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Sunday, September 5, 2004

From the Eye of Hurricane Frances 4

This is the fourth installment of my friend's story. If you've missed the first one, you can find it here. For the second one, go here and for the third one, go here.

FROM THE EYE OF HURRICANE FRANCES

Thursday (September 2, 2004)

Evacuation day.

My husband and I had a down-to-the hour plan. He had been up until 3a m, watching the news, and preparing what he could. When he came to bed, he accidentally woke me up. I couldnít get back to sleep, so I decided to get up and continue sorting out the office. He got up at about 8 am, and we went over the plan. Heíd go to work until about noon, checking in to the DoubleTree Hotel on the way to the office; then heíd come back here, load up the car, and do trips between our house and the hotel until everything was where it was supposed to be, or we were out of time, and then Iíd join him on the last trip, after turning off the water and power to our home.

It happened pretty much like this. I basically got the important documents packed up just in time for him to take them to his office. While he was there, I put every electronic item we have into a plastic garbage bag, tied it up tight, and put it into our guest bedroom on the second floor. The fax machine. The food processor. This made me realize what items I value. My husband and I like to cook, so every kitchen appliance is important to us. His favorite is the food processor, so I let him pack that and put it somewhere safe (I didnít want him grumbling at me later if it turned out to be put somewhere where it didnít make it). My favorite is the juicer. I got the bright idea that if the dishwasher can seal water in, when it runs normally, then it can also seal water out, in case our house floods. I put the juicer in there as well as the formal tea set that my mother gave me for our wedding. Iíd considered putting that into a bathtub full of water, but the dishwasher seemed like a better bet.

A lot of items went into the guest closet, which is accessed through the guest bathroom (on the second floor). The closet seemed like the safest place for items if the place floods, and if the roof gets ripped off. Some more items went into the bathtub. I then decided that our own bedroom closet was safe too, so some more items went in there. All in all, this whole process is weird. Itís like moving with no moving men. Normally, when Iím running around the house, itís to clean the place before guests come over. This time I was running around going through the whole place, but not caring whether things are left messy or not. Something deep in my psyche would say, ďAfter putting the shredder away, vacuum up the loose shreddings,Ē but all things considered, vacuuming up shreddings was way down on my list of things to do. All in all, we left the house looking virtually empty on the first floor. The second floor was neat. There were a couple of dishes left in the sink that I couldnít bother with. I was pretty pleased with myself that Iíd managed to do all of the laundry and run the dishwasher that morning and the day before. Now the only question that remained was: Was I putting things in garbage bags to successfully protect them from Hurricane Frances, or was I putting things in garbage bags because we were all doomed to die and having everything bagged up would make it easy for the garbage men to come and clear away our stuff after weíre gone?

We drove out of our home, took one last look, and started our evacuation. Being the kind of people we are, we opted to drive to hotel via the beach road by our house. It was eerily empty. Even creepier, there were news trucks on our street, so that reporters could do live reports by satellite from our neighborhood. So far, Iíd already seen a story on a guy on the next street. His house is all glass and facing the ocean. Itís a gorgeous house - one that I always slow down a little to look at, hoping thereíll be a Ďfor saleí sign out front. There never is. Today, though, the owner was busy nailing plywood over his windows. This was surprising to me, as I thought a house like his would definitely be fitted for storm shutters. My guess is that if it survives the storm, it probably will be fitted very soon. Anyhow, the guy seemed nice, so after this is all over, Iíll probably drop over there to say Ďhií, and that Iím glad his house is OK. The news people were trying to make the story sound like those of us who choose to live by the ocean are a pack of bozos, but frankly, all things considered, I still think itís worth the risk. To be able to wake up and wander over to the beach, just to spend a few minutes, itís great. Where we are, thereís the Gulf Stream, which makes it a wonderful temperature for swimming. Unfortunately, it also makes it a favorable temperature for hurricane strength. All implications were that when the storm hits the Gulf Stream, it would gain force.

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