It’s hard to believe it’s only been a week since we finished boarding up the windows to our house with any wood we could find, emptied interior closets in case we needed to hide, bought last minute ice, bread and snacks. It’s been a week since we were glued to the tv switching from one station to the next watching Hurricane Irma head north, west, north, east, west, west, west, then jog east at the last minute taking the worst part of the storm away from Tampa. We sat in horror as the pictures and videos came in from the devastation of the islands Irma decimated not knowing if we were next.
It’s hard to believe that in a few hours it will have been a week since we stood outside, watching the winds gain strength, seeing the bands whip in and reach over 80 mph and watched our neighbor’s pine tree sway ferociously before cracking loudly and falling to the ground with a loud thump, barely missing their house.
It’s almost impossible to believe that in a few hours it will have been a week since our power went out at 9:30 PM Sunday night. My husband and I were sitting in our living room surrounded by boxes, bubble wrap and tape protecting the breakable items that were most dear to us. The lights flickered once, twice, three times. Then the entire house went dark. Everyone had their own flashlight and my husband yelled out for everyone to stay put. He walked around and made sure all three kids were safe and not scared as I finished wrapping. The kids went to sleep just after the power went out. My 13 year old son and 11 year old daughter felt safe on the floor of our closet surrounded by their pillows, blankets, stuffed animals and our dog. My 20 year old chose the hall closet close to her bedroom where her cats were. We knew tornadoes were possible.
My husband and I walked outside about every thirty minutes, protected by the cover of our car port. He was keeping a close eye on a tree behind our house, one in the front and a few of our neighbor’s trees. There wasn’t anything we could do if they fell, but we watched nonetheless. I watched in awe of Mother Nature as sheets of rain fell in sporadic batches and winds shot in from the east, suddenly switching direction, stripping branches off the trees. We watched the water in our yard rise closer and closer to the house, grateful for the sand bags we’d kept from two years ago. All of a sudden the rain would almost stop allowing the water to recede only to pick back up again. I stayed up as long as I could but was exhausted from all of the preparations we’d done over the previous three days and was recovering from oral surgery. Around 1:30 am I gave up and went to bed asking my husband to wake me if he went back out.
We slept off and on watching the news on our cell phones, watching Irma skate back and forth, not knowing exactly where she may travel. We woke up about 8 am and quietly slipped out of the house to assess the damage. Tree limbs, branches, leaves and pine needles blanketed our lawn and covered the road. My husband walked across the street and breathed a sigh of relief to see that the giant pine barely missed the house. Slowly, more neighbors began making their way out to see the damage. We soon learned who had power and who didn’t. There was a small pocket, about 6 houses, that were out due to a tree that fell two doors down. The wire was still live so I called TECO immediately to let them know. They said it would be a priority.
As the sun rose higher in the sky, I looked around and realized how lucky we were with only limbs and branches down with only one row of roof shingles barely lifted. I thought about how fortunate it was that Hurricane Irma hit Tampa as a Category 1, not a 3. I knew how incredible blessed we were that our only inconvenience was that we were without power. But that’s another story…