Submitted March 9, 2009

Florida Hurricane Urban Survival Stories

I really like your website! I think it can help us all cope with this 2nd Great Depression we are entering.

Living in South Florida, I have to be prepared for hurricanes, tornadoes, and Winter/Spring droughts. Living in the Keys makes us additionally vulnerable because we are so isolated, surrounded by saltwater and connected to the mainland only by one highway (US-1) and one pipeline for freshwater.

We stay through categories 1 & 2 hurricanes, but we knew Hurricane Andrew was going to be a bad one, so we evacuated to my husband's sister's house near Orlando. When we returned after it was over, I cried when I got on the turnpike to Miami and saw 20 miles of war-zone- like devastation from Cutler Ridge through Florida City. Homestead and Florida City were hit the hardest. (Ironically, we had intended to ride out the hurricane there, but couldn't find a motel to accept our pets! I guess God knew what he was doing when he turned us away from the inn.) Trailer parks were completely wiped off the face of the Earth. People there told me of witnessing dead bodies being loaded up in refrigerated Burger King trucks.

Although hurricane force wind, rain, or hale had sandblasted the reflective green highway signs clean, and there was small debris scattered across it, for the most part the Turnpike and US-1 were passable, thanks to two gentlemen friends of mine, I found out later, who liberated a front-loader from the Public Works Dept. on Plantation Key and cleared the path for the Highway Patrol and emergency vehicles. We drove home, noting the demarcation line halfway down the Stretch where the trees ceased being knocked over.

We found our stilt house to be fine, just a flooded yard & dock. We were without electricity for only a week or two, and then we were allowed to use our washers, but not dryers. Miraculously, the pipeline held up, so we had water in about 3 days. We had stockpiled big jugs of drinking water before we left, and we also brought some down with us, because one must always do that, just in case. I have a gas stove, so cooking was easy. After a hurricane, Floridians get together with their neighbors and bbq. the steaks, etc. in their freezers, and/or take food to their churches for town meals. My husband strung clothesline on the deck, and I hung up the laundry. It wasn't as much work as I thought it would be, and the clothes smelled like sunshine. We didn't miss TV much, because we played cards and board games in our spare time, and we went to bed early. I am a ham radio operator, so I helped run the emergency net with other hams at the ham shack in the Red Cross building, conveniently across the street from me. All in all, the experience wasn't too bad, and kind of an exciting adventure. This time, we Keys people were the fortunate ones.

Gail from Florida

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