There just aren't words to describe how VERY Grateful I am today! (My eighth grade english teacher said to never use the word "very" when writing. This time it's necessary.)
Hurricane Irma was slated to be the biggest in Florida's history. Visuals showed Andrew (which decimated Homestead, FL 25 years ago) easily fitting within Irma.
The storm bands for this hurricane were 500 miles across. That wasn't hype, that was fact. The peninsula of Florida is only about 150 miles across and 350 miles long. Irma was clearly predicted to swallow us.
Allow me to give you a few interesting facts I Lived this week:
- Hurricane wind speeds are measured by incredibly brave people who literally fly a plane into the eye (calm center) of storms. No! I do not want that job.
- Category 5 hurricanes have sustained winds over 157 mph For three days (prior to landfall) Irma maintained a category 5 status, with winds often reaching 185 mph.
- Our governor started urging people in flood prone areas to evacuate early last week. 6.3 million people heeded his warning making it potentially the largest evacuation in history and clogging our two major interstate highways heading north for days.
- Everyone was grateful to learn that Irma's winds speeds dropped when making landfall - only 135 mph. (Everything is relative.)
- On Monday morning it was reported that approximately 5.8 million people in Florida had no power. Many were also without water, including John, Joy and their four little ones.
All those facts would be just that, facts about nameless, faceless people you don't know. Except we were right in the middle of it all and we became the "nameless, faceless" people you DO know through this blog. Thank you for praying!
I want to tell you about the personal stories from our experience in the next post. But for today let me skip ahead and say, everyone is safe. All our houses made it with minimal damage. Between us our family will need to replace:
- a roof
- several fences
- a few trees
- a couple of appliances
- lots of refrigerated/frozen food items
One of the sad losses for Frank and me was the little playground we'd worked so hard to buy and build for our grandbabies. The sturdy wooden beams were literally torn to pieces and the seven foot high tower was thrown onto its side landing some ten feet from where it had been built.
But roofs and playgrounds and appliances can all be replaced.
I spent most of Wednesday and Thursday calling to speak directly with as many of our church members as I could reach. We served as a connector for those offering help and those needing it. A few just wanted to know we were still praying for them. Some needed a listening ear. Others quietly wept as they told their own harrowing stories about the unwelcome visitor, Irma.
Our extended church family includes first responders and power workers who are the heroes of every hurricane story. One senior member was the victim of looting and one new baby was born this week. We have many who are still without power.
We've shared generators, gasoline, spare bedrooms, ice, meals, showers, washers/dryers and air conditioning with anyone who wanted to come by. Our bible study Wednesday night was unusually somber; a time of hugging one another and expressing gratitude to God.
I'll leave you with a powerful report from one of our local stations.
(One more fact helps explain the story: hurricanes feed on warm, open waters; it's their fuel so to speak. The Gulf of Mexico readily supplies this fuel to any storm that makes it across the outer islands.....Bahamas, Cuba, Keys)
But on Sunday night just as this monster storm turned to make landfall as a category 5 hurricane, a mysterious dry wind started blowing from the west. This dry wind successfully broke into the lower part of Irma's swirling and began to breech the concentrated, well-formed eye. Within a very short time, Irma started losing power and came on the mainland as a category 2 instead of a 5.
ABC weather meteorologist Denis Phillips reported, "There is no way to explain how this storm has diminished so quickly, except that a lot of prayers have gone up. Twenty-four hours ago we were looking at the worst storm in history. Now it's lessening and the eye has collapsed. We are in a much better position."
Even the winds and waves obey HIS voice!
Don't get me wrong, we're totally aware of the devastation to the south of us. Some of the islands report 95% devastation of homes and businesses. We are heartbroken by the 23 deaths reported so far. And we're well aware that the recovery efforts for Hurricane Harvey in Texas and for this storm will go on for many months.
But I don't want to miss an opportunity to express my gratitude before I start helping others pick up the pieces. I also want to thank each of you who called, texted, emailed and messaged us with words of encouragement, letting us know you were praying too.
Be sure to stop by next week. The story will get more personal as I tell how it felt to sit and watch 100 mph wind gusts blow rain in through the center of our glass doors at church, wondering if they would hold.......