Reflections on Surviving Hurricane Matthew

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Reflections on Surviving Hurricane Matthew

by | Oct 13, 2016

Those of us having lived through numerous hurricanes over the years as native Floridians, we still never know what to expect.  According to Wikimedia, dating back to 1851, there has never been a direct hit on the east coast of Central Florida.  Even including our recent Matthew that skirted the east coast but never made landfall here in our region. They’ve always hit us from the west or south west coast coming across the state.  Nevertheless, regardless of their origin, it’s a scary feeling as far as the unknown impact and severity of the rain and winds.  We’re thankful it was not worse and we feel badly for other regions like the Carolinas that were slammed with the direct hit and major flooding afterwards. 

First, the stress of preparation is always taxing with finding gas in advance, protecting property, boarding up windows, storing all outside potential flying objects, having all the essentials like coffee and beer, protecting pets, plants etc. etc. the list goes on.   At first, we thought we looked over reacting, boarding up the office windows, but as Matthew drew near, we didn’t feel so dumb.   Deciding to evacuate is always a challenge, not knowing really how severe the winds and water damage can occur.  We purchased a generator after the trifecta of Charley, Ivan and Frances hurricanes hit us in 2004.  That deed in itself helped save us from danger for 12 years until Matthew hit this week but we were ready and had kept the generator periodically cranked up and ready to rock and roll.

While in the midst of the storm, it’s scary as you stare out the available peep holes in your home to see the wind and flying objects careen by.  But the worst is the sound of the screaming winds and the sound of cracking limbs and trees falling, you hope not through your roof.  When we built our home, we made sure there were not dangerous trees within range of the home, especially the vulnerable water oaks that notoriously fall when the winds and rain take their toll on the weak roots.  We had our builder construct our two story home with concrete block on both levels to protect against major wind damage.  We also had working shutters installed that made that preparation simple. Even still you could feel the wind pressure and howl on the windows and doors. We did lose several roof shingles but nothing that can’t be easily replaced.   I kept thinking we’d have more trees down but only one that fell away from the barn, thankfully.

After the storm, oh brother, the clean-up and exhausting work of reconstructing your yard, removing boards from windows, raking the debris, hauling it off and if you don’t have power, the heat and humidity are brutal.   Living on some farm acreage we have a tractor with an attachable rake in the back to clean up the major limbs and debris.  I was so looking forward to getting on the John Deere and laughing at the mess with the easy job of tractor work.   We cranked her up and it ran a minute or two and then sputtered and puffed a big cloud of blue smoke as it expired and the engine quit.  Upon further investigation, I discovered that in my haste to fill the fuel tank before the storm, I forgot to put the cap back on and the approximate seven inches of rain poured in, contaminating the diesel fuel.  Several hours later and with the help of my long-time friend Jeff’s mechanical skills, we got the beast running again.  With the tractor, the kids and I were able to assist neighbors with their clean up and boy were they grateful!  We learned some lessons from this one and hope we don’t have an eastern shore direct hit ever!  


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