and y’all thought I wasn’t serious when I said I was scared
For real, it was scary. Watching the track of the storm last week was making me anxious. Last Monday (the 4th of September), Irma’s track was set to head up the spine of Florida. Then come the next day, it shifted east. However, by Wednesday, things really went south (I mean west). School districts in my area (Tampa Bay) started announcing closures on Thursday and Friday, probably to allow time for everybody to get prepared. Then after school districts announced closures came the closure announcement of the community college: my employer.
As Thursday rolled around, I spent the day at home pretty much watching as much TV coverage as I could (such as local news and The Weather Channel) to get the latest on how Irma was doing. It was Thursday when it really started to go down. A Hurricane Watch was issued to my south, and evacuations were already being ordered close to home. It was news like this that was giving me nightmares of what happened back in 2004 when I had to evacuate for Hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Jeanne.
Friday was another anxious day as well. It was etched into my mind that Irma was going to affect the Tampa Bay Area, at the time as a major hurricane. I went to my grandmother’s house that morning to troubleshoot some internet problems she was having, only to have to call Frontier Communications to schedule a visit and fix the service. My dad also took part of the day off from work, as we were expecting my brother to be at our house to replace some of the siding that had fallen off on its own prior to the storm. Once that was finished and through, we went to dinner. Then come Friday evening, another update to the storm’s path. It shifted westward again, this time with a predicted path over eastern Hillsborough County, FL as a major hurricane. A Hurricane Watch was already in effect at 11 AM, but soon became a Hurricane Warning after midnight early Saturday morning.
Saturday arrives, and my eyes are glued to the TV essentially at all times. With a Hurricane Warning in effect, my county’s emergency operations center issued a mandatory evacuation for Level A zones and mobile home/low-lying areas. We had to get out since we live in a mobile home. My dad starts grabbing his most precious belongings to take over to my grandmother’s house (our location of evacuation), while I sit back all anxious and worried. After my dad is all settled, I pack some of my stuff up; I packed my desktop, my two scanners, my 3DS, two tablets, a backup phone, and a weather radio. I also grabbed the cable box from the spare bedroom to try and see if it would work at my grandmother’s house, since she has only basic cable (analog cable is still a thing here) from the same provider. When I arrived at my grandmother’s house, I hook the cable box up, and to my surprise, it worked! I then tuned it to The Weather Channel so that we could watch the channel in HD. Later on, I went back to my house though as I forgot to grab my sleeping clothes. I listened to the special simulcast of WTVT on 102.5 The Bone, as they were on the radio in preparation for millions around Tampa Bay to lose power. Afterward, I got back to my grandmother’s house and we all called it a night, going to bed before midnight.
Sunday. Oh boy, this is where things go downhill. The rains from Irma arrived to Tampa early in the day, before noon to be exact. We all got up around 9:00 a.m. and had breakfast, learning that Irma made its first landfall in the Florida Keys as a Category 4 storm. The TV was tuned to WTVT, which was in wall-to-wall coverage of Hurricane Irma. We went back-and-forth between watching them and The Weather Channel, but stayed mostly on WTVT. Not much was going on, other than increasing bursts of wind gusts all throughout the day. I napped between 2-5 p.m. in anticipation that I’d want to stay up late for the worst part of the storm. While I was asleep, Irma made landfall on Marco Island as a Category 3 storm. It was then that the conditions outside began to worsen. The storm itself was naturally weakening, due to being over land. However, it was still not a storm to underestimate. We anticipated power to go out. The power did flicker quite a few times, but never actually went out on us. However, I learned that power did go out at our house. That worried me the most, because then I couldn’t have monitored the security camera to make sure the house was holding up. The city of Tampa also had a curfew in effect. I just prayed throughout the whole night that we didn’t lose power, as it would have made the situation worse. Thankfully power (and cable) never went out, but there were hundreds of thousands around Tampa in the dark. Irma eventually passed our latitude to the east up Polk County just shortly after midnight, albeit as a very weak Category-1 hurricane.
Things were better Monday. I went to bed maybe at around 1:00 a.m. and power never went out once. Irma was a tropical storm by the time I woke up, and it was still in northern Florida. Upon waking up, I saw that the sun was trying to shine through the clouds. It was still breezy with the occasional drizzle as well. However, the weather outside was some of the nicest I had felt in a long time. The breeze was a cool breeze, and it actually made me shiver as if I needed to have long sleeves on. We spent the day surveying the damage in the back and front yards, in addition to taking a trip out to our home, as the city’s curfew was lifted by 8:00 a.m. Upon trying to leave my grandmother’s house to check out the damage, we found out a tree had come down east of her house! It was blocking the road wholly, and almost made the road look like it naturally dead-ended where it was down. We found an alternate route out onto the main thoroughfare, thankfully. On our way back to our home, several traffic lights were either without power or in flash cycle. Unbeknownst to many, apparently it was a surprise that my dad was coming to a complete stop at signals with no power! He got honked at several times, and had to wait constantly as several other motorists were jumping ship. We eventually arrived at the house to see hardly any damage done, and everything still standing. However, power was still out and we decided it was best to wait for power to return before heading home. After getting back to my grandmother’s house, I pretty much took another long nap and from there on called the house every hour or so to see if the answering machine picked up (thus meaning power was back on). Power was finally back on after 9:00 p.m. at home, but it was too late at that point to think about heading home.
And finally, we arrive to Tuesday. Tuesday was a tough one for me, as I woke up and ate breakfast, only to feel weak after eating. My grandmother, dad, and I all went out to clean up the mess in my grandmother’s yard caused by Irma, albeit I was as little help as possible. My dad was raking leaves, while my grandmother picked up smaller twigs, and I picked up the large branches. However, I had to give up after feeling extremely exhausted. I think my grandmother got a little frustrated with me because I wasn’t helping out much, so she asked me to go inside. Initially I refused, but did go inside. After coming inside, I passed out on the couch. After my dad and grandmother finished picking up the mess in the yard, I was fed lunch. I probably needed more food than just a bowl of oatmeal with toast for breakfast, because I felt super energized after eating lunch. I eventually helped my grandmother out by getting the heavy clock off of her wall to get its batteries replaced, and that was the last of me being there for Irma before my dad and I packed up to head home.
Upon arriving home, I immediately took note of the cable being out (and it’s still out as of the typing of this blog post). I also hopped into the shower to get cleaned up, because I hadn’t showered since Sunday (my dad hadn’t showered since Saturday!). It did feel good to take a shower and get closer and closer to being back to normal. However, with the TV being out, things are very quiet. After showering, I got all my stuff out, and eventually plugged my surge protector back in, and got my computer all hooked up. Dad napped for an hour, and then we went to dinner at Miller’s Ale House in Tampa, who was running on a limited menu.
Needless to say, Irma will be memorable to me. Since I’m older, I’m sure it will be more memorable than the hurricanes of 2004 were (hey–I was only 9-years-old!). Even with the cable TV being out, I am glad to be back in my own home with no property loss. I can’t thank God any more than I have for answering my prayers to keep us safe during this hectic time.