Aug 172004

In short, all is well. The longer version is a bit interesting. My house is in a “C” level evacuation zone. On Thursday they announced a mandatory C Level evacuation for the area effective at 6:30 Friday morning.?That means everyone in A, B, and C areas. The house is very low, I have a new roof, and the construction is concrete block and brick, so I felt the house could probably withstand the winds of a Category 2 hurricane, which Charley was predicted to become. There are two or three huge oak trees in the neighbor’s yard that overhang my house. If any of those fell this way, all bets are off…but excluding that, we could have probably handled the wind.The big concern was that the center line of the projected track took the storm just slightly to the west of the mouth of the bay. The problem with that was?an on-shore wind pushing the storm surge right into the bay. That meant a 10-16 foot storm surge. I’m guessing that 13-16 feet would put water in the house. So we decided to heed the evacuation order and leave. In the meantime praying for the thing to shift eastward enough to give us an off-shore wind.

Another couple that are close friends were in PA visiting family. They got an earlier flight back, and were getting home Thursday afternoon. They?re also in a C area. So, when the evacuation was announced, I called the Parliament House (gay resort in Orlando) and reserved us two rooms. They agreed it would be a good idea to go. So, we battened down the hatches, and left out about 8:30 Friday morning.

I was up at 5am doing stuff and worried sick, and watching the weather. The storm took a slight turn to the right (eastward), so I became a little more hopeful, but I have to tell you that I was shaking and scared when we left out of here. I really expected to come home to nothing…or nearly so.

We got to Orlando, and stopped to eat lunch. After that, one of the other guys took their dogs to a kennel for boarding, and we sat out in the parking lot not listening to the news. When Jeff came back, it had turned into a category 4 storm, but made a much sharper turn to the right, and was now moving toward Orlando. We still decided it wouldn’t do any good to try to leave, so we stuck it out there.

When we got to the hotel, I had to park under a big oak tree. We were sitting in the other guy’s room, and I told them to watch out the window for a parking space to open. I wanted to move out from under the tree. I did, and sure enough, that night during the storm, a big limb broke off and fell on the car parked right where I had been. The power and water went off about 10pm, but they kept the bar open somehow. The front side made it through in about 40 minutes. Then about 30 minutes later the backside came through with much less force.

While they had a lot of trees, limbs and signs down, Orlando was no where near devastated, we got out just fine Saturday morning.We have a friend who is a fireman in St. Pete. He called Friday afternoon, and they had released them early, as there was nothing going on over here. He said our usual summer-time afternoon thunderstorms were worse than we got from Charlie.

I had taken the cover off the hot tub and brought it inside. I came home and fished about six leaves out of the hot tub (what would probably fall in there on any given day without a cover), and the water was up about an inch.

So, it was interesting, but I’m glad its over. Some parts of Florida are just beyond belief, and while I don’t wish it on these folks, it did come in at one of the least populated coastal areas. Had it come right into the bay as a Category 4 storm, Tampa would have simply ceased to exist. I can’t imagine what it would have been like.It is truly a strange set of emotions. Its that “survivor’s syndrome” that is so often discussed.

Because you came so close, you feel strongly for the people that did get hit, and you feel guilty because you’re glad you didn’t get hit. I appreciate deeply the prayers and thoughts of my friends. Now I’m asking you all to pray for, think about, and help as you can the people south of Tampa. It is not pretty down there.

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  1. John, Lay, Jeff, & Mike — I guess I’m letting my prejudices show, and certainly my heart goes out the the residents who have lost so much, but I’m mighty thankful that you guys are okay!!

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