Saturday, October 8, 2016

What a Difference a Day Makes

My kitchen at 9:25 a.m. on Saturday, October 8, 2016.
I think this photo of my kitchen says it all.  Hurricane Matthew is gone and the sun is back.  I love seeing rainbows in my kitchen and am grateful they're back.  It's a stark contrast to the weather we've had for the last few days.

I've hauled all the patio furniture, etc. back where they belong.  The sun is helping to dry out the saturated ground.  It feels so good and is a reminder not to take my life for granted.  It feels wonderful to be able to breathe deeply, not worrying if the next minute will bring life-threatening winds or devastating rains.

It's not all sunshine and rainbows, though.  There are a few things in the aftermath of the storm that aren't so great.  Since it appears my roof is going to stay where it is, I was forced to finally clean the house.  While I was cleaning I heard a loud, constant sound from outside.  I stepped outdoors and realized it was the sound of weeds growing.  Apparently, now that I have the house clean, I'm going to have to spend a few hours soon pulling weeds before my house starts to look like Angkor Wat.
I took this photo in Angkor Watt in July, 2014.  I saw a weed today that looks a lot like these tree roots.
I'm joking, of course, about the downside of the storm being over.  Now I'm focused on what I need to get done in the week to come and planning to head to Ormond Beach (just north of Daytona Beach) a week from today.  That's assuming the resort will be open for business.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Buh Bye, Matthew!

Matthew has not completely left the building but he has packed his bags and is certainly on his way.  I've stopped listening to the news since there are too many widely divergent forecasts.  I know that while it is still stormy, the sky is brighter than it has been in more than 24 hours.

I lost power for a total of less than five minutes.  Thank you Duke Energy for the underground lines and good infrastructure.  Most of my friends lost power for hours.  One still has no power and based on previous experience, likely won't have it back in the near future.  I don't think she has such nice things to say about Duke Energy.

There is minor damage in my yard.  One panel in the fence is hanging by a thread but a couple of nails will fix that.  A few palm fronds are down which is no big deal.  I have a 10-12 foot Bird of Paradise that took a beating.  I think it will make it but I may have to trim it back by half.  My pool is looking decidedly pond-like but that will just take some chemicals.  Hopefully the large frog from the front yard won't take up residence before I get the chemicals in.

My county is still under a mandatory curfew until 7 a.m. tomorrow morning.  People are chomping at the bit but officials warn that after an early assessment there are downed trees blocking entire streets, traffic signals out and construction debris blocking roads.  I'd like to get out for a bit but have everything I need (and more) and am happy being home.

All in all, I'm feeling like the worst is over and it's time to get back to regular life.  Tomorrow I'll be hauling all my pool stuff back out and heading out to check things out.  I'll post photos of the aftermath of Matthew in the area.  Thanks for weathering the storm with me.

Horror in Haiti and Florida Update

I'm listening to the radio and watching the squalls of wind and rain that come and go.  They just announced that the death toll is at 478 now.  And more than 50,000 people are in immediate need of water, food and shelter.  Having lived on a small island in the South Pacific, my heart goes out to these people.  Even if help is on the way, logistically it takes time.  The news about Haiti puts our situation in Florida into perspective.  Thank God it was not as devastating here.

My "weather gauge leg" is back under water.  And the water is starting to look more like a pond than a pool.  I believe that takes my rain estimate to 9 inches from 7:00 p.m. Thursday to 10:00 a.m. Friday.

This is some of the standing water by the pool pump.  Only about an inch now.  At times its been over my ankles.
 I just came back in from fooling with the pump to lower the pool for the fourth time.  My "rain gauge" was under water again.  Since we're anticipating even heavier rains as the storm moves away from us, it looks like this will be an on-going process today.  In case you're worried about my attire, given that the sun is up now, I wore clothes.  Nothing fancy but I now have a designated "pool lowering, who cares if I get soaked" outfit.  It's a little number I had custom made in Myanmar.

The radio also reported the first fatality in Florida related to Matthew has been reported.  It seems a 58 year old woman in Port St. Lucie refused to evacuate.  During the storm she had a heart attack and 911 was called.  They refused to come out.  Government leaders in the state had announced repeatedly that if you ignored the evacuation and called for help they would not respond so as not to put first responders in unnecessary danger.

There seems to be a logistical problem now for Duke energy.  They've brought in extra crews/trucks in from outside the area.  Now that they're here they can't find anyplace to feed these guys.  I wish I could help but just don't have enough to feed over 30 guys.

And, you owe me a million dollars.  Just heard Marco Rubio who'd called in to get a little press time and defend himself.  "You can't overhype any storm."  He's doing an admirable job of defending his position prior to the storm.  Better safe than sorry.

And, as the bands roll through, the wind is getting worse and the rain is back.  I'm so grateful to be safe and comfortable in my house.

BTW, according to the radio, people are getting very antsy to get out of the house but the curfew is still on.  They said it might be lifted in a couple of hours since the worst of the wind was expected to pass within an hour.  15 minutes later they reported that as the far wall of the storm passes us tonight around midnight we'll have the worst wind and rain yet, expecting 100 MPH winds and 8-12 inches of rain. 

Hurricane Matthew - What Comes Next?

Still windy and rainy but the worst is hopefully past.
As I go through what appears to be the worst of the storm, I'm contemplating what comes next.  The good news is that I still have power and internet and unless there's a major change, should continue to have them.  The bad news is I fear what comes next.

Rain.  I assume I'll be heading out into the storm to lower the pool at least once more today, probably twice.  And, even though my pool guy dumped in a lot more chemicals this week, the pool is dealing with a lot of water and likely won't be quite clear for a few days.

Weeds.  I've let the weeds go a bit lately.  Cooler, dryer weather is coming and I'd rather be out yanking weeds then.  But with all this rain?  Those suckers are going to look like Sequoias in a heartbeat.

Ice Cream.  As everyone knows, during a hurricane calories do not count.  The storm is over, the diet is back on.  And, since I didn't lose power I have zero excuse to go after the ice cream.

Cleaning.  Because I have power, I can vacuum.  No excuse for just watching Netflix all day.  Damn.

Monday Morning Quarter-backing.  Governor Scott and other politicians urged 1 1/2 million people to evacuate.  I believe they were right.  All indicators were that the storm would be devastating.  In my opinion, better safe than sorry.  But I will bet you a million dollars that this will be fodder for the political campaigns.  I can already imagine Murphy's ads claiming Marco Rubio was a fear monger.  My county should be fun.  We're under a mandatory 25 hour curfew.  Yes, it is still stormy but other than the amount of rain, this isn't much worse than the kinds of storms we have on a regular basis.  Let the second-guessing begin.

When we were hit by a trifecta of strong hurricanes in 2004, we had little warning for the first and strongest, Charley.  People were unprepared and damage was in the billions.  I lost the roofs on two rental properties.  My own house was one of the only ones in my neighborhood that didn't lose the roof.  There was huge criticism of the media for not warning the area.  This year, the pendulum swung so far the other way it was frightening.

I think it is important for people to be prepared, and to do have time to do it.  But when a newscaster like Shepard Smith says things like "Your kids will die." that is irresponsible and reprehensible.  I believe it is far worse than yelling  "Fire!" in crowded theatre and should be not just criticized but prosecuted.

As I type this, every station in the Orlando area is doing team coverage.  Scrambling to show damage from the storm.  Photos from viewers showing minor damage but portraying it as something worse.  And, even as the storm passes, seemingly trying to amplify the danger we still face from the storm.

Instead, I think they should focus on the dangers of the aftermath of the storm.  Safe use of generators, not barbecuing in a closed area, care around downed wires, etc. 

But the thing I fear most after the storm?  The non-stop storm coverage will be replaced by constant Donald and Hillary.  Let the nastiness resume.

Matthew Has Arrived

I have stellar news - Matthew's bark was much worse than his bite, at least so far.  Thankfully, he stayed a bit further to the east than anticipated and also, the winds decreased a bit.  The main problem I have now is that I didn't get much sleep since I was up in the middle of the night to lower the pool.  If a bit of sleep is all I lose from this storm I will be a very happy camper.

Conditions at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, October 7, 2016.

At 7:00 a.m., we have light rain continuing and winds of 49 MPH.  The wind is strong but not scary and not anticipated to get much worse throughout the day.  By 8:00 p.m. the bulk of the storm will be gone.  The biggest issue has been the rain.  According to the newscasters who are solely focusing on the storm, we've had about 3 inches of rain since the storm began.

My rain gauge is how far above or under water the leg of my lounge chair is.  According to this highly scientific tool, we've had about 7 inches of rain in the last 12 hours.

I beg to differ.  I have my own personal rain gauge - how far the legs of the chair I threw in the pool stick out of the water.  When it started, the right leg had 3 inches over water.  It was 2 inches under water when I lowered it at 1:15 a.m.  By my reckoning, that's 5 inches by 1:15.  At 7:00 a.m., the leg is 1 inch exposed.  That makes a total of 7 inches of rain during a 12 hour period.  Newscasters are forecasting another 5-8 inches during the day today.  That means I'll be out lowering the pool again.  I simply can't describe the fun of going outside, in ankle deep water, with rain being blasted at me by strong winds.  Ah well, beats shoveling 2 feet of snow.

More good news - I have power and internet!  Netflix, so I can avoid the newscasters who are searching for any downed palm fronds to demonstrate the "violence" of the storm.  That's unlike my friend who lives about five miles from me.  She woke up to no power.  Then again, for no discernible reason, her power goes out every time someone in her neighborhood sneezes.

The "damage" in my front yard.  Ooh, a palm frond.  I am so, so grateful.  I'm hoping that my rental properties fared as well.  In 2004, two of them lost roofs to hurricane Charlie.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Matthew - Go Away!

I woke up at 1:17 a.m. on Friday, October 7, 2016 to the sound of my ceiling fan.  Not to the sound of wind and rain that I was expecting.  Ah, wouldn't it be wonderful if Fox news and others had been absolutely wrong and there was no hurricane barreling our way.  I decided to get up and check the pool level and I was glad I did since it was only an inch or two from overflowing. 

I grabbed my trusty new flashlight and headed out to start the process of pumping water out of the pool.  Happily, while the water level in the pool had risen by several inches, the water level on my patio had diminished by as many.  Last night when I stepped outside my screened pool enclosure it was into ankle deep water.  In the wee hours, it was barely an inch deep.  A testament to the efficiency of the sandy Florida soil that it can absorb so much water so quickly.  I suspect there are giant sink holes forming as I type.  Hurricanes and sink holes.  Just two reasons why there are still people living in Iowa.

You're probably asking yourself the burning question "What was she wearing as she strolled into the backyard to fiddle with the pool pump?"  Nothing, fashion mavens, nothing.  It was still raining lightly and I just couldn't be bothered.  It was the middle of the night, I have a privacy fence around my yard and at almost 66 I've had enough pelvic exams and mammograms to inure me from worry about strangers seeing me "bare pickle" as an old friend would say.  Actually, she was elderly and rather eccentric when I knew her in the 1960's and I suspect she would have cheered me on as I dashed through the yard in my birthday suit. 

After 30 minutes, the pool was low enough to change the pump again.  On this trip into the yard the wind was noticeably stronger.  Back inside, I checked the trusty internet for an update on my friend Matthew.  I checked the Orlando Sentinel website, which took me to a link to Fox News -  clearly the most reliable news source on the planet.

Before I tell what what the live-streaming meteorologist was saying I want to give the caveat that the poor guy has been broadcasting for hours.  All day and night, really.  So we have to cut him some slack.  But really, even my Myanmar Grade One Yellow Sunflowers could tell him that when we look at a map and describe motion, we wouldn't say "Matthew is moving to the right."  No, we would say "Matthew is moving to the east."

Geography aside, it is wonderful news.  While still a very strong storm, they are now predicting when Matthew comes closest to the Florida shore near Cape Kennedy at 8:00 a.m., the winds will be around 100 MPH rather than the expected  150 MPH.  All because he is "moving right".

The rain is still falling, but lightly.  The winds are strong, but gusting.  Not yet the powerful straight line winds which are still heading our way.

For now, I'm going back to bed. 

I Want to Break Up With You, Matthew

I usually love purple.  I wasn't so happy to see I live in the purple zone, though.

I live in Central Florida, so theoretically, hurricanes aren't a big threat.  I've experienced four major hurricanes but this is the first since 2005.  And according to the news media, this will be the biggest, by far.

To let you share in the fun, I thought I'd document the process as I experience it.

The Build Up - preparations and media

On Monday, there was mention in the media that a hurricane was heading our way.  Early on Tuesday morning I checked several national news sources as well as the Orlando Sentinel.  I found no mention of the hurricane.  A few hours later it was front page news.  Media coverage quickly ratcheted up to nonstop coverage of the coming mayhem.

At 7:00 a.m. on Wednesday, I headed to Walmart to get bottled water, a new flashlight and a few grocery items.  At that point, the media was projecting the hurricane hitting on Friday.  When I arrived, the parking lot at Walmart was jammed.  When I walked in there was a man wheeling a pallet of water toward the back of the store.  I asked for a case.  As I was dumping it in my cart, several other people also took cases from the pallet.  He never made it five feet before the water was gone.  By the time I walked to the "water aisle" at the back of the store, the shelves looked like Mrs. Hubbard's cupboard.
No water at Walmart.

More empty shelves that used to hold water.  Note that there is still plenty of wine on the shelf behind.  That changed by Thursday.
In addition to the water shortage, the shelf which once contained flashlights was almost empty.  Luckily for me, I snagged a beauty.  Then I meandered over to the food aisles.  Most of the canned meats were gone, but there was a plethora of tuna.  Luckily I prefer tuna to cold, canned mystery meat.

The snack aisle was also hit hard.  I can't say this with scientific certainty, but based on my observations at this particular Walmart, Central Floridian's favorite hurricane snack is pork rinds.  Clearly, I'm not a typical Central Floridan.
We say yes to pork rinds and no to salsa.
After shopping, I cruised by Sam's, since I decided I should have gotten another case of water.  Like Walmart, it was packed.  Luckily, I got one of the last cases of water.  I should now be set with water for at least a week.  Food is covered for about a month.  The experts suggest having enough food on hand for 3 days.  I have 3 days of food with me when I walk to the mailbox, just in case.

After Sam's I filled up the car with gas and got cash from an ATM.  I didn't have any problems getting gas or cash but today noticed several gas stations were either out of gas or had long lines.

Back home, I brought all the outside furniture and "stuff" into the house.  The lightweight plastic furniture I just tossed in the pool.  I also lowered to pool about four inches in anticipation of lots of rain.  I started to vacuum and then realized that if my roof is going to blow off tomorrow, do I really need a clean floor?  On the other hand, I'm very optimistic that my roof will remain where it is and I'll be stuck with dirty floors for the week or so until power comes back.  I can almost guarantee that the power will go out.  In every other hurricane it's been out for at least five days.

I did not prepare bags of ice as many friends were doing.  After two years without ice in Peace Corps, a week of room temperature beverages is no big deal.  I also did not set up my washer as a makeshift bar, full of ice, beer and wine.  I did use my washer to wash one last load of clothes.  

The media rhetoric is increasing.  The local Fox station has been almost exclusively covering only hurricane Matthew.  That must really piss off The Donald.

And It Begins - the rain

Thursday night

The rain started in earnest about 6:00 p.m.  By 8:00 p.m., I headed out in a torrential downpour to lower the pool again.  In previous hurricanes this has also happened.  In those, I started going out fully clothed (every 3 hours, all night).  After the second time, I decided that was ridiculous and just went out naked (my backyard is fenced).  I figured if peeping Toms were out in that weather, they deserved the view.   So far, I'm staying clothed but I make no promises about what I'll do at 2:00 a.m.

I'm estimating we've had 4-5 inches of rain in the last couple of hours.  That's just from the "feeder bands".  The eye of the storm isn't expected to hit the coast for another 12 hours.  The ground is already saturated and my fear is that the pool will overflow and flood my house.  Tomorrow morning, I'll probably be more concerned about the roof blowing off or windows blowing in.  It's always nice to have a variety of things to worry about.

While I was looking out to monitor the water level on the pool deck, my porch light went out.  At the very beginning of the storm.  It has worked faithfully for 22 years.  Happily, my new flashlight is working well.  The front porch light, which I don't really need right now, is working fine.  I know because I could see the large frog lounging on my front porch, watching the rain.

I've been watching the pool level as water is pumped out.  It's taking forever to get lower.  But I'm keeping entertained watching an old season of Survivor.  I'm building up my knowledge of how to make fire, just in case.

I'm home alone and a bit nervous, to be honest.  Friends were kind enough to invite me to stay with them but I prefer to freak out in private.  Oops, I meant keep an eye on the house. I've got Mr. Kindle charged and ready, along with a couple of paperbacks for daytime hours so I can save on Mr. Kindle's battery after the power goes off.

The news reports don't help. Shepard Smith, a weather person for the fine Fox Network, announced that if the storm came even 20 miles inland, we would all die.  Our kids would die.  No one could survive.  Well thanks for your encouragement, Shepard.  At least you could have stopped grinning while announcing that I was going to die tomorrow.  His announcement made me glad I had Mexican food for dinner.  If I'm dying, I want cheese enchiladas in my belly, not kale and tofu.  Yes, I've been dieting but I believe it is a law of nature that calories do not count during a hurricane.

It's 9:00 p.m. now and the rain has slowed.  The lightening and thunder have gone away and according to the satellite map, we should get a break from the rain for a couple of hours.  The wind hasn't started yet. 

9:30 p.m. and the wind and rain are both picking up.  Luckily, the short break gave my patio drain a chance to catch up from the earlier downpour.  And, the porch light came back on.  Then went out again.  Just adds to the excitement.

I love the way companies are responding to the hurricane.  Geico sent me an email yesterday saying they have my back and giving the number to call if I need to file a claim for damage to my car from the storm.  I just got an email from Duke Energy offering helpful advice...they're suggesting I plan an evacuation route and purchase supplies.  Good advice but a wee bit late, given that the storm is underway, businesses have been closed for hours and a 25 hour mandatory curfew starts at 5:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.

It's 10:30 p.m. and Mr. Kindle and I are headed to bed.  After a lull in the wind and rain, they're back.  The wind is definitely stronger.  It should provide comforting white noise to help me sleep.  I plan to dream of sunshine and white beaches with very tiny waves.