Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Hurricane Frances

Jacksonville, Florida does not often suffer damage from hurricanes. In fact the last direct hit was in 1964, three years before I moved here. Nevertheless, it is the threat of hurricanes that has everyone worried. Usually, by the time a hurricane reaches the northeast Florida area, it has lost much of its strength and has been downgraded to a tropical storm.

Frances was different. The storm was so massive and slow moving that most of the state was continuously hammered by strong winds and torrential rains. So what if the winds are only 60 mph? When they last for 18 to 24 hours, trees, roofs, windows and everything else will suffer the consequences.

My house is only 2 1/2 years old and we have never had a problem with any sort of leakage. But, continuous wind from the East coupled by rain managed to find the finest of cracks in our window caulking. Three out of five east-facing windows leaked.

Overall, we were lucky. In Jacksonville, about 100,000 homes lost electricity at some point in time and now, two days later, there are still thousands here who have no power. Our electricity never failed.

I didn't get much sleep the past four days. With the wind howling through the trees behind our house, the creaking noises that the house made, things hitting the windows, etc., it was hard to sleep for more than an hour or so without something waking me up.

Speaking of howling, my nephew, James, is three years old and lives in Tampa. They had even more wind than we did. Apparently it howled quite a bit, too. James, his 14 month old sister and his 5 year old sister were all frightened. However, James put on a brave face and even claims to have seen the tail of the wolf that was howling outside! He must have been running away.

Dad gave me a scare. He lives in Homosassa and his home is only 9 feet above sea level. His entire area was under a mandatory evacuation, which he ignored. I talked to him Saturday morning and didn't hear from him until this evening. Websites reported that many in his county were without power or telephone service. I tried to call him repeatedly and kept getting voicemail. Finally, he called and explained that he has no car charger for his cell phone, thought the battery was charged, but it was not. Go figure.

Maureen's family in south Florida did not fare as well. Her brother and parents live in Palm Beach Gardens which took almost a direct hit. Her brother's in-laws live on Palm Beach and had to evacuate. Her brother's home leaked and they lost quite a bit of carpet. They still don't have power, so they are staying with her mother and father in their two bedroom condo. The condo lost power for about a day and a half, but it finally got power...which translates to Air Conditioning. Gotta have that in Palm Beach County.

No one in the family lost their home or their lives. We should be thankful for that.

I was talking to a neighbor from California the other day. She was complaining about how much better it is to have earthquakes than hurricanes. With earthquakes, you don't know they are coming, they last a few minutes, then they are usually done. You don't have time to prepare or to worry. If it is a really bad on, a building falls on you and you are excused from clean up duty. With hurricanes, you are never sure where it will hit, but you know it's coming. You don't know how long it will last, you only know that when the wind is howling, you wish it would stop. Cleanup can take weeks if not months. I'm starting to see her point.

I suppose hurricanes are the price we pay for living in paradise.

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