Florida became Hurricane Central during 2004 and 2005. Our home in Jupiter was directly struck by Frances and Jeanne in September 2004, and Wilma in October 2005. All in all, we were quite lucky and were spared the major damage that many people faced. For those of you who ask why we would live in Florida and face potential disaster every summer, consider that hurricanes are one of the safer natural disasters you can face. Compared to tornados, earth quakes, floods, volcanoes, and blizards, hurricanes give you several days warning to prepare for them. If you're not prepared and have a safe place to stay when it hits, the Darwin Principal will pretty much take care of you.
This is the track of Hurricane Frances. It was a Category-2 hurricane with winds up to 105 MPH. Although it wasn't an exceptionally powerful storm, it was very slow moving so it lingered over our area and pounded us for over 12 hours. The center of the eye passed within about 20-30 miles of us.
Here's a shot of our home from the end of the driveway. We had zero damage to our home, but lost several trees and had alot of debris to pick up. I was surprised that our patio screening survived intact.
This shot is from the opposite direction in our driveway looking towards the road. About 30-40 of my oak trees were partially uprooted and bent over. I think these will survive once they are straightened and staked for a few months.
This is a before shot of the almond tree that I planted for privacy between our neighbor's home and our pool. These trees are nice because they grow thick and full in just a couple years. Problem with trees like this is that they are brittle and don't stand up to the elements very well.
This is the after shot a few days later when I completed the clean up. Oh well, no more skinny dipping for a while.
This is a view of the main road leading into our development. This road is lined with Austrailian Pines which are noted for having shallow roots and toppling over easy in high winds. Only a few fell down and none of them blocked the road.
This is the next street down from our development which is lined with (mostly) native Florida pine trees. Many of these trees fell and blocked the road. Go figure?
I actually sustained alot more damage after the storm than during. I removed the storm panels from my patio, but left the track in place (see left). Later, I forgot and jammed my foot into one of the studs resulting in a nice gash under my toe. Later while chain sawing downed trees, I got into some fire ants and received about 50 bites from head to toe. Add to that numerous cuts, scrapes, bruises from all the yard clean up and I was pretty much a mess when it was all over with. I'm actually looking forward to going back to work at my desk job so I can relax.
These next few photos show damage our neighbors incurred. I don't think anyone had any structural damage to their homes with the exception of 2-3 people loosing their patio screens.
I consider us very lucky this time. This storm wasn't that bad, and we were well prepared, but still there are some lessons learned for the rest of my Florida friends who haven't experienced a hurricane first hand:
Don't count on your cell phone for emergencies. My cell phone service went out several hours before the land line went dead, and it didn't come back on-line for 3 days.
FEMA suggests you stock up a supply of food and water for 3-4 days. That is entirely inadequate. We were boarded up for 5 days before power came on and supplies were available in town. Even then, there was a 3-4 hour wait for what little supplies were trickling in from FEMA and the Red Cross. Fortunately, we had enough food and water that we didn't have to fight the crowds. Had this storm been any worse, we could easily have needed 10-15 days worth of supplies.
We only went without power for 4 days, however many of our friends (only 3-4 miles away) are still without power after 8 days!
You should also stock up on any supplies you might anticipate needing after the storm for repairs, such as new screening, rope, nuts, bolts, PVC, etc. Chances are, if you need it, so do 500,000 other people and the stores won't be able to keep up with demand for several weeks.
A battery powered TV would have been nice. You can't use a generator during the storm, and radio updates of the storm progress just doesn't cut it. Be prepared for lots of boredom. With no power and no light (even during the day due to hurricane shutters), there's nothing to do!
Here's a photo of downtown Jupiter, about 5 miles from our home. There was little structural damage to any of the businesses. Just lots of downed trees and some damaged power lines.
Wilma came across South Florida West to East at a very fast speed of 25 MPH. It was between a Category 2 and 3 with winds around 100-115 MPH at our home. We were actually in the Northern most portion of the eye for about an hour or so. We sustained a bit more damage from this storm than we did the previous two in 2004.
This is what's left of my patio screen enclosure. Although our home came through unfased, we lost our patio screen enclosure which was weakened during last years storms. There aren't many of these things still standing in Palm Beach County that aren't damaged in some way. I'm not going to replace it until the builders come up with a better design.
I tried to shore this thing up before the storm by running two steel cables from each corner down to the ground and anchored to a 4-foot pipe. I attached the cables to the top of the frame with 3/8-inch eye bolts. Here you can see how the bolt was twisted open like butter as the steel cable pulled out.
This is our next door neighbor's home, which had part of their roof torn away. It doesn't look like much damage from the outside, but since the first row of plywood roofing was stripped off, the rain and wind swept through and trashed the entire inside. They lost all the ceilings in every room and several walls. Their furniture was trashed as well. They won't be able to live here for months until repairs are done.
The awesome power of a Category-3 hurricane cannot rival the fury unleashed by an uncomfortable and stressed out wife. The following guidelines have been developed after enduring three such storms, in hopes of sparing others from needless suffering. These key elements are very effective in keeping a wife calm and happy so that post hurricane power outages are bearable.