OL 059: Hurricane Irma Review
Hurricane Irma hit some areas of Orlando harder than others. However, impact isn't the entire story. We'll let you know how people acted and reacted before, during and after the storm in our Hurricane Irma review.
What Happened Before Irma Hit Florida
In a few weeks before Irma arrived, the weather forecasters had a field day with their models and tracks. The good news is that they're relatively able to determine that a major storm has a path to hit the state. We know from past experience how such a storm can impact the state, so it gave everyone time to prepare.
The Forecast Path of Irma was Wrong
The bad news is that the weather forecasters have so much information that people believe they know where the storm will go. Even experienced forecasters get caught up in this predictive information. So we had a lot of computer graphics on maps telling us where to expect Irma to hit the state.
Always whispered with a caveat that this could change.
Irma changed paths like a drunk stumbling through a bar crawl. Despite constantly being told that the European model was the most accurate, they were constantly wrong about her actual path.
Irma was supposed to go up the Atlantic coast of Florida, potentially wiping out Miami. Then she moved to the Gulf cost, expected to wipe out Tampa Bay. Then Irma went up the center of the state, with a larger enough girth to dump rain and tropical storm winds on everyone.
The lesson is simple. Don't trust the weather forecast in a specific sense. They can tell if a storm is coming, but they still don't really know where it's going to go.
People Started Shopping in Panic Mode
With 24/7 news coverage of this storm, people panicked. They bought all sorts of stuff that most of them didn't need. Also, they bought it much earlier than panic shopping during previous storms.
Almost everyone bought bottled water. You couldn't keep it on a shelf. The same was true of plywood. People who had no way to get plywood home in their car were still buying it in lumber stores.
Bread sold out a week or more before the storm. You could expect it to grow mold before Irma hit. Canned tuna was another big item.
Generators were another big seller. It's common for power to go out during a hurricane, so folks decided to have a few luxury items running as long as they could pour gas into a generator.
Unfortunately, gas was also in short supply. Hurricane Harvey stopped refinery production in Texas just a week or so before Irma, so plenty of gas stations ran out. I saw gas lines like we were living in the 1970's.
A Boring Way to Spend a Day (or more)
Not all hurricanes are alike. Irma was exceptionally large and strong, but she moved slowly. Back in 2004, Hurricane Charley went right over our house, but it was much smaller and moved quickly. Charley was frightening when it passed, shaking everything around the house. Then it was silent while the eye was over the house.
That's no time to relax, since you know the back wall of the storm still has to pass and you get to experience the whole ride in reverse. It's sort of like going on Expedition Everest when you go up the track, and then reverse. The difference is you also get robbed and beaten up by the storm.
Irma was very different. She took a very long time to arrive and pass. I worried about the whining noise in the trees. Particularly when I had to take our three dogs out in the storm at night so they could relieve themselves. They thought it was great fun, but I was waiting for one of the trees to break loose and fly into me.
We lost power at night just before the worst part of the storm arrived. Branches were breaking outside and falling. We could hear them snap and thud. Sometimes they snapped and you never heard the fall. Those branches were taken by the wind to someone else's home.
Worrisome as that is, I fell asleep. Lee stayed awake all night, but these storms bore me to death once the power goes out and the sun goes down.
I woke up the next morning just around sunrise. Not because the sun came in the window – too many clouds. I woke up because those damn dogs needed to pee again.
The back yard had trees down and large branches all over the yard, so I took the dogs out front. Other neighbors were also out there assessing the damage while their dogs peed. Hurricanes bring neighbors together in this way.
Florida has a law that provides additional penalties for crimes committed during a declared emergency, such as a hurricane. Yet there are people who will stay in harm's way just for the opportunity to rob stores.
One piece of news footage showed about a dozen late teen males lining up to rob an athletic store. They dodged in, grabbed a pair of athletic shoes and ran out with their prize.
It didn't work out so well for a pair of 17 year old boys in Broward county. A cop was there and shot one of them, then arrested both of them.
If you have to steal tennis shoes during a major hurricane, perhaps your life choices aren't in proper order.
Hurricane Irma Aftermath
There are a few things that always happen to me after a hurricane passes through.
- A tree or two falls in my yard
- A lot of branches, large and small, fill up my yard
- Power goes out
Cleaning Up the Debris
The aftermath of Hurricane Irma wasn't any different. From just our front yard, we have 27 bags of small branches. On top of that, we have a plethora of larger branches that stack about five or six feet high and about ten to twelves yards wide.
That's not counting the very large branches still in our back yard because we can't get them through the gate until we can get a chainsaw. That stack is more than double the size in the front yard.
Dealing Without Power
We lost power for just under two days. Fortunately, we had a plan. Before losing power, we placed a lot of freezer blocks in the freezer up front and decided which items we wanted to pull out of the refrigerator once power went out.
When the time came, we emptied those items into coolers and then left the doors shut until power came back. Didn't lose a thing, since the power wasn't out that long.
Once we put the items in the cooler, I ate a pint of Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia. No sense in letting that go to waste.
My mother wasn't so lucky. Her power was out for a week and she lost everything in her refrigerator and freezer. We know others who didn't get power until one week after the storm, and crews are still working to restore power in hard-hit areas.
Part of planing before the storm is to eliminate the potential for food loss. We didn't want to buy things that would go bad if power didn't come back within a couple of days.
Once we had power, we checked out Publix and Target for groceries.
Almost everything was empty.
We couldn't buy bread, produce or even toilet paper. We need large garbage bags for the rest of the branches in our back yard, but those have been sold out for a week. Supply trucks to restock just can't fill the demand, even a week after the storm passed.
Much of Florida's agriculture industry took a hit from Irma. Expect your orange juice prices to rise. The storm wiped out vegetable crops, meaning we'll have to import more expensive produce from other states or out of the country.
You could barely go out to a restaurant to eat, since they had the same problems – no power and lack of supplies to make meals. The day after Irma hit, McDonald's was the only place open. There was a line of cars half a mile long just to get a burger and fries.
Others Were Not as Fortunate as Us
We didn't partake in a lot of the emergency preparations that everyone in the media urged people to do before the storm. Another thing we didn't do is buy bottled water or plywood to board our windows. Neither did we go get sandbags to prevent water from flooding our house.
That's because I know from past experience that those items were unnecessary where we live. I knew the water would still work. In my entire life, I've never had a storm cause damage to our windows. We don't live in an area prone to flooding.
So why would I buy supplies that others will desperately need?
Yet panicked shoppers did just that. There were neighborhoods, even in Orlando, that were flooded knee-deep. After the storm, rivers and lakes rise, flooding those who live on the edge. Some roads are impassible due to flooding.
Folks in Brevard and Marion counties were unable to use their plumbing at all. There are areas filled with sewage and waste water.
These are the folks who need bottled water, plywood and sandbags. It bugs me to see people buying up stuff they don't need, depriving those who do. I picked up our daughter after school today and she got a bottle of water from a friend of hers. They bought so much bottled water and now don't know what to do with it.
Hurricane Irma Review
One of the things that amazed me in this storm was watching people evacuate. Some folks, particularly in coastal areas, definitely needed to get out. The Interstate highways were jammed with cars fleeing Florida. Predatory hotels, both in Florida and Georgia, hiked up their rates to make the most of these folks in their time of need.
After the storm, everyone had to make their way back home. I know folks who want up to Georgia to escape the storm, only to find our that Irma went right over them. It took a week for some people to come home.
This makes me worry for future storms. Not because of the damage that the storms create, but because of the panic behavior of people who feed off too much news coverage and social media hyperbole.