I drove into Pensacola and the downtown flooding has receded, except for a very large puddle that had the road closed under the 17th Avenue train trestle (a.k.a. Graffiti Bridge). I also ran into some family friends in the grocery store. They live on the water and said they were “shoveling out again.” Though the storm wasn’t too bad here, particularly in light of the horrible pictures out of Louisiana and Mississippi, for many in the Pensacola area, it was a dash of salt in a not-quite-healed wound.
My power is back, so I can stop whining and stop eating ice cream. This concludes my 7th hurricane in 26 years as a Floridian. Fittingly, I am moving out of state in 4 days - to Chicago. They don’t make cones of uncertainty for snow storms, do they?
We’ve been without power for 26 hours now. Part of Gulf Breeze (just south of Pensacola) got it back early this morning, however, so I’m able seek refuge from the heat, humidity and lack of internet connection at another house. The bridges are reopened too, so I can finally leave the isolation of this peninsula.
Thankfully, damage is not bad here, but I’ve seen some of the same pictures everyone else has, so I know that downtown Pensacola flooded.
A few thoughts on powerlessness:
- Don’t you hate it when the power’s out, but you still flip the light switch every time you walk in or out of a room and you instantly feel both foolish and disappointed, as if there was a brief moment of hope that the lights might actually work?
- I made a grand sacrifice and finished the ice cream in the freezer before it melted and went to waste. Someone had to do it.
- Generators frighten cats.
- I’m going stir crazy.
The wind is a little stronger now and waterfront portions of Gulf Breeze are flooded, but they’re used to that by now. I went to drive around, but I can’t go anywhere but Gulf Breeze because the bridges are closed. I noticed that I was the only one on the road not driving a truck or SUV, but then this is suburbia and everyone drives SUV’s. The roads weren’t hazardous except for one limb across one road that forced me to turn around.
I heard on the radio that there are power outages around the area, but our power stays on except for a few brief cut-outs.
The wind is making a fair amount of noise here near Pensacola, but when I went outside it didn’t feel as strong as it sounded. One big gust pushed me back a step, but mostly it’s just sending the trees dancing. There’s not much rain, either.
I’ll get out to other parts of the area later, but this neighborhood (which made it through Ivan and Dennis pretty well) will probably just be raking up pine needles and branches and not much more.
Winds are picking up here. One long gust caused the lights to dim a little, but the power didn’t go out. Small limbs and branches that were knocked loose last month by Dennis but didn’t fall are now coming down. It’s been awhile since I went through a storm in a house with a chimney, and I’m noticing the sound - like a larger version of blowing air across the top of a bottle; a deep whistle.
With a promise of tropical storm force winds here, it’s hard to know what to expect. Obviously, we won’t see close to what people in Louisiana are facing, but some tropical storms can be pretty damaging while others pass by with less impact than the average afternoon thunderstorm.
Pensacola has opened up several shelters, including the Pensacola Civic Center. The shelters are less for locals than for those who have evacuated more threatened areas and gotten stranded here.
The was a time when I thought hurricanes were fun. Of course, there was also a time when I thought New Kids On The Block and Boyz II Men were cool. Those days are over.
Hurricanes are like snow days for Florida kids: School is cancelled and we stay home watching weather reports. Unless there’s a direct hit and you have to spend the next days, weeks or months cleaning up the yard, hurricanes were exciting as a kid. All together, I remember or guess (because I was too young to remember) that I have been in 6 hurricanes and a handful of tropical storms or depressions.
My friend Tristan, whose father was in the Navy and who lived in Key West, Homestead and now Pensacola, puts her hurricane count at 10 plus about 8 tropical storms. She survived Andrew in Homestead and Ivan here. Needless to say, hurricanes are not fun for her. After last year, they’re not fun for me either.
So I’m wondering what other people’s hurricane scores are. How many storms have you weathered?
As Katrina grows in strength, residents here grow more concerned. Though the storm’s track is consistent with each update - aimed right at New Orleans - Katrina’s size promises Pensacola some strong wind and rain. We are under a tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch. It’s started raining and the water is rising. Navarre Beach is under a mandatory evacuation and officials are urging Pensacola Beach residents to leave, too.
I took the requisite pre-storm trip to Wal-Mart with my sister today. The lines are back at the gas stations and the store was quite crowded—except for the frozen food aisle, which was deserted. When the power goes out, everything in the freezer has to be eaten or tossed, so why bother with that?
I heard on CNN the other day that the most sold item at Wal-Mart in the days before a hurricane is beer. I would have guessed water. Silly me.
I took a drive around Pensacola Beach this afternoon. There were plenty of families at Quietwater Beach, a parasailer in the air, and people fishing in Santa Rosa Sound. There were a few boarded-up windows, but far more “Open” signs on businesses.
I spotted a few people filling sandbags at the South Santa Rosa County Recreation Center in Gulf Breeze. Katrina’s aim toward Louisiana seems to have people watching, but no longer too worried.
The biggest concern yesterday was gas, but what I’ve seen here is just the low octane gasoline sold out. There were lines at the stations yesterday. One woman I spoke to said she happily got into what looked like a short line only to see the first person in the line finish filling his vehicle and take out several (she said 12) large gas cans. So much for the short wait.
After last year’s storms, I tacked to my desk at work this picture of the state of Florida fully covered by a hurricane with an arrow and the words “We Are Here.”
Last night, I saw that Allen Strum (Pensacola’s non-blonde answer to meteorologist Steve Jerve) had put a magnet graphic on his weather map, right over the Panhandle. Yeah, that’s pretty accurate.
Currently, I am here: Gulf Breeze, a little town on a barrier peninsula, sandwiched between Pensacola and Pensacola Beach (or what’s left of it).
Just for some perspective on where I’m coming from with this blog, I should tell that I grew up here and my family lives here. While I was in Tampa, my family and several friends battled Ivan, Dennis and a couple tropical storms. (When I was home for the 4th of July, we were still fishing shingles out of the bottom of my parents’ pool and their house is not yet fully repaired from Ivan’s damage. And compared to many here, they did pretty well.)
So, in short, the Panhandle is over it. Over the storms, over the plywood, over the gas station lines, over the work trucks and the piles of debris. Over it.
Katrina’s current track is pointing toward New Orleans. From a journalist’s standpoint, I probably shouldn’t express a preference for where Katrina makes landfall, especially given New Orleans’ vulnerable position below sea level, but from the perspective of a daughter/sister/aunt/friend and that of a former resident, I’m willing Katrina West.
Michele Jones blogs on Hurricane Katrina.