Living in Hurricane Land.

Posted by Mona Risk | 11:54 PM | , | 7 comments »

I live in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and I survived hurricanes Frances in 2004, Katrina and Wilma in 2005, and now they are talking about Dean who is beating up on Mexico while the sun shines gloriously and the ocean is as even as a lake here in Fort Lauderdale.

It’s difficult to decide how to prepare and behave when the forecast predicts a hurricane. To panic and evacuate as we did during our first summer in Florida, or stay and weather the storm hoping it would bypass us?

In Florida, we survived Frances and Katrina, then relaxed and forgot. So when the TV asks everyone to prepare for Wilma, we did it with a know-it-all smile on our lips. There was no way on earth we were going to panic and leave our apartment.

Little did we know that two days later we would be sitting in the living room of our apartment, listening to the wind blowing at hundred-fifty miles. The sound was horrendous. I never saw or heard wolves in my life but to my feverish mind the wind sounded like the howling of a pack of wolves. There was no electricity and no telephone. The hurricane shutters tightly closed left us in the dark except for a candle lit in the bathroom and another in the kitchen.

In the middle of the day, more precisely at 11:20 am I felt the building shaking. We live on the eighteenth floor and the ground moved under us. I grabbed my husband’s hand and said, “Do you think the building can collapse?” He said he was more worried about the glass door to the balcony shattering. Together we stuck towels against the panels to stop the shaking of the glass and the seeping of the water.

After ten hours, the noise subsided and the storm abated. We climbed down the eighteen floors and reconnected with our neighbors. We were among the lucky ones who didn’t suffer broken windows or major damage. One of our neighbors reported the wall between her bedroom and the next door neighbor’s living room had collapsed.

The next day the neighborhood was unrecognizable with devastation everywhere, cars smashed on top of each other, broken electric lines lying across the street, uprooted trees, windows, chairs and tables messing the beach sand.

But the hurricane brought people together, those without damages helping those severely affected. We gathered on the terrace of the building, barbequed and ate together for five days while waiting for the electricity to be restored.

Two years have passed by since hurricane Wilma, but some us in Fort Lauderdale are still waiting for repair to be done or insurances to cover the cost. Now while we watch hurricane Dean spread its ravages in Mexico, we wonder what is in our forecast for the next two months.

So what does a hurricane mean to you?

7 comments

  1. Tawny // August 24, 2007 at 3:11 PM  

    I'm in California, so we don't get the hurricane worries here - we get earthquakes. I hear so often how people would hate to live in earthquake country, but to me, that lack of worry-time (aka time to prepare and wonder when disaster will hit) is a good thing. General rule of thumb emegency preparadness is standard, but thats all we can do.

    It takes a much stronger backbone than I have to handle hurricanes, Mona!!!

  2. Tawny // August 24, 2007 at 3:13 PM  

    We don't have the hurricane fears here in California, so I am always in awe when I hear how you on that side of the country deal with the disasters. We get earthquakes, of course, but there isn't any sense of preparing or advance warning - so the stress is much lower. As long as I keep my manuscripts backed up, our standard emergency preparedness kit up to date, and know where my kids are, thats all I can do LOL.

  3. Betty Hanawa // August 24, 2007 at 4:18 PM  

    We went through Hurricane Beulah in '66 when I was a teenager. Direct eye impact. My mom sent my sister and me down the street on our bikes to check on some elderly neighbors--during the Eye Passage! All the neighbors were out checking on storm damage. In '80 we went through Allan, not a direct eye passage, but we got part of the eye. Also got clipped by Gilbert in '88 or '89. The years of close, but not direct, hits blur.

    We live 45 miles inland and are on the second tier for inland flooding for a storm surge. Let's put it this way. If Katrina had hit here, we wouldn't have been flooded. We've never left for a hurricane, but if a big nasty Cat 5 were coming we might consider it. The problem is there's no place to go. When they come through here--deep south Texas near Brownsville, they tend to head North to San Antonio, Austin or Northeast to Houston. So, here we'll probably stay.

    We don't fret about them. We keep plywood already cut and ready to be put against the windows, keep things picked up around the yard, start putting ice away when the first warnings come out, keep fresh batteries on hand. The closer and more intense it becomes, then I'll pack "just in case we leave" bags.

    Mostly, after going through two big hurricanes and numerous misses, I make sure I have books to read and something to crochet and the battery is charges for the laptop so I can continue to write. It's kind of a mini-vacation.

    I'd rather be prepped for a hurricane than go through the sudden shock of an earthquake. I guess it's dealing with the devil you know.

  4. Beth // August 24, 2007 at 8:06 PM  

    No hurricanes up here in the northwest but we do have the occasional tornado. One caused quite a bit of damage to my mom's hometown a few years back but luckily, they usually miss us.

  5. Anonymous // August 25, 2007 at 8:30 PM  

    I hear you on the hurricanes, Mona. Next time one comes your way, drive directly west and stay with me. My door is always open for you.

    Carla

  6. anny cook // August 27, 2007 at 12:06 AM  

    I lived in Houston for one hurricane. Moved to upstate NY and dealt with the first tropical storm to hit the area in decades and then moved to Baltimore where we had a hurricane three months after we moved here. Be ready and leave if they tell you to. That's about it. As far as I can tell, there is no where that is danger free.

  7. Helen Scott Taylor // September 1, 2007 at 11:35 AM  

    Mona,

    I remember you telling me about this experience. Very scary. I couldn't imagine what it's like, but your account brings it to life.

    Helen