Letter to the Editor

Riding out a hurricane

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Everyone in the Midwest says a tornado sounds like a freight train; I know from personal experience that so does a hurricane.

I have been in Florida for about 10 years, and never had one coming directly at me, so I did not know what to expect (from Hurricane Frances).

We did all the things they tell you to do, board up the windows, stock up on canned goods, gasoline and water.

Basically the same things we do in Nebraska for blizzards except for the boards. Had a safe room (formerly our guest room) with all the supplies stored in it, a battery operated radio, flashlights and an oversized pet carrier for our two cats.

Then she slowed down, instead of landfall (when the eye of the storm reaches land) she stalled. So Friday night, a little breezy but nothing that is not a normal thunderstorm.

Saturday she started beating on the Bahama Islands moving at 4-6 miles an hour when she moved at all.

Unfortunately, due to size of this storm the feeder bands were coming ashore in my city (Port St. Lucie) and the areas to the north and south. Winds picked up and rain came down, as one feeder band goes over the wind reduces a bit, then it's like a brand new Midwestern storm.

Shingles started peeling off of our roof about 2 p.m. Three at a time. We kept a running count of what landed in the back yard. Sometime late afternoon my husband and I moved ourselves and the cats into the safe room. It still wasn't as scary as it got, we still had power and Internet access so we could track the storm.

Water was coming in from the ceiling by our front door, ceiling fans in the living room and office and in the door frames. We stuck some pans and buckets where we could but it was rapidly a losing battle.

Back to the safe room, herding the two cats. At 1 a.m. the storm was still hovering off the coast and we were getting very strong winds and rain. Listening to the shingles pull off the house and rattle down the back side of the roof is a sound I never want to ever hear again.

You could hear things hitting the walls and the roof but could not see anything, and by now no one was leaving the safe room for anything. At about 2 a.m. the eye wall and the eye made contact (finally) with Florida. Landfall was about 17 miles from where I live as the crow flies.

A little town know as Sewall's Point, older, more expensive homes. We were in the eye wall, and that was scary. It sounded like a freight train only for about an hour, bangs and thuds against the house and the plywood, power flickering but hanging in there, and then it seemed to get louder. By now, the cats were stuffed into their carrier, hissing a bit, but then they huddled up together.

My husband pulled a mattress over the cat carrier roof from the bed to provide a shelter for them and us. As the eye wall finished passing over, the power went off. For approximately. 2-3 hours we were in the eye of the hurricane. People talk about going out and looking up and seeing stars when they were in the eye of a storm, but at 3 a.m. I was not going out and looking for anything.

My husband and I took a cat nap till the eye had passed. The wind originally came out of the north northeast, now it came out of the south southwest. The back eye of the storm was not as loud or as vicious to our home, but I am sure from what I have seen since some of the damage happened through the back side of the eye wall.

By about 11 a.m. the storm had moved on toward the rest of the state. We came out of the safe room to see if our roof was still attached. It was. But the living room carpet had enough water in it to pool and parts of other carpets were awash.

We went outside and connected with neighbors to assess the damage to our homes. A two story house across the street lost screen enclosed pool, some vinyl siding and shingles, and a huge eucalyptus tree. It fell across the street instead of their house.

Privacy fences did not stand; we have a lot less privacy now. Actually most of 3 counties have less privacy now. We gave back the neighbor's siding, it was in our back yard, along with a huge amount of shingles.

The next few days run together, we got a hot meal at the Salvation Army kitchen, what grocery stores that had power opened for business on Monday, we picked up a few things, but no dairy, no frozen and no fresh foods available. Listened to a radio station that was having a call in line for people who needed help. Waiting in line for ice, water and MRE's (field rations for the troops) at our city center. Took about an hour or so, everyone orderly, the National Guard troops and police might have kept everyone on their best behavior. Curfew went into effect 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Violators did not get a warning, they got taken to jail. No exceptions. We spent the entire week with no a/c. Would not recommend that to anyone ever. 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity is not pleasant, almost impossible to sleep. We got a generator from our neighbors, their power was on. So at least we had a fan, and could plug in the fridge and recharge the cell phones. On Friday night, the power came back on and you literally could hear people cheer up and down the street. We have done what we could to clean up, waiting for the insurance adjuster.

I have found out how many people were hurt by this storm, but have also found out, just like in the Midwest, neighbors and strangers are mostly good, and try to help when they can. There were very few arrests for looting or curfew violations for a town this size (125,000) and people seemed to go out of their way to be kind, to lend a hand, to share what they had.

It just did not happen with us, stories I am hearing from work, it happened with all the staff there. Some at work still have no power, but we are all hoping they will get it soon, but some are getting generators from people there that have no use for them now. Overall, I would say people are same all over, and when bad things happen, people pull together to overcome them. We will overcome this, time and hard work will be required, but that's what you need to accomplish anything.

-- Kathy (Grant) Karuzas graduated with the McCook High School class off 1977. Hurricane Jeanne followed her and her husband, Jack, to Orlando, but they were back home today. Power has been restored to their home, but it suffered more water damage.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: