Hurricane Charley - A Personal View
Page 1 of 2
In preparation for Charley, Florida's governor Jeb Bush requested that all roads be cleared by 2p. Area officials suggested that those in trailers or low-lying areas move to one of the area shelters. Doobie and I live less than 10 miles from Epcot but being further east I suspect the winds experienced in our town of Celebration were more ferocious. The first strong band of Hurricane Charley's storms arrived in Central Florida around 4p and then it got really, really quiet, Doobie and I wondered if we'd made the right decision to remain in our apartment. Being just the two of us, and not ever having experienced such a thing before we were quite nervous. We knew the center of the storm wouldn't arrive until 7ish so we needed to make a decision, stay or go.
So we went downstairs and sought the advice of one of our apartment complex's maintenance man. After explaining that we were new, he shared his experiences surviving hurricanes in Puerto Rico. He assured us that as long we headed to the interior room as it got here, we'd be fine and that he was staying so we could head back to him if need be. We had done everything on the little hurricane checklist I had. I wrapped towels and placed them around our patio doors. I'm glad I did as they were soaking wet the next morning.
We never lost power so we were able to watch the weather reports that were utilizing Doppler technology to show us the storm's path. Around 7:30p we knew the eye was about 30 minutes away and some tornado warnings for our area were announced. A funnel cloud was spotted out by Lake Kissimmee which is in our county but about 20 minutes away but that was close enough for me. We decided that we might as well head to the interior room. So there we sat in the bathroom. We had pillows, blankets, some food, water, battery-operated radio, flashlights, TV and computer with internet. Yup, we never lost power or internet. As the storm approached we ventured out of the bathroom just a bit. I was simply too curious and too ignorant to realize just how dangerous things were. Our apartment in Huntington Beach reacted more violently to Santa Anas than what we were experiencing. The tree outside our bedroom was really swaying. I decided to grab the camcorder and shot about 2 minutes of video. Not wanting to tempt fate, I let that be enough.
Here's a link to the brief video I shot. It's about 8 MB. Some of it is quite dark and hard to make out but you can see the driving rains on the roofs of the houses on the other side of the street and the tree just outside our window swaying rather violently. Most of the noise you hear is the rain hitting the window sideways but sometimes its the window blinds shifting with my camera. I have the nightvision on for a brief bit by the rain splattering on the window created too much glare. About 45 seconds into this video, a large splash of water hits the window and I head back to the interior room. There are reports that at the height of the storm area 911 received 600 calls per minute.
We stayed in the interior room until about 9:30p when the storm was out past downtown Orlando about 40 minutes north. My family who live about 10 miles east of us suffered no significant structural damage to their new condo but they did lose power until Saturday afternoon. They headed into their interior safe place after the large living room bay-style window began to bow in and out like the doors of the Haunted Mansion. I believe that the decorative paning of the window held it together. They lost power the moment the storm hit. Jonathan, my youngest brother (14 yr old) declared to my dad, "it's here" and boom, the lights went out.
It is amazing me to how well buildings are constructed. The winds at times reached over 100 mph and yet most of the damage shown throughout Central Florida are trees, power lines, and large signs. Outside of the trailers and manufactured homes, I haven't seen signs of homes that were simply blown away.
I'm thankful for the warnings that we were given, the opportunity to prepare for the storm and the safety of my home. My prayers are with the families who continue to suffer without power, have lost jobs or loved ones. I'm hopeful that this will be the worst hurricane Doobie and I ever see here in Central Florida. The news reports seem to reflect that this storm is one for the ages, so Mother Nature decided to toss it to us hard right off the bat.