Spending our Summer on the road has been a bit of a blessing in more ways than one in 2017. Besides seeing the eclipse and our children and grandchildren, it took us out of the path of the most destructive hurricane to hit Florida in more than two decades. When Hurricane Irma started developing in the Caribbean Ocean, it looked to be targeting our home state of Florida. However, we were more than 2000 miles away in Oregon at the time. This was fortunate as it took us and our motorhome out of its path. But our other home, in the Sarasota resort of Sun N Fun, was not so lucky. This created somewhat of a stressful situation for us for several days this past week.
The early models showed Irma skirting Cuba and then turning right up the middle of Florida. As it got closer, the predictions were for a direct hit on Miami and then proceeding up the east coast of the state. There was still some uncertainty, as there always is for these storms, but despite the exact track, the storm was far larger than the width of Florida so, it did not really matter too much which way it went, it was going to affect both coasts in some way.
We kept tabs on its progress and, as it drew nearer we kept telling ourselves that the house there and its contents were just “things” that could be replaced. Our growing concern however was for our larger community. Sun N Fun has been our winter playground now for nine years and we have many friends there and in other parts of the state. Also, Sarasota has become our real home and we were fearful for the damage that may be done that would affect our lifestyle once we returned. If we had to live out of the motorhome while our house was replaced, so be it, but the damage to our resort or the city could put a real damper on our enjoyment of the coming season and beyond.
We even got our family involved in that Ellyn spent some time one afternoon explaining the storm and our concern to our grandson, Oliver. We watched and waited and the stress grew to where we were doing nothing else but following the storm’s track. We realized on the Friday before it hit that we had not followed a news story so closely since “9-11” and, ironically, it looked like the storm would pass over Sarasota on the anniversary of that date.
As the storm made landfall in Cuba, it looked more and more as if it would move significantly west and, rather than hitting Miami, would hit Naples on the west coast and then travel right up that coast striking Sarasota directly. Our stress increased. The next day it passed over the Florida Keys and turned to the north. As predicted, it made landfall again in Naples, Florida, and the predicted track continued up the coast. However, over the remainder of that day, the eye of the storm seemed to be heading almost directly north and inland. The predictions still had it turning west toward Tampa but the eye continued its northward path, more toward the center of the state.
By the evening, it was clear that, unless something changed drastically, the most powerful part of the storm, which by then had reduced in intensity from the category 4 storm it was when it crossed Naples, to the category 1 storm it was by the time it was almost directly east of Sarasota, then we would be spared the majority of its wrath. It was still a very large storm so it was clear there would be some damage from it and it continued to pound both coasts of Florida with rain and “storm surge” flooding, but it appeared our strongest fears may not come true.
By Monday morning, the storm had passed and people started coming out to assess the damage and clean up. Facebook became our communication tool with the people in Florida. Through one of the pages there, we started seeing pictures. The first showed the entrance into the park, which was flooded with a couple of feet of water. Access to the interior of the park was restricted but from outside it was apparent that the outer fence had taken some significant damage. As photos and video started appearing, it was obvious that most of the units had been unscathed by the storm. There were three or four that were damaged, mostly to the “Florida Rooms” or lanais that are somewhat more flimsy than the homes themselves. There was also a few trees down and it was not obvious from the pictures how much damage they had done.
By Wednesday, the park was open for people to come in and check on specific units. One of our friends in the area drove there and did a “walk around” of the house with us on FaceTime. This gave us some reassurance that there was nothing major wrong with our house and that we did not have to rush back to do any cleanup. The biggest thing is that we did not completely clean out the refrigerator and power was out for several days, so one of the first things we will have to do will be to completely clear it out and clean it before we can bring in the things we have left in the RV fridge.
So all and all, it appears Sarasota and Sun N Fun dodged a bullet with this storm. Of course other parts of Florida were not so lucky and the Keys were particularly devastated, as well as several Caribbean islands. Hurricane Irma was a killer and we are glad it is gone. It will be a long time before it is forgotten, however.