Sunday, September 4, 2016

Surviving an Itty Bittty Hurricane

Living in Florida means one thing pretty consistently. You are vulnerable to a pretty volatile meterologic environment. I'm talking a consistent rash of thunderstorms, a much lesser occurrence of tornadic activity and a miniscule threat of tropical storms and hurricanes. Someone once said that this is the cost of living in paradise. I really cannot dispute that statement. One consistent thing about Florida is the hot and humid weather.

A couple of weeks ago my wife, Nancy, and I were laying in our bed. Around midnight we were awakened by the distant sound of thunder and could see some bright flashes of lightning. The storm was sort of pretty and melodic mixing flashes of light with rolling cascades of thunder. As the storm approached our address we could tell that it was going to roll pretty much right over us. Sure enough it did. After a few minutes of being a bit on edge we heard a zap and a ping and then a heavy retort. We had either endured a direct hit or one very close by.

The next morning we were disappointed to learn that we had no cable, internet or phone service. Life without TV is very difficicult for my wife as well as myself. I only watch sports on the cable. Her viewing is much more wide and sophisticated. I am an internet junkee. I find it unnerving not to be able to look at Real Clear Politics, for my team,, and  local news all driving to and culminating in the many pithy tweets I send out via Twitter.

It took us 4 days to restore our TV and internet. Life was not pleasant. I also make my living via access to the internet as do so many other people. Thank heavens for the IPhone. We had to buy a new TV as a result of one being fried. That meant a little larger screen just in time for football season. Little did we know what lay in store for us.

We get somewhat Tropical storm weary in this part of the world. Seems like every year about this time there are numerous tropical depressions floating around in the Gulf or the Atlantic. In my world of real estate the significance is that if there is a named storm floating around in the "box" then real estate closings come to a grinding halt. The box is an imaginary space 700 miles X 700 miles. If a named storm moves into that box then property insurance issuance is frozen. If insurers won't insure, lenders won't lend and most buyers cannot buy. I had 3 closings scheduled this past week and was keeping a close eye on TS 9 out in the Gulf. Having barely managed the closings and getting past them I suddenly realized that TS 9 is now Hurricane Hermine.

Two of the families I was helping were out of town move ins, one from Atlanta and one from Niceville. A race was on to get closed, beat the storm and get moved in. Both families accomplished their moves and settled in prior to the storm settling in on a direct line for our location .

I had been so involved in business that I was totally naive concerning the storm. All of a sudden here it is Thursday and all manner of storm preparation has broken out around me. Fortunately, my wife, Nancy, is always in a state of preparedness for most things. We had plenty of water, food, snacks and batteries, meds, fresh clothing, etc. I settled in to watch two football games Thursday night. Both were humdiingers. I began to realize the seriousness of the matter when the wind started blowing and rain was hitting my house sideways. It really got my attention when in the space of seconds my house was darker than the inside of Marianna caverns. The only sound manifested was the whistling of the wind. It seemed like morning would never come. It did.

We awakened to trees down all over our neighborhood as well as the Big Bend region. 150,000 people were without electricity across the region. One of the clients I had closed had a tree down across their house on the first night they had stayed in it. Of my three children they all had power. My son's thankful to a home generator that powers his whole house, even AC.

We were without power for 60 straight hours. We were able to cook, keep two refigerator's cool, light a couple of lamps, power a TV and run fans thanks to a small generator. The absolute worst was being without AC. We could watch cable and take baths over at our daughter's house but laying in bed sweating is no fun.

As always it is nice and disappointing to see people at their best and worst. Tree removal people were out in droves after the storm. My client with the tree on her house was offered a removal service for $1000 per hour and it was going to be a 5 hour job. Fortunately, she was not born yesterday. Her husband is a police officer and hopefully this contractor will hear from the AG after this cools down. Be nice to see him pay some heavy fines and maybe even do a little time.

It was also nice to see people treating  each other with courtesy as they approached traffic lights that were not working. Dangerous intersections were being negotiated very carefully as people very kindly yielded to one another as they moved through the intersections. I checked on a neighbor who is a very capable widow. She assured me that she was fine. As I left I provided her with an ice cold Diet Dr. Pepper from a cooler on my back seat. She smiled and hugging me accepted the treat and wiped away a little tear. Just a little kindness goes a long way when people are stressed out and disadvantaged.

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