Monday, August 16, 2004


As Friday dawned I didn't think that there would be much of a storm. The sun was shining and I went in to the office and flogged paper as usual. As the day progressed I got more interested in what the guys on the radio and TV were saying about the storm path. It started to look as if Charley was going to actually affect us. But we have been missed so many times that I couldn't hear the cry of wolf like I should.

Then things got serious. I had checked on the plane and the boat like a dutiful Floridian, but I hadn't really allowed the possibility to settle on me yet. You go get the batteries and make sure that you have enough food to avoid starvation in the post storm, but for the last... ten years?... fifteen?... it has always been the same thing. Another near miss.

Not this time.

Charley settled in and when he hit Punta Gorda the lights went out from Ft. Myers all the way to Jacksonville. I watched the storm decide to come ashore down in South Florida and from that time on it beat a straight line to Orlando. And there I was, waiting. There's really nothing else a person can do. Wait and hope for the best.

I rode the storm out in my Orlando office. The wind got up for real a little after 9 and then howled like a banshee for about 4 straight hours. At the end of that I went out and looked around. Trees every where, lines down, no lights. But the phone was working.

I went in to the DJJ office and checked it out, no problems there but the lights were on emergency up and we had about a dozen ARF kids left. The secure defendants had been moved to the adult jail for safe keeping but there were a few ARF kids left over... no parents, or parents to addled to realize that their kid was not in the house (perhaps for the last week!). No damage, just rain and more rain and more rain. Probably about 6-7 inches in 3 hours.

Checked again on the boat (OK), plane (OK)... but I didn't drive all the way over to Ti-Co, just talked to Mel on the phone. He was sitting in his office at the airport nursing a bottle of Black Jack. Tried Katie... picked right up.. she was worried about ME. That's a hoot. Isn't it great when your kids are grown and they begin to sweat it for their parents? Hehehe.

Now I'm back in the office and we are dealing with the aftermath. Orlando has taken a serious licking but things are holding together and there have been a few very bad moments -- 2 people found in upside down cars in ditches. One lady barefoot found with one foot placed on a live wire. Curiosity killed that cat.

But things could have been a hell of a lot worse. I have to say it... our local guys did a damned good job of informing the population and the folks who live here did a damned good job of following through. Very few fatalities. Amazing, considering the fact that the last hurricane that came through here was in my childhood (Donna) and there are 2 million more people living here than then. And all of them are from some rathole up north and nobody even had a clue how scarey things can get.

The big hassle now is getting some juice. It's Monday afternoon and they are saying that some of the OUC customers may not get their service working for a week. I don't know about anyone else, but I need a shower NOW. I had made some assumptions that proved to be unsupportable: first, I hadn't banked on lightening hitting the pump at the marina because I figured that I could get a shower... not so; second, I hadn't thought it all the way through about groceries. I have slowly become amazingly dependent on restaurant food. I finally got into Golden Corral last night. Some of the folks are still out there driving in circles looking for something to eat. I saw two middle aged women actually come to blows yesterday over a loaf of bread at Publix. I was smug but didn't want another peanut butter sandwich. Ick... Third, you can't assume that things will go smoothely. Mike SanFilippo had a tree come crashing down on his pool enclosure and came within a foot of mushing his house. I went over there yesterday and took pictures. Man oh man.

But mostly what we need is some electricity. It's been thirty years since a hurricane has come through and cleaned out the old oaks in downtown Orlando. the Thornton Park area looks like deepest darkest Africa, still. And all of the local power grid is hidden in that tangle of broken limbs.

I'm gonna go to the YMCA this afternoon and see if they have any hot water. At this point I might drive to Atlanta and check into a motel.... then drive back to get to work tomorrow.

But things could have been a whole hell of a lot worse.