Today is 20 Aug. and the worst is over. At 0300 this morning the power came on. I kept telling myself that I should make notes each day but was so tired at the end of each day that I never did.
Charley started, as far as I am concerned, on Thursday, 12 Aug. That was the day that Frank, Sue and, and later, I started to put down awnings.
Here in FL most people have awnings on their windows, especially on the west & south sides of the house. They are big enough to cover the whole window when they are lowered. So they provide storm protection as well as shade. I worked with them some on Thurs. and then all morning on Friday, the 13th. I got all the awnings down on my "people’s" homes. That is: John Tallis’, Stephanie’s and helped Frank on Dick’s & Maxine’s. (These are people that I mow lawns for)
We finished up around noon and gathered at the club house about 1400. I had planned to ride the storm out at home because none of the shelters would allow animals. But, thankfully, our manager, Elaine, said that animals in cages would be allowed in the club house. (The animals, there were 3 dogs there, caused a lot less commotion than the people) I hadn’t seen or heard any news all day and didn’t know about the storm veering to the East.
The winds started picking up around 1600, as I recall. The weather in the morning was beautiful but it started to deteriorate after noon. We ate what we had brought with us for supper.
The power went off around 1930/2000. Dick, Maxine, Marilyn and I were playing dominoes and it was a bit too dark to continue w/o a flashlight. The game broke up shortly after that and I remember putting the dominoes away as we had been playing with some one else’s "9s" rather than with the "15s" we usually play with.
The storm started out with winds from the East. This was the cause of most of the damage here in the park. It was clocked at 101 MPH. Looking up the avenue before it got "black" dark we could see an entire roof from a mobile home swaying back and forth in the middle of the road one block up.
As some of you know, there is a screened–in porch on the west side of the clubhouse. We stood out there and watched the wind. I could see my oak trees "a’bobbin’ an’ a’weavin’" as the wind shook them like Ma shaking out the dust mop. I could see the corner of my house still standing so I knew there was something left yet. After what seemed like at least 4 hours, the wind stopped. I took Shelby out the side door so she could take care of things, so to speak. Everything was quiet and some of the people started to pack up to go home. Some how we convinced them to hang around and after a short while it started all over again from the West.
The back side of the storm didn’t seem as strong as the front. But, of course, we could no longer stand on the porch to watch. I tried to push the door to the screen room open, to gauge the strength of the wind, and it wouldn’t hardly budge. The wind blew for another 4 hours or so and then it tapered off. I looked at my watch and it hadn’t been but a little over an hour since the worst of the storm started.
The rest of the night was dark and un-comfortable. I woke, for the last time, about 0600 and got quietly out. Shelby and I worked our way down the street to our house and, in the darkness, couldn’t see any damage. But, as it got lighter, I could see that the roof of the FL room was partially torn off. Luckily, it was the outer skin and the inner skin held, mostly. The only other damage was rain that was forced through the East side windows in the FL room. My skirting was intact. I was one lucky guy. I had semi-convinced myself that this old crock would blow away in 100 MPH winds and I was wrong. She’s stronger than she looks.
In the family: Sue lost her auxillary A/C in the FL room and some windows. Marilyn was mostly untouched. Doris, being on the corner, had less protection than the rest of us. She lost some windows and her carport roof. In going it took part of the house roof/wall where it was fastened on. They tarped it but then on Wednesday night there was a hard T-storm which blew the tarps off and she got even more water damage. Jeff, Bob and Kenzie re-tarped it on Thursday. There was much damage here in the park. Lake Wales had tornados that did a lot of damage and the town looks worse than ours but we had a lot of destruction. There will be many homes totaled out, I’m sure. Roofs were lost; some totally, some partially. Trees are down all over the place. Again, I was lucky. My 3 big oaks just stood there and took it. I noticed that most of the trees just came right up out of the ground. They laid on their sides with the roots sticking up in the air. One place down at the end of the street lost it’s carport and a screen room. But there was a pitch fork leaning against the shed that never moved.
Saturday was a day for taking stock. What was left—what had to be taken care of first. The Publix super market chain sent a tractor-trailer load of ice to their store in Winter Haven and we all went over to get some. Every thing in the frig went into coolers and the ice on top. Ice procurement was an everyday event. And the word would go through the park like wild-fire. "There’s ice at the First Baptist!" "Days Inn has ice!" We never lost our phones. That is, if you had a wired phone. Cordless phones have to have juice to work. My problem was that the only corded phone I have left is an old one in the bed room. And it lost it’s ringer a long time ago. I’m going to get a cheap cord phone and hook it up here at my desk for the next time Charley or one of his buddies comes to call. Of course I had my cell and I maintained contact with my family through it. It’s my only source of long distance normally. But, of course, it’s ring is not loud. And I usually cannot hear it.
I believe it was Sunday when Bob & Jeff came down. They had enough baggage to stay a month. Jeff kept hauling out tools, inverters, batteries, you name it. His inverter kept Frank’s and my cordless drills going. We plugged them in at night in the car. I had my cell plugged in every night to keep it going. Anyway, we all went to the airport to get the boys. Doris, Marilyn, George and I. (That way we had a long ride in the A/C)
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday the boys helped Frank as he put things back together for a lot of people. Tarps had to be fastened over roofs and windows had to be boarded up. Thursday Frank had to go to his "regular" job at Bealls on Cypress Gardens Boulevard. (That’s pronounced Bells, it’s a up-scale dept. store.) His store was about destroyed. It seems that a tornado blew off the metal Receiving Dock door. That let the wind in and the wind lifted the roof up, then dropped it. Everything fell every which way-roof-lights-insulation-ceiling tiles. Most of the stock was wet and was liquidated. Anyway, they had to get all the stock out of the store by Saturday.
Mon., Tues., and Wed. I puttered around. I didn’t try to help the guys. I’d just be in the way. So I raised awnings all around the place. All that I had lowered and then some. I had to mow John’s lawn. It had been ready to be mowed the week before. I dumped out his and Stephy’s frigs.
I was the only one with a coffee pot that didn’t need juice so every one came down in the morning for coffee. I heated the water on the propane stove we had carried in the 5th wheel. Supper was at Sue’s. We cooked & ate all the meat and other stuff that we could before it spoiled.
Thursday morning I took all that was left of my "refrigerated" food and tossed it in the garbage just before the truck came. It was at the point where I couldn’t trust any of it. I figured—about $120 worth.
The biggest problem we had could not be solved by us. The days were close to or over 100 degrees. I read 105 on, I think, Tues. afternoon. The only relief came when you had to drive some place. At bed time, which came early w/o lights, it was usually about 80 and that would drop way down to 75 by morning. The result was not-much-rest at night. I took showers on my back porch in the late afternoon, using my garden hose. It was almost too hot after the day in the sun. The problem with that was you just sweated all over again. Tempers shortened. After a few days I realized that I was on the edge of heat-exhaustion and I had to back away a little. I had leg cramps like you wouldn’t believe. They wouldn’t go away.
One thing stands out and that is the general goodness of people. I had a carload coming back from a foray for ice when a car stopped in the middle of the avenue here in the park and a kid ran back with 2 big bags of seedless grapes and took nothing back but our thanks. The First Baptist church, here in Dundee, opened their parking lot to semi’s full of ice and water and " ya need batteries?" Young people stood out in the sun for hours handing out stuff along with a big smile. Every traffic light had a policeman directing traffic. And every cop had a couple bottles of water standing beside him. Because there was a van that roamed from light to light handing out cold water.
South of here, on the road to Lake Wales, (abt 12 miles) There is/was a stretch of about a dozen power poles broken off around 20 feet off the ground. They were splintered-they didn’t break where there was a bad spot in the pole-they were broken by the shear force of the wind. Then there was another 20/25 poles that slanted towards the West about 20 degrees. On US 27 south of here there is/was a measured mile of heavy transmission line on the ground. Every pole flat.
Each day was a little different and yet just the same. Find some ice-get something done-try to stay cool (an impossibility)
Thursday was Sue’s birthday and on someone’s birthday down here we all go to the restaurant of the celebrant’s choice for dinner. We decided—to H___ with Charley, let’s celebrate. So we did.
Bob & Jeff are going back home tomorrow. We’ll miss them. There’s never a dull moment with them around.
Last night was the hottest yet. We normally have a shower or T-storm every night but last night we just got the T no storm. Hot, sticky, miserable.
I woke up dripping at 0230 and answered the call (of nature) Back to bed and sweat some more. Suddenly it dawned on me that the room was lighter and it was no where near 0600. I rolled over and looked out the window.
THE STREET LIGHTS WERE ON!!!!!! We
From Pennie West 08/16/2004 who visited me (JMT) here last month
I will send you the West/Welch Family Tree for your records after I get everything updated. It may be
awhile though, as I need to deal with results of this hurricane. Did not get hit like Punta Gorda, but have roof damage, huge Oak branches down, and am exauhsted. Just got electricity and internet back yesterday afternoon.
Talk to you later.