Saturday, March 5, 2011

Disasters - 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History - Week #10

This is a weekly challenge from GeneaBloggers called 52 weeks of personal genealogy history.

Disasters. Did you experience any natural disasters in your lifetime? Tell us about them. If not, then discuss these events that happened to parents, grandparents or others in your family.

Hurricane Charley over Orlando, FL in 2004
Squalls out on the Gulfstream,
Big storms coming soon...

Well, the wind is blowin' harder now
Fifty knots or there abouts,
There's white caps on the ocean.
And I'm watching for water spouts
It's time to close the shutters
It's time to go inside.

-- Trying To Reason With Hurricane Season by Jimmy Buffett

Jimmy's song captures the mood of hurricane season, but I think there really is no rhyme or reason to it. Living in Florida, we've had several brushes with hurricanes over the years. The usual pattern was that they would hug the east coast before making landfall and by the time they came to our area, they had weakened quite a bit. While we got a lot of wind and rain, we never got any major damage.

Erin in the Today Newspaper
In 1994, I bought my first house and in 1995 we were hit by Hurricane Erin. I stayed at my sister's house further inland during the storm and when I returned home a couple of days later, there was still major street flooding in my neighborhood. Some houses got water inside, but luckily I was on slightly higher ground. I lost my favorite tree and had damage to my porch, but the house was OK.

Then came 2004. Florida is hard to see on this map showing the paths of the 2004 storms. First came Charley on August 13. Yes, it was Friday the 13th! I had listened to the news at lunchtime and it was predicted to come in south of us and cause wind and rain, but not too much was expected. We were talking about it at work and decided to look at the current path. I won't repeat the exclamations several of the guys made! It had strengthened and was heading straight for us! I had never experienced a hurricane coming from the west which brings the worst side of the storm. Soon after, they dismissed us from work to make what preparations we could. I had already gassed up the car and had food and water on hand, so I didn't get in the frenzied crowds at the grocery stores or long lines at the gas stations. My parents had plywood boards prepared for their windows, so my sister and her family and I decided to ride the storm out at their house. We all helped board up the windows and brought over whatever food and water we had. It's an eerie feeling being in a boarded up house since you can't see what's going on outside, but we could hear the wind picking up. The Summer Olympics had their opening ceremony that night and as we were watching the parade of nations the power went out. After a sleepless night listening to the howling wind and things going bump in the night, we ventured outside to see how we fared.

Downtown Orlando after Charley - This is a road!
The house looked fine, so we decided to go check out my house and my sister's. There were downed trees everywhere on the roads and we could see a lot of trees had fallen and taken down the power lines. This was going to take some time to recover from. The lack of power everywhere made it unusually quiet with no air conditioners running. I had some water in my garage, but no other signs of damage other than my oak trees were now leaning over. We couldn't even make it to my sister's house due to the number of trees on the road and no stop lights. It was really uncomfortably hot and muggy, but much to our surprise the power sprang to life at my house! Some of my co-workers were without power for up to two weeks, so I was very lucky. My sister wasn't as lucky and lost her fence, porch/pool enclosure, and had major roof damage. In the weeks and even months after the storm, it was a common sight to see blue tarps on the roofs of houses.

Frances over Florida
Two weeks later, everyone was still reeling from the after effects of Charley when we heard the forecast for Frances. The path had shifted and was heading for us. So, back to my parents house to board up the windows again. This storm was much larger and slower than Charley, but by the time it got to us, it had weakened a bit. It sat on top of us for the entire Labor Day weekend and just rained and rained. This time I had more a lot more water in the garage and my sister was worried about the tarps on her roof holding up. Downed trees weren't as much of a problem since Charley had taken so many out, but now we had a lot more water to deal with.

Jeanne loops back to Florida
One direct strike is enough for a season and two is really rare, so you'd think we were done. No such luck! Ivan formed, but managed to miss us and hit the Florida panhandle instead. Then Jeanne formed. It originally looked like it was heading out to sea, but then looped back and took the same path as Frances. So, back to my parent's house to board up the windows once again. This was really getting old! On the way to my parent's house, I noticed that someone had painted this on their boarded up windows:
  1. Charley
  2. Frances
  3. Jeanne
  4. For Sale
The local newspaper columnist's article that day started out with "Jeanne is coming and I don't care anymore!"  I think that about summed it up for everyone as we were all just weary at that point. This had all happened from August 13 - Sept. 25, so there was no time to recover between storms. People were caught off guard by Charley and prepared like crazy for Frances, but didn't do as much for Jeanne. Jeanne brought more wind and rain, but we came through OK. I'm hoping 2004 is the worst hurricane season that I'll ever see!

Full size views of the hurricane track images are at wikipedia's article on the 2004 hurricane season:
More Orlando pictures of the 2004 hurricanes are available on the Orlando Sentinel website.

1 comment:

  1. That's a great summary of 2004 in Florida. Hope we never see a year like that again. I liked the Jimmy Buffett reference! :)