Hurricane Erma Floridians story
Hurricane Erma became a problem for us about 10 days in advance because the computer models had a direct hit with wind force 5. We are located on Florida's east coast, a few miles south of the Kennedy Space Center. The models were pretty much in agreement, which increases credibility. Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas a week earlier, had caused a lack of fuel. My neighbors and I had discussed the options, none of which were appealing. Until Erma was on the road for four days, the computer models had not changed. This is good, sometimes because the chances that the computer models will not change within ten days are very unusual and it only made sense that they either stay off the coast in the Atlantic or bend west into the Gulf. The news reported massive traffic congestion on the Interstate by people in South Florida who had been evacuated, and the idea of being part of this mess was really unwelcome. There is a website that shows how traffic flows interactively, and I could see where all the throttling points for the evacuation are. The thought of getting into this traffic and running out of gas somewhere was not at all appealing. My wife and I have 3 cats who do not like to travel. We also have my wife's mother, who lives nearby and takes care of her cat.
We have seen a lot of hurricanes and if it looks bad we have to install storm plates to protect the windows and doors. We also have special windbreaks that we use to protect the garage door and pool deck. The pool deck is protected by armor screen and protects three sliding glass doors. The armor screen is attached to detachable eyes that are screwed into heavy bolts that are firmly sunk into the pool deck. Over time, the holes fill up with dirt, and when Erma was away for four days, I was glad that a wash bottle of water emitted a jet that was strong enough to wash out the dirt so that you could screw your eyes in deeply. The Armor Screen is tailor-made and it is half the job to find out which screen fits where. The armor screen is attached to the eyes with a nylon strap, which is very similar to a seat belt. Once I imagined a tornado that blows the whole house onto the plate and ensures that the roof piece is attached to the armor screen would stay on the pool terrace. With the armor screen attached, you can sit on the pool deck and enjoy the storm.
When Erma was away for three days, the computer models shifted their path to land at the tip of the peninsula and drive through Orlando. This was good news as hurricanes lose strength as they move overland, and by the time they reach Orlando it will likely be a cat 2 or weaker and will not be able to generate a storm surge that will affect the east coast. This eliminated all thoughts of evacuation.
One of the things I bought after the 2004 storms that hit us back to back, Charlie, Jean, and Francis, was a generator. I did a good deal with a 7KW generator that had a 220 outlet. You can supply the entire house with a backfeed cable via the 220 socket. If you are feeding back the whole house, first disconnect it from your electricity grid so that you do not feed back the whole neighborhood. That would damage your generator for sure. To do this safely, turn off all circuits of your circuit breaker, connect your generator, start your generator, and then turn on your circuits one by one. Be careful not to activate the air conditioning circuit that would overload my 7 KW generator.
My generator had been in my shed for about 12 years and I had never started it or even given gas. A storm in the past was close enough to fill up with oil years ago, but never fuel. If we lose energy during a storm, this is usually only shown for a few hours. In several previous storms when we were evacuated, I could monitor things in the house simply by pinging my web server. When I got a ping back, the power was on. As a precaution, I fill my gas can with every storm that threatens to come here, just in case I have to let the generator run. After the storm, I usually empty my cans into the cars. Another thing that's good after a storm is propane gas for the gas grill. Our gas grill has a side cooker so you have something to cook in the event of a power cut. I had an empty propane tank that I wanted to fill.
During Hurricane Mathew, they shut off the water to the barrier islands and I warned everyone that this could happen again. So I had a 5-gallon reserve can that I had never used for gasoline and filled it with tap water for a moment. This turned out to be a very good decision.
The storm should reach us very late on Sunday and early Monday morning. The stores were already finished on Saturday, but still open. On Saturday I made a last trip to the store with the intention of stopping at the hardware store to fill the replacement propane tank. When I passed the hardware store, there was no way to enter the parking lot because it was full and the cars in the parking lot were waiting for someone to come out so they could park. The computer models let Erma move further west, which brought Tampa a direct hit from the Gulf.
Whenever the neighborhood shies away from a storm, we distribute these cheap Family Radio System two way radios in case the phones fail and this storm was no exception.
Later on Saturday I called the hardware store to see if they had propane and they had just received a shipment and were able to fill my tank. When I arrived a number of people were waiting to fill their propane tanks and I didn't have to wait too long.
There's a nice real-time radar website on the NOAA weather page, and on Saturday night you could see the storm approaching South Florida. When a hurricane approaches, it usually sucks bad weather away. Usually the weather is nice the day before the storm and the day after the storm, but that wasn't the case with Erma. I drove through town on Sunday morning just to see what was still open and what was going on. I only found a couple of gas stations and a 711 which was very busy. In the late Sunday afternoon my mother-in-law came over with her cat. The woman and her mother like to play Scrabble and Yahtzee, and that evening they were busy with candles. The wind picked up late on Sunday evening.
I watched my weather station, which I had set up on the roof a few days earlier to await Erma's arrival. It's one thing to hear the wind blow violently, and another thing to have an instrument that says yes, it actually blows violently. When the wind got strong, I retired to my man cave, where I have my ham radio station, where I could chat with the other hams in the area. I took off my outdoor antenna and put it on the ground before the storm so I could just pull it up later. This plan worked extremely well at Hurricane Mathew the previous year. There were amateur radio operators in 4 emergency shelters and several others crouched in the air. Around 9 p.m. on Sunday night, the electricity flickered a few times and then went out completely. I glared at my neighbors with the hand of the FRS and made sure we were all without electricity.
One of the things we keep in the house are small LED flashlights. When the power went out, flashlights were everywhere. My wife had lit a few candles before the power cut, so the big impact of the power cut was on the air conditioner. Back in my radio room, the radio was powered by a couple of electric wheelchair batteries so that all my radios could be operated with direct current and their displays were backlit so that it was not completely dark. I had an old AM transistor radio and was listening to a local station when I thought of receiving the NOAA radar website on my cell phone. I was able to connect to the NOAA website on my cell phone and it turned out that the storm was moving further inland than predicted and that a very strong arm of the storm, maybe 500 miles long, was coming right through our area. Over the next few hours, I watched every 500 miles of this rotating gang in our area. During the whole storm I went into the garage and opened the side door to have a look in the side yard and see the weather up close. I wanted to take a walk outside the house to see if we had any visible damage. The house was nice and narrow, dark and warm. Usually the wind is cold during a hurricane and you can crack a door or window behind the bulkheads and let a nice cool breeze blow through the house, but Erma only brought hot humid air. At around 1 a.m. I went into the garage and inspected the garage door. While the garage door was protected by the armor screen, I could see the door bulging out of the pressure pocket and the door frame gathering behind the armor screen. By 2:00 a.m. the long middle feeder band had moved away and a relatively quiet region was now moving through. The rotation center was now near Lakeland, Florida, much further inland than one of the models predicted. I took the opportunity to go for a walk around the house. The wind was still blowing and the rain was light, but the wind really stung my face. Throughout the night we heard the door to the screened pool canopy beating in the wind, and I had gone out there beforehand to make sure it was locked. All heavy furniture was on the armor screen, but we had left the pool's floating bodies, which had no significant mass in the pool area. The fly screen doors have two thirds of the door lock so that the little ones couldn't just let themselves out, so two thirds of the door could bend and bend in the wind. The wind had gathered all of the pool's floats right there on the door that struck, and some of the pool's floats were stuck in the door, and one had actually managed to escape. I got the refugee and left him in the garage when I returned to the house. I was happy not to see any damage to the house. Later my wife asked me why one of the pool swimmers was in the garage.
I came to bed after the sightseeing tour and it was hot and I didn't sleep very well. I got up around 7 a.m., got dressed and walked around the neighborhood. The wind was still blowing about 40 to 48 kilometers per hour. I went to my mother-in-law and walked around, surprisingly, with no physical damage except through a canvas on her porch. I met some other neighbors who did the same on the way. While the houses were doing well, the trees were badly damaged.
Before breakfast I went for a short drive on Monday morning and found that most of the traffic lights weren't working. Most of us know that when you approach an intersection with a light failure, you treat it as a four-way stop. Obviously, this information hadn't reached everyone. Many people viewed an outside light as no light and blew directly through the intersection as if the light was green. This encouraged me to cancel my exploration. When I got home, the woman was preparing to prepare breakfast on the gas grill side burner, so I took part of the armor screen down and put the grill outside. At this time we noticed that there was no water pressure. My wife expressed concern that her cell phone is almost empty. I had already prepared an inverter that was connected to a spare battery and she found it particularly good to have this power source ready.
At 9:00 am the electricity was down for 12 hours and if we wanted to keep the food in the fridge it was now generator time. After I had never used this generator, I pulled it out of the shed, filled it with a little test gas and it started immediately. I hastily fetched one of the really long extension cables, ran it into the kitchen and connected the fridge. I was comforted when the light came on when the door opened.
For the rest of Monday, we simply sorted out relaxed and listened to updates in the transistor radio. Before we went to bed, we laid an extension cable for a fan in the bedroom and filled the generator with fuel and a flashlight in the dark.
The woman woke me up around 8:00 the next morning to let me know that the fan had stopped, which means the generator was out of gas. I refilled the generator with the last gas from the two 5-gallon cans. I put the empty jerry cans in the car and went out to see if I could find an open gas station. I found an open gas station and it was very busy and they hired people. They only took cash and my $ 50 bill gave me a place in the queue. This experience irritated me a lot. The rest of Tuesday was spent picking up branches that had been torn from oak and palm trees and removing the storm protection.
On Wednesday we continued picking up and stacking branches and branches on the side of the road. In the meantime, many evacuees came back to find neither electricity nor water, and we radioed what we knew about the progress in restoring electricity and water. One of the things that made this storm unique was that all the leaves of all the trees on all the leaves facing south turned brown. In the late afternoon, my neighbor informed me that the water had returned and a few hours later the power supply was restored and the ordeal ended when the air conditioning restored the comfortable conditions in the house.
It was four days later when everyone had water and energy restored. Hurricane Erma brought hurricane-force winds from coast to coast. The lesson is that if you prepare properly, things will go a lot easier. We had candles and flashlights ready. I had an emergency power source for my communication radios and to charge the cell phones. The generator worked as it should. I had fresh water and cash on hand. I also have a 100 watt solar panel that I did not need and that I hope I will never need, but it is there. When I learn something, these chemical lights, cylumes, don't last. I had a few chemical lamps in stock and they all broke. What I learned to appreciate was the help from my neighbors. We all worked together to help each other solve the problems, and it was nice to know that they were all there for us. There is nothing better than having great neighbors!