It Could Always Be Worse

Hurricane Charley
Molly, surveying the damage to our neighbor’s house

Seeing the horrific pictures of the aftermath, and continuing destruction of Harvey, brought back stressful memories of our time in Fort Myers, Florida.

2004, especially. That was the year we were preparing for a hurricane every other week starting in early August.

Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne.

Ken had just had surgery on August 6th and was supposed to recuperate for 4-6 weeks. No driving, no heavy lifting. On August 12th, we were moving patio furniture inside, and anything that wasn’t tied down. So much for recuperating!

No big deal. Charley was a category 2 storm forecasted to make landfall in the Tampa area. Not that we wished that on Tampa, but all indications were we’d just have higher than normal winds and a little rain. After all, Charley was a tiny  storm compared to most Atlantic hurricanes.

We got some pretty heavy rain bands around 1:00am, then it settled down and we went to sleep content we’d miss the worst, and satisfied we were prepared.

All that changed around 10:00am the next morning. Our local weatherman came on the air looking like he was close to fainting, throwing up, or running out of the studio, screaming. Charley had taken an ominous tick to the east. Not only that, in just about 90 minutes, Charley had blown up from a CAT 2 to a CAT 4 and was headed straight for Fort Myers.

Our home was in a community called Royal Woods; a blend of condos, villas, and patio homes. We lived in a patio home that backed up to a nature preserve. The preserve had been a big selling point at the time. Now, with its tall cypress trees and pines…not so much. Any one of them could smash into the back of our house and wreak havoc.

Our only place of refuge was the master bedroom closet in the middle of the house. After rocking back and forth repeating, “We’re gonna die, we’re gonna die,” I settled our 11-year-old terrier/mix, Molly, into the closet with her bed, food, water, and toys. Like any smart dog, her instinct took over and she curled up and went to sleep for the duration.

Me? I grabbed a full bottle of Amaretto and finished it off in a couple of hours. I was determined to greet that nasty hurricane without a care in the world; or at least with alcohol up to the eyeballs.

Charley was still coming straight for us. Then, a miracle happened, at least for Fort Myers. The compact hurricane banged into Sanibel island, literally separating it from Captiva. This caused it to turn back north, parallel the coast and then slam into Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte. Our gain was their devastating loss.

While we had minor damage (see Ken sitting on royal palm tree that, mercifully, fell across our driveway, not our house), residents to our north were wiped out. Ken on palm log

Last week brought all that back. A low, not associated with Harvey, flooded our old community of Royal Woods. Most of the residents in villas and patio homes sustained water damage. It will be weeks, or maybe even months before some of them are able to move back into their houses.

Putting that into perspective, the Texas and Louisiana coast, Houston, Beaumont, and other areas, will be years getting back to normal, or whatever the new normal may be. We’ve gone through Andrew, Charley, & Wilma, but nothing compares to Harvey.

The 2004 Florida hurricane season was a freak of nature; or so we thought. I’m afraid we are in for more 1,000-year hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes. Get used to it. With water temperatures rising, storms receive more energy, whether they be hurricanes along the coast, tornadoes in the Midwest, or blizzards in the north. It all comes back to one depressing fact.

Climate change. It’s real and, thanks to decades of ambivalence, it’s unsustainable.


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