OK, I hate Hurricanes. I hated Andrew. I also forgot how much I hated them. I have been reminded.
As late as Tuesday evening there was no real inkling there was any sort of problem. Wednesday, we learned we were probably getting a tropical storm. Thursday, they said it might be a hurricane just as it hit shore. They were confident it would hit in North Broward county and that the worse damage would be on the north side.
As it got later and later they moved the impact zone south. As soon as one hour before it hit, they were confident it would hit north of I-595 in Broward and most rain would be north of the storm. Judging by the radar pictures, I found this dubious. However, at 4pm we closed work early and sent people home (people north of I-595 were sent home earlier in the day because that was where the storm was supposed to hit).
Because effects of the storm in Miami were supposed to be relatively minimal at best, we made no real preparations. I did not put up my shutters. In fact, except for a few items outside which I brought in, I made no notice of the storm at all. That was, in hindsight, an error. I should know better.
Katrina came ashore in Hollywood (on the Dade/Broward line) many miles south of where it was projected. However even while it was hitting, they insisted it would continue almost straight west which would mean no major issues for us.
All hell began breaking loose in my neighborhood before 7. By 621pm there was no electric. Winds began increasing. Driving rain (to the extent it was moving parallel to the ground) blasted around. It was dark and, just like Andrew, scary. But, at least in this one, I was never worried of my incipient death.
Trees began being stripped of leaves and branches, streets began with rising water, and then, after what we thought was the worst of it, calm. Many of us went outside to help neighbours who needed assistance (there were several). We still didn’t know it but more was to come.
It began getting that sickly colour in the sky that signals ‘Very Bad Weather’ and we all headed indoors. And then it came from the other direction. None of us realized the storm had turned Southwest and was headed at us. Sustained winds were recorded at the airport (a few miles away) in excess of 87MPH. More trees were uprooted, the ongoing symphony of car alarms abated (assumedly as the cars were crushed), and then came the deluge. It rained, and rained, and rained.
State Road 836 is still closed because the overpass at 97th avenue collapsed and fell. (It shouldn’t have and some contractor will go to jail over that). You still have to wonder how four TEN TON beams of steel and concrete were blown over.
This morning I woke up at 6am and took a walk outside in the wind and rain (nothing terrible). I ran into the Mayor /and/ Chief of police and their entourage. He told me (and the news later confirmed) that the eye of the storm passed DIRECTLY over Doral and we sustained more wind damage than anywhere else in South Florida (there was much worse rain damage further south of here).
We got hit by the front of the eye wall, the back of the eye wall, and it continued South towards the Keys via the NOAA Hurricane Center (ironic they would get hit after assuring us it wasn’t coming this way).
I am lucky. There is little new damage to my property except to foliage. My four existing roof leaks are still leaking to no surprise, though one of them has turned into an eighteen foot by twenty foot monstrosity. Most ancillary damage (mailbox, etc, etc) I have already fixed.
Helicopters still fly over every few minutes: news crews, damage surveys, police and rescue trying to get into some inaccessible areas. Four dead. Five missing so far.
I finally went to work (after talking my way by the police and the mayor) to check it out, and work fared well. The sign is gone and there’s no trace of it. The carport at work under which I park is missing. But the building is fine except for a tiny roof leak at a corner seam.
It could have been worse, but I am reminded why if a storm MIGHT come you should put up your shutters.
Pictures? (EMAIL ME AND ASK FOR URL. To preserve site bandwidth, which is nearing its limit, I have removed the URL from the public posting.)
I would like to offer my advance condolences to those who live in the city formerly known as New Orleans. As a survivor of another Category Five monstrosity (Hurricane Andrew) I know firsthand what they are about to undergo. I hope the evacuated and offer my hopes they survive. This will only be the fourth Category Five hurricane to make landfall (Labor Day 1935, Camile, and Andrew) and I still hope it slows down before it hits. You may not think there’s much difference between 140 and 160 but there is. Hurricanes are terrifying and people say Tornadoes are bad, but they’re quick. Imagine a tornado that lasts 14 hours. Katrina was relatively minor and even so 14 hours of up to 86mph winds frays the nerves and tears things down. Andrew was 8 or so hours but the winds were over double those of Katrina. Good luck. I also am not putting money on survivors at the Superdome. Most stadiums are built to withstand maximum sustained winds of 125mph.
Happily, Katrina missed New Orleans and instead decided to remove all traces of Biloxi from the map. Such things are never good, and I am not making light. But as bad and terrible as things are in New Orleans, but being grazed by a Category 4 is much better than being hit by a Category 5. Had Katrina hit dead on as a 5, you’d have had tens of thousands dead and damages upward of $100 billion dollars. None of the 12,000 people in the SuperDome would have been alive when the sun came out. We in Florida were lucky, and indeed, our woes have been totally forgotten and ignored as attention moves towards the New Orleans and Biloxi areas. That is understandable, but we had almost 2 million people without power after the storm, and there are still 100,000 people without — we have gas shortages, ice shortages, and so on. And still we are lucky. We all know it too.
At work we are taking collections from employees for relief efforts and matching donated money $2 for every $1 donated and in addition adding $1,000 on top of that. I am making my own personal contribution which (as is my custom) remains an undisclosed amount.
I have to reinforce one fact: this did not have to happen. Florida is now prepared for hurricanes. We have proper building codes (the process is full of graft and corruption, but the codes are sound), our government is prepared and cognizant. The people and government in New Orleans simply did not accept the reality and gravity of the situation and now they’re paying the horrible price. Half of what is destroyed, maybe more, would have been standing. The flooding couldn’t have been averted but the complete destruction of homes could have. IF YOU LIVE IN AN AREA SUBJECT TO HURRICANES GET HURRICANE SHUTTERS THAT MEET MIAMI-DADE PRODUCT CONTROL APPROVAL.