power for days. Maybe a foreshadowing of things to come. Exactly two months later, Wilma approached from the west. Many went to sleep that night thinking the storm would reach some maximum winds of 80-90 miles per hour. The same, or a little above the winds contained within Katrina.

With the advent of the internet, one of my hobbies has become to follow these systems. This one was a hard one to forecast. As I went to bed after midnight, I knew the system was going to be a little bit stronger than what people thought; a category 2, with around 100mph winds and the possibility of reaching category 3. I went outside and put my car in the garage. Still, I was not prepare for its effects.

As I couldn't sleep (other reasons), I watched the winds speed increase. My area remained on the eyewall of the storm, which meant the eye skirted us but did not pass directly above, and therefore we were hit by the strongest part. The shift of winds happened right in from of my eyes. A tree in the house in front fell westward when the hurricane first hit, only to be picked up and blown eastward by the backside of the storm. I could see my window panes come in and out. I was expecting them to burst. The noise of flying tiles and shingles was everywhere. I knew the storm was traveling at 22mph (very fast for a hurricane) but still, the whole experienced lasted about 6 hours. And I could not wait for it to pass. After it did, all the neighbors walked outside to see destruction all over. These are my pictures. There was not a single car in my immediate area without damage.

At 730pm, the reality of darkness done upon me. No a/c, no tv, no computer, no telephones. It felt lonely.. the loneliest I have ever felt in my life. As a good boy scout, I was prepared. I fixed some cold dinner. It was a weird night where we were force to sleep with windows open. The noise outside from generators and the smell of gas made me wake up early. The next day, I woke up to take a semi-warm shower; I knew it might be the last one for a while. Around 1100am, I had my second cold meal. I decided at that time this could take long, so I packed and I started to drive. To Orlando. However, it seem many others did too. I changed routes after driving an hour, covering the distance I usually cover in 20 minutes. I headed out west, thinking I could reach Tampa instead. At least my heart felt better going in that direction.

Some 120 miles later, I found a gas station with a food mart. I stopped, re-filled my gas tank, and had the best slice of pepperoni pizza ever. I finally found a working and vacant hotel, with tv, warm shower, and at that time, the unfortunate ability to check my email. But, that's another story.

For the next two weeks I lived at my cousins, waiting for my essentials to be turned back on. Debris and signs of destruction were everywhere. Lines for gas were 2 - 3 hours long. I had filled before the storm like you are supposed to, so I did not need any gas until the worst had passed; therefore I only had a 40 minute wait. Driving to and from work was a nightmare as many street lights were not working. My life was being hikejacked. I was also being affected by an emotional situation, and this nature's blow went hand in hand with it, changing my life forever.

This year they have forecasted 17 storms with 9 hurricanes. Last year? 13 and 7. I am starting to prepare early, even though I do not plan to be around if one comes. Is easy for people that do not experience these systems often, to say they would pick up and leave. Is not easy putting your life in hold when most of the times the effects are not as bad, and when you do not know for certain if you will be affected. A very good friend of mine has evacuated 3 times already. Weighing the pain of doing this (including the 10 hours drive for a normal 3 hours drive) she decided to stayed during Wilma. She lost her roof, and was without power for 2 weeks also. She really does not know what she will do next. Translation; it will depend on the magnitude of the storm. Or in the power of praying and hoping that another storm doesn't come our way for a while.

NOTE: AS I finish this post at 10pm est, blogger is not allowing me to upload pictures. I will as soon as I can.
UPDATE: After a few days and for whatever reason blogger does not let me upload the pictures I intended on using.


Blogger Fred said...

Recently, the Tampa Bay area has had only the remnants of Jeanne, Frances, and Charley. I lost a tree during Jeanne.

Let's hope this year is as generous.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Cheri said...

Sounds really scary. Weather is so unpredictable. Such an exciting thing to watch, so untamed YET if you are caught in it..its not as exciting.

Please be careful and smart when and if it comes time to make that decision to evacuate

9:21 PM  
Blogger Southern Sweetheart said...

I cannot even begin to imagine how you feel - or anyone else in the path of Hurricanes - feel. They are scary and frightening and unpredictable. I hope this season is mild - even though they aren't predicting it to be - and I will pray for you and those in the paths.

11:09 PM  
Blogger Hale McKay said...

Once in a blue moon a hurricane makes it up to our area, but by then it is weakened, although it still packs a little power to cause some damage.
...Good luck and I hope their predictions are off.

7:41 PM  
Blogger erika said...

I have my fingers crossed for you! I hope it is not as bad this year

11:04 PM  

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