Editor's Note: This article is about my experience waiting for Hurricane Irma to arrive in 2017.
For weeks we've been following the devastating news out of Texas, and now all of a sudden here in Florida, we are the news.
As I write this on Saturday morning September 9, Irma is expected to make landfall as a Category 3 or 4 hurricane near the Fort Myers area in southwest Florida.
It's been a crazy and stressful week.
With 38 years of living in Florida under my belt, my preparations began early with a trip to Publix on Tuesday morning:
Irma was already making news on it's path to the Caribbean, but still lots of people here were not taking it seriously yet.
People were looking at my cart full of water above and thinking I was nuts.
But by later that day and even more so on Wednesday, my efforts were vindicated and people were going absolutely bananas looking for water, gas, plywood and other hurricane essentials.
I've since stocked up with even more water, wine, rum, Tito's, and enough food to feed an army.
As recent as Thursday morning, Irma was expected to come up the east coast of Florida where I live.
Check out this image of the projected path from Thursday at 11am:
Longtime readers know that I live in an oceanfront condo in Daytona Beach Shores, (here's what I like and don't like about condo living) and based on the track above we decided that we would go inland to the Orlando area for the hurricane like we did for Hurricane Matthew last year.
But, just to show you how quickly things can change, less than 24 hours later, the track had shifted west, taking Irma up the spine of the state, making our plans to travel inland a wasted effort:
So, with traffic a mess heading north out of the state…it took my wife's sister and her husband 15 hours to get from here to Atlanta on Wednesday, normally a 6 hour trip…we've decided to hunker down here.
On Thursday the county issued a “voluntary” evacuation for the beachside but by Friday they had changed that to a “mandatory” evacuation.
There's really not much difference between the two…a lot of people still stay put under a mandatory evacuation, but local officials make it clear that you are pretty much on your own.
If there's a problem, they're not coming to help you until after the storm passes.
Here's a message from our public safety department:
About half the people in our building stay for all of the hurricanes. Built in 2003, the windows and sliders are supposedly rated to withstand 150 mph winds.
On top of that, we have actual hurricane shutters on our unit…we are 1 of 5 or 6 of the 59 units in the building that have them…and those are said to be rated to withstand up to 200 mph winds, so we feel pretty secure.
That said, the rattling and humming sound that the aluminum balcony railings make when the wind kicks up can be harrowing.
It will be loud no doubt but we feel pretty secure.
Everyone staying got together yesterday for a meeting in order to take down the names and numbers of everyone who would be here for the duration so we can keep in touch and help each other out as needed.
Another bonus is that the police chief lives in our building and we are on the same power grid as the police station which is about a three minute walk away.
Residents who have been here from the very beginning say that the building has never been without power for more than a few minutes since 2003, so knock on wood we can keep that streak alive this go around.
Since making the decision to stay here, the track has shifted even further west:
While that looks great for us here on the east coast, with a storm that's 400 miles wide, we're still going to feel it pretty good. Plus, as we've seen the last 48 hours, things can shift pretty quickly.
I still have a few minor things to do around here today to prepare before Irma arrives.
Outside, I still need to bring my patio furniture in. I also stuff towels into the dryer vent and bathroom exhaust fan vents on my balcony to keep the water out. There's nothing in the way of the windblown rain we'll be getting coming in off the ocean, so we do whatever we can to keep the water out of the building.
With the windblown rain, it's also possible to get water into the tracks of the sliding glass doors. Yes, even with the shutters down, though much less so.
To mitigate this, we lay plastic trash bags in the slider tracks and then put towels or water eaters on top. Last year with Matthew we only had one towel that was slightly damp after the storm passed.
I'll report back after the storm has passed and let you know how it went.
Depending on how things are going, I might share some updates during the hurricane on our Facebook page, so you're invited to follow along there.
See you on the flip side!