Sunday, September 17, 2017

PHSD (Post Hurricane Stress Disorder)

It's a real thing. God, that was the week from HELL.

I had a plan. I was going to pack up the critters and the important papers and go to my daughter's one story house with the newer roof to ride out the monster that was Irma. Yeah, you know what they say about the best laid plans.

Irma couldn't make up her mind about her final path until it was too late for me to relocate. For a long time it looked like it would skirt the west coast of Florida, giving us just a strong tropical storm, hardly worth relocating for, so I opted to stay. I lost power at 7 on Sunday. (We now suspect a tiny tornado may have dropped down right where the feeder pole for our portion of the neighborhood stands, the damage was that extreme and yet localized.) If I had tried to open the garage door with the winds we were already having Sunday evening, I'm confident it would have been torn off the track, which would have been worse than my Plan B.

Plan B was to stay where I was, and find the most interior room in my upstairs condo to ride out the constant tornado warnings Sunday night, and the news that Irma had changed course and was now coming straight for us. I made a nest of blankets and pillows, a lantern, water bottles, cell phone and charger, in the dressing area of the master bath, which has its own door (and a very convenient toilet adjacent). I was as secure as I could be, and honestly, when I shut the door it really felt snug and quiet, compared to the rest of my home. I listened to an audiobook and tried to distract myself, and even slept a bit. The noise from this storm was incredible, and it went on for hours and hours, starting Sunday evening and into Monday morning. The rainfall was insane - I've heard twenty inches, and I can totally believe it - and the wind was very loud, intense, and non-stop. But I actually was totally fine in my nest, and Ellie really is the best cat ever. I had no problem persuading Sophie to join me in our secure spot, but I wondered what Ellie would do. No worries there - I called, "Ellie? Come on in here, we're staying here for a while," and she followed me in and settled down. So there we were, for hours. I dozed, they dozed, the storm raged. At around 4:30 a.m. my back really started protesting our primitive camping arrangement and I opened the door to relocate to my bedroom. And damn, it was still incredibly scary and loud, and remained so for another couple of hours.

I had no power until 1 p.m. yesterday. Six nights of hot, sticky, uncomfortable sleep, cold showers, no coffee. My office was open on Tuesday, as it was the storm command center for the state, so I would take a cold shower around 5:30, deal with and apologize profusely to my poor animals, and go to the office with messy wet hair as early as was safe. Traffic lights were out, street lights were out, random trees blocked roads. Some roads are still flooded a week later. Trees are down everywhere, and the trees that didn't fall experienced an extreme pruning. We were all outside on Monday, dragging limbs out of the road so we could at least get out of our driveways. The debris piles are so large and so extensive I have to walk Sophie halfway up the block before we find a bare patch of grass to pee.

My daughter's house survived but the fence fell, and so did a tree that I swear is on HOA property, and they swear is ours, and I'm not going to pay for a survey to win the argument, because a redneck with a chainsaw will be cheaper. The worst casualty of the storm was my son-in-law, who tripped in the dark and fell, breaking his wrist. It was a bad break and required surgery, a plate and 8 screws. The saga of his "outpatient surgery" that took 12 hours and nearly drove my daughter to homicide is an entirely separate story; but eventually he got home, and he's recuperating well.

So, yesterday (Saturday) the mess up the street was finally fixed, the last power pole was set and the power turned on. I am wise to the these things, so I had turned off the breaker to the HVAC before the power came on. After 10 minutes I turned the system on, and it worked, and it started cooling, and the interior temp dropped from 86 degrees to dead. And didn't restart. I called the company that had serviced it not a month before, and a harried technician called me back (remember, this is Saturday) and told me that he might be able to squeeze me in, but he had a couple of calls ahead of me. He was nice enough to walk me through a couple of things, and yes, we got it started again! Yay! Or not...after I hung up with him and walked around proudly, "I fixed the AC, yes, I did!" It...stopped again. And I got it started again. And it stopped again.

Meanwhile, my daughter shared my extreme cabin fever, and had suggested an escape to Epcot Food and Wine. Let's see...swelter in my house, with power but no AC, or go to Epcot and eat and drink wonderful foods? So we did, and it was a lot of fun. I think my favorite food was from Spain, an olive oil cake with lemon curd. And I came home and watched TV for the first time in a week, and went to sleep with the balcony doors open and ceiling fans on, and it was fine. And I had my own coffee this morning, though the fridge was still barren. I picked up some powdered creamer just for this occasion.

I called the AC company and someone promised to get to me today, but feel free to go to Publix, etc. I had to go to two Publix locations to get my basic needs because shelves were bare in my usual store, then Target because I'll be damned if I'll pay over $5 for a 12 pack of Diet Coke. The AC guy called while I was in Target, and long story and $221 later, I have AC again. Between the food I had to throw out, supplies I had to buy, and the AC repair I could not put off, I'd estimate that this storm cost me roughly $500, not to mention the stress, mess, drama and pain we all endured. And my garage door had to be opened with the release, and the second time I used it it appears that it jammed in the closed position when it closed. My car is in the driveway, thank God, but that's another thing to be dealt with. And now Maria is passing the Leeward Islands. Seriously?

And keep in mind as you read this, we were relatively lucky. Lots of people had it way, way worse.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Quick Update

No power, no ice. Schools closed. Cold showers. My office is open and has AC and coffee. No structural damage, but tons of trees and fences are down and many more are damaged. After the storm my son-in-law tripped in the dark and broke his wrist. It's a massive, messy inconvenience but it could have been worse. l

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Not Good for the West Coast

But better for us. That cone doesn't mean the storm is missing us. It just means that the center of the storm is tracking west. We are getting rain from the outer bands already, and expect a lot more tonight, along with a lot of wind, but not hurricane force wind. That's not too alarming. I'm probably going to sit this one out in my condo, rather than go to my daughter's house. I'm watching the reports and if the track shifts more toward us I may reconsider. I can have the car packed and relocate in 20 minutes if it seems wise, but right now, I don't think it'll be necessary. I'm taking advantage of having power by doing all the laundry I can, and vacuuming all the pet hair, and it's very, very gray and boring.

I hope it stays this way. :-)

Friday, September 08, 2017

The Waiting Really IS the Hardest Part.

And the conflicting reports about what time it's going to get ugly, and what kind of ugly it will be, and where, and I'm exhausted already. There may or may not (there is) a glass of wine at my elbow as I type this. Then I'm going to get into gear and move things away from the old and leaky back window in my bedroom that just happens to be where the hurricane winds will hit, and pack up what I can. Then it's a watch and wait - I want to be out of here when the tropical storm force winds start, because that's when the large branches and actual trees are going to start coming down, and the streets here are lined with beautiful tall trees. I'm sad at the thought of losing any of them. Can we please fast forward to this time Monday? I'd be happy to give up this particular weekend.

Not that the aftermath will be pleasant. There is little to no chance we will have power after Sunday, and cell service is also unlikely, so yeah, if I go silent (as I've been doing a lot lately anyway) don't fret. I'm probably just sitting on my couch, dripping sweat and coated in pet hair, drinking room temperature box wine (assuming the tree doesn't come down.) It all depends on whether we still have cell towers after this is over. I can charge my stuff in my car, at least a bit.

Tonight and tomorrow I will charge everything I can, pack up two days of emergency clothes, etc., and watch the weather. When the winds really start picking up, it'll be time to bug out.

I talked to one of my downstairs neighbors earlier, he's fretting about the tree falling too. I didn't point out that he'll be okay, my kitchen will keep it from falling all the way down to him. But while that is a real possibility and I'm taking it seriously, I'm also thinking maybe it won't happen, and the tree will just rain dead branches everywhere and remain rooted. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, September 07, 2017



Is not good. This is probably at least a week without power not good. This is massively messy not good, lost roofs not good. This is "if that huge oak tree in front of my building comes down on it, I'm so screwed," not good. We are in Central FL, and it will have slowed a bit before it gets here, but even a Category 1 makes a hell of a mess, and this is not projected to slow down that much. South FL will of course have it much worse, but we are in a whole new experience here. A storm of this magnitude has never plowed up the middle of the state, and nobody knows what it will do.

Everybody please send positive thoughts to send this bitch east again. We need a last minute jog east.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Oh yeah. Irma.

Can't sugar coat it; this is looking bad. This is a monster storm, strongest on record in the Atlantic. I have been buying supplies, and I think I'd prefer to go sit this out at the house, instead of in this condo. The house got a new roof after the last hurricanes, so I know it's up to code. (This doesn't mean it will not get hit with a tree, but it's at least structurally more trustworthy.) The roof here I believe is original, circa 1986 barrel tile. The board has been "discussing" the re-roof program for a while. I'm upstairs, so if any part of the roof decides to leave I'd rather not be here. The critters and I shall decamp with enough supplies for a couple of days, plus important papers and such. I'll clear the balconies, close the blinds and otherwise batten down the hatches here, but yeah, I'd rather not test the roof personally. It will suck if I lose my new TV and/or the iMac, but yanno, I'll get over that eventually.

So this weekend three adults, one child, three dogs and two cats will probably pack into a 1600 sq. ft. house to ride out a very big hurricane. At a minimum, I expect the house will lose the fence; that's just due to fall over in any random storm. My worst case scenario is the massive oak tree falling through my condo kitchen, or the roof leaving in large pieces, taking my worldly goods with it. Or a tree falling on the house. That's also a very real possibility. I'm already doing the math on tapping my meager retirement account to cover the hurricane deductible, and praying the insurance will come through. That is by no means a given.

This has pretty much pushed all other writing topics from top of mind. I've been badly neglecting this old blog, I hang out on Twitter, mostly reading and retweeting, because it's a sewer, but an interesting one if you follow actual journalists and political figures. I still proceed with caution. But I've found that with all the reading I'm doing about the bullshit, I have less energy to write about it myself.

Right now, I'm just focused on getting to through Monday.