Hurricanes . . . . Or are they really stalkers?

As I type this, we are awaiting the fourth named storm to hit Florida this year. If this keeps up, we'll all be so shell shocked by Christmas that you can send us all off to the funny farm. People are actually starting to lose their tans due to living in boarded up houses with no light!

It all started a couple months back with Tropical Storm Bonnie. She missed us here in Citrus County, but went through Tallahassee a few hours to the north. Then came Charlie. Charlie was forecast to come up the Gulf Coast and come ashore around Tampa. As it moved north, it would go right through Citrus County. We all prepared, boarding up windows, buying up all the batteries for miles and putting aside jugs of water. Then Charlie turned and we were spared. With other storms on the horizon though, we didn't put all our outdoor stuff back outside.

In most hurricane seasons, that would be the end of it for the year. Then came Frances. She came ashore on the East Coast, crossed the middle of Florida and hit us as a tropical storm. From the looks of the trees and the electrical grid, you would think a bomb went off. Our power went off on Sunday afternoon and didn't come back on until Tuesday. We were lucky though, we still had running water from our public water system as well as hot water due to our water heater running on propane. I was going to switch that over to electric as it is less expensive in this area, now I think I'll leave it on the propane! We had very little damage, just some wet carpeting in our Florida room from old, failed caulking hidden inside the walls, some downed limbs and spoiled food. I've now re-caulked most of the Florida room and am waiting until after hurricane season to install new flooring.

My parents, 20 minutes away were in worse shape. Although they had no property damage other than trees down, they were completely shut down. Their home is all electric, including the pump in the well. When our power came back on, we went to my parents house and convinced them to come stay with us. My dad objected at first, until he heard the words "hot shower". Their power stayed out for the rest of the week, not coming back up until Friday. They moved home only to have the power go out again Sunday, so they spent another night with us.

Thankfully, for us at least, Ivan went to the Panhandle. I can't imagine the damage that Ivan would have caused around here, considering the chaos created by Tropical Storm Frances. But, once again, the coast wasn't clear (literally!). We kept a wary eye on the weather forecasts and I began checking the BoatU.S. Hurricane Center every day. Now we were following the paths of 4 different storms, at once! Jeanne, Karl, Lisa and a re-emerging Ivan kept us from getting too comfortable. Karl and Lisa seem to be heading for the North Atlantic, Ivan went to Texas and Jeanne spent her time doing a 360 in the Atlantic. She has finally made up her mind to come to Florida and we've started worrying and planning again!

I don't know what havoc Jeanne will create in her wake, but I have learned one thing. Hurricanes are expensive, even when they don't do any damage to your home. Since I work from my home, and can't accomplish much without a computer, I was out of work for two days. Then add on the days leading up to the storm when little was accomplished while I battened down the hatches, the time I lost due to having company, the time I lost due to my 7 year old son being off from school for over a week, and the time lost cleaning up the mess, and it all adds up to quite a bit of lost revenue. I guess I shouldn't complain too much, I've gotten off easy compared to those living in Punta Gorda, Stuart and Pensacola. But it still hurts when you realize your monthly income is going to be $500 or so less than you planned.

Yesterday I took off from work again to try to complete repairs from the last storm. Today I did some more repairs and battened down the hatches again. Jeanne looks to be a little more potent than Frances, hopefully we won't be without power for too long this time. Even if it turns away, I've already lost money. More importantly to my clients, I've lost time. So, if you see me in the next couple months and I am always checking over my shoulder, it's nothing personal. We Floridians are just getting a little paranoid!

Timm Smith
September 25, 2004

UPDATE:

Jeanne came right over us here in Citrus County, but amazingly, didn't do as much damage as Frances. Our power stayed on during the entire storm, as did the cable for my internet connection. The most amazing thing was that the satelite dish worked all day as well! Usually the satelite goes out whenever you get a couple of dark clouds. (I kinda wished it did go out though. Then I wouldn't have had to see just how bad the Green Bay Packers played!) We think all the weak trees had been blown down by Frances, so there were none left for Jeanne to blow over.

I also found out that the water in our Florida room didn't come through the walls, but from the door. The wind blew so hard against the door that it forced the rain in around the door. Nothing a little more weatherstripping won't cure. The front door did the same at the bottom, so I cut out a piece of carpet during the storm to keep the pad from wicking the water through the living room like a sponge. This week the carpet guys came and installed a vinyl floor in the entry way, which should hold up to the high traffic better than carpet anyway. We are still waiting for hurricane season to end before putting a new floor down in the Florida room though!

There have been no hurricanes in the forecast for almost a month, so we are all starting to relax a little. Most of us are still hording ice though, just in case. Today was a gorgeous day, low 50's in the morning, sunny skies and 80 in the afternoon. One of those days that reminds you why you moved here in the first place. The kind of day that almost makes you forget about hurricane season!

Timm Smith
October 16, 2004