We really didn’t have a choice, we were going to stay and hope for the best. We were journalists who were in the path of the hurricane, so not only were we going to stay through the storm, but then we’d leave what was left of our property and go to the worst of it and report on it.
I’m talking about Hurricane Andrew. Twenty-five years ago, Leroy and I were making so many of the same decisions millions of people in Florida have been making these last few days.
I know forecasters are saying Irma is not Andrew. This hurricane is worse that Andrew. In terms of hurricane stats that’s probably true. It’s a wider, wetter storm. Andrew was fierce, packing Cat-5 winds, but he was a speedster, traveling almost 20 mph. Andrew rolled over South Florida and wiped Homestead off the map.
Our home was in Coconut Grove, about 13 feet above sea level. The surge predicted in the Grove was minimal, but we were still very worried because we were a 5 minute ride away from Biscayne Bay.
The surge for Irma is predicted to be deadly. As they say in hurricane country, “You can hide from the wind, but you RUN from the water.”
I’ll never forget spending the night in the one bathroom in our house that was surrounded by strong walls. We put a mattress on the floor just in case we would need it as protection. We had a radio, a phone, flashlights, some snacks and a lot of water. We had filled the tub with water too.
Leroy had picked up a load of heavy lumber and had spent the afternoon and evening boarding up our home. He used heavy bolts to secure the boards. Pool furniture went INTO the pool. We even took care of our neighbors house, including her cat because she was out of town and did not want to come back for the storm.
As the storm progressed through the night, I remember hearing projectiles hitting our house. The winds howled all night long. Big things were hitting the house, but we were spared the water. We had hidden successfully from the wind. The water never got to our door.
But it got close.
When dawn broke and we opened our front door, a tree was leaning over Leroy’s car. It was almost protecting it from any other debris. Crazy things happen in hurricanes. As I walked out through our front fence, there was a 45 foot cabin cruiser. A beautiful boat that had been lifted up by the surge and currents and it had settled down in our front yard. So much junk was scattered every where. Palm trees were bent over but not broken, land crabs in our pool, children’s toys from houses miles away, roof tiles scattered everywhere. WE had been spared the worst of it, but it was still a huge mess.
We quickly changed hats and went from Andrew survivors to journalists who begin to report on the storm. We’d cover the storm by day and come home to no water and no power at night. We would repeat that drill for weeks.
Irma is predicted to roll right up the Florida Peninsula. Every update brings worse news of her projected strength and path. I hope everyone in Florida takes these evacuation orders seriously. Hurricanes are not fun. This storm is especially scary because of the water surge. Tides and rain and wind make for a life threatening situation.
Run from the water. You can’t run fast enough.