I readily confess that on the short drive home that Monday post Irma, my heart was pounding with anxiety. What would we find? How bad would the damage be? How long would recovery take? How much would it cost? We drove slowly and carefully down our street noting the mountains of tree debris, the broken branches and entire trees uprooted but as soon as we pulled into our driveway we were relieved to see our house in one piece. The driveway itself was completely obscured by branches, leaves and fronds but that was no matter to us, the next question regarded the inside. Was there any water damage? We pulled away the sand bags and opened the door. The air felt musty and hot from being closed up and it was dark, but after a thorough examination I nearly burst into tears with relief. The house was sound. Intact and dry. How did we get so lucky?
Immediately after determining that our own home was fine, we took and sent photos to our neighbors assuring them that their homes too, had made it through. We slowly drove through our town making note of damage. Some carports, pool cages and trellis's were history, some centuries old trees went down and a few boats and cars showed obvious damage but while there was certainly water in the streets, no house was underwater and somehow, we all seemed to have made it through.
Next we drove out to my sister and her beau's place and took a few photos there which we sent to them immediately. Their place, which is on the water, did have a little bit of exterior damage. Some siding came off and one window popped out, but again, mostly tree rubbish. A LOT of tree rubbish actually, blocking the driveway and one side of the front stairwell. But the house was whole and there was no evidence of any interior leaks. Another great relief.
Still on the high of gratitude and our incredible good fortune, we collected our stuff and tidied up at our sanctuary condo and returned home to begin the clean up. It took quite some time to haul it all into big piles by the road but once it was done, finally we felt that we could bask in our good fortune and notified friends and family that everything looked good.
Once that was finished we went inside to relax a bit. Oh wait, we have no power. The water is back on, thank goodness, but no electricity. A little tip about Florida, unless you are a big fan of humidity, July through September is not the time to visit ANY part of Florida. October through June is fine, lovely even, but those three summer months are a beast.
We don't usually notice much. Even when we are outside in the heat of the day, once we come back inside it's nice and cool, refreshing and why yes, I do believe I will have a glass of iced water thank you. Okay no power so, that's not going to happen. And it's dark inside. We opened windows for what little air circulation there might be, but left blinds down to keep as much sun out as possible. So, without power, Tim cannot work. I cannot cook and without the refridgerator, there is nothing in the house besides cereal and crackers to eat anyway Cannot clean much and certainly cannot do laundry. The days grow long. The nights even longer. The air in the house feels suffocating at night. Tim moves from place to place throughout the house looking for a "cooler" spot and I tend to wander outside in the darkness where, while it is no less humid at least gives me the illusion of circulating air. Normally living this close to the water allows for a constant gentle breeze. But during this time following the hurricane, it seems as though the air is exhausted from it's recent efforts and there is not even the tiniest hint of wind.
But we are all *Floridians* in this together. Almost nobody has power in the state right now and we are all too hot and cranky from idleness and after surviving such a terrible storm it would seem ungrateful to complain. We are aware the linemen from all over the entire country are descending upon us to repair the damage as quickly as they can. We can be patient and uncomfortable and eat dry cereal and crackers and drink warm bottled water for awhile.
Tuesday we get the first newspaper in days. Finally contact with the outside world! We learned that more than 5 million...that's million, with two commas...in Florida are without power and there is not even a guestimate of when it will be restore. Days to weeks is what they say. We gulp and reaffirm our intention to be gracious and appreciative and patient. We take our cold showers, which in this case are rather refreshing, and occasionally take a drive to recharge our phones while looking for gas stations that actually have gasoline. We start eating out for meals as we find restaurants slowly opening again. But we are not sleeping.
Wednesday our library has power so Tim goes there to work during the day as best he can and I try to occupy myself. If we do anything remotely requiring effort the heat and humidity really affect us. Particularly me. For whatever reason, I don't perspire much and that means I do not cool off. More than a little over heated and on more than one occasion. I learn quickly to just sit and read. Try to not move much. There is no ice to be found anywhere in a reasonable driving distance. Gotta be careful driving around as there is still not much gas to be found. We are still not sleeping.
There are occasional power truck sightings so we know power is being restored. Just not at our house. Disappointing. But we are still being patient and grateful. Though as the days drag by, it gets harder.
Thursday dawns just as hot and humid and powerless as the rest of the week. Tim sits in our courtyard under the umbrella through the morning making phone calls and finally, at long last, paydirt. He has found a hotel that we can move to for two days. Despite our intention to rough it, we need to sleep and Tim needs internet connection to work. We hurriedly pack and off we go. The hotel is two towns north and how they manage to have power we do not know but we also do not care. Phones charge, Tim's computer is up and running and he is back to work. For two days we have hot showers, cold drinks, internet access and we sleep like babies. It is glorious.
Saturday however, we are back home. We thought having the break would refresh us so that we could tolerate the conditions at home again. Instead, the contrast has made it worse. We decide to tough it out. Surely power will be restored soon. We see pockets of obvious reconnect to the powerlines here and there. It's not a big island, surely it will happen any moment. Tim makes more phone calls. There are no hotel rooms available. None. And we are back to not sleeping. We are told that power will probably be restored by the 22nd That's 7 more days.
Sunday, my sister texts me asking if our power is back. When I tell her that it is not, she informs me that their beach house has power although it is on a boil water restriction and we are welcome to stay for the duration. Thank you thank you thank you! We are packed and on the road in a half hour. Sunday and Monday, Tim is able to work with ease, I try to make myself useful cleaning and doing laundry but mostly enjoying air conditioning and hot showers. But as grateful as we are for our luxurious shelter, we cannot stop wanting to go home. Every day, at least once, we go home, pick up mail and the newspaper and check to see if the power is on. Every day it's not. We feel a little bit like refugees.
Tuesday afternoon a neighbor texts me. There are power trucks on the street behind us. We are afraid to be hopeful. Several hours later I receive another text from her, "Power Is Back!!!!" The prettiest words I've heard in a long time. There are no sweet nothings anyone can whisper in my ear that will ever affect me quite like hearing, Power is back. We clean, pack and decamp as quickly as possible and return to our cute little house by evening.
And I find that I've learned something I guess I always knew. Dorothy was right, there really is no place like home.
Now that it's all over I realize that we learned a lot. For one thing, although we do not often get severe storms here (I believe that last one was 15 years ago), a generator might be a good purchase. For another, I've learned to say Yes, thank you when people kindly and sincerely make a generous offer. It is not easy for me to accept help but there are times when I need to swallow my pride and say Yes. I've learned that we like it here in spite of the Very Rare occasion of a hurricane. Since our house was built in 1962 there have now been three. No, we are not moving because of something that might happen three times in 55 years.
We learned about things like "storm surge" and sand bags. We know to always have bottled water and fresh batteries on hand. We now own sleeping bags (on the list for staying at shelters) and a solar powered lantern. We learned that this house, while old and still in need of some updating, is rock solid. And we learned what terrific neighbors we have.
And I think the two things we learned the most were to be appreciative for what we have and that as long as we have each other, it's all good.
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.