Irma; A Hurricane Saga in 3 parts

Part 1 – The Evacuation

The whole thing began late Labor Day weekend. I had been having a wonderfully productive labor day weekend, working on my latest woodworking project around the house and knocking out some long-overdue weeding. It was one of those killer weekends where I felt like I was in amazing GSD mode and was knocking items off the “to do” list.  But… being so busy I hadn’t spent much time reviewing the NHC forecasts (which I typically try and check every day or two during hurricane season just to keep an eye on them). By the time I did check them late in the day on Labor Day Monday, it looked like Hurricane Irma could be something that Mr PoP and I would need to act on.

When we went for our nightly walk a little bit later, I told Mr PoP about my concerns and he said he’d look at the forecast when we got home too. After doing that, he agreed that we should start making some plans.

We had 3 things going for us at that time:

  1. We already had flight tickets booked to leave town on Friday to visit friends and attend a family wedding in Brooklyn.
  2. Thanks to all my cabinet building we had a decent amount of plywood and materials for boarding up the house. Ironically I had thought getting rid of some of that would be added to my labor day “to do” list but it hadn’t quite made the list.
  3. On Monday evening, time was on our side-Irma wasn’t due to hit until late Saturday

So we had a game plan. Board up the house as best as possible, get on our flight on Friday morning and try to enjoy ourselves for the weekend.

On Tuesday morning I told this to my boss at work and let him know that I would probably not be working most of Thursday to make sure I took care of our house. I may have also had a mini breakdown at the office because this storm coincided with the departure of my friend at work leaving on a 6 week vacation and the start of my covering for him as the designated “IT backup and recovery” person for our little office location. So my responsibilities at the office were increasing dramatically as there was a freaking category 5 hurricane potentially headed our way.  I feel like the amount of stress I felt in that moment was appropriate and I knew already it was going to be a crazy week even with our game plan already in place at home.

As Mike Tyson says, “Everybody has a plan until we they get punched in the mouth.” Although we never really got punched in the mouth, our hurricane plans began to change almost immediately. Mr. PoP’s parents flight to the wedding in Brooklyn got canceled and Mr. PoP stayed behind to make sure that they caught a later flight out.

Reminder for future evacuations... being fed a constant supply of amazing food helps.

Reminder for future evacuations… being fed a constant supply of amazing food helps.

I flew Friday by myself – not sure if Mr PoP was going to make it out since so many flights were being canceled. The next 18 hours of being separated from Mr PoP and knowing he was still down there were awful. Luckily I was with amazing friends in Brooklyn. Lia just kept trying to feed me the most wonderful food you can imagine and George is one of the most even keeled people that I have ever met in my entire life. I would say something like, “If we still have a house after this, you guys have to visit again sometime soon to see everything we’ve done to the place since your last visit (4 years ago)”, and somehow they would just expertly deflect the conversation, letting me feel the feels but helping to keep them from dragging me down completely.

After hours on the phone with Delta Airlines, Mr PoP, Kitty PoP and his parents caught the last flight out from our town on Saturday AM and after that my emotions changed again. Once they were all safe, I REALLY didn’t care what happened to our properties or our things. At that point it was all just “stuff” that was insured, and it started becoming a strange “what if” sort of game in my head.

If we have to rebuild, do we do it on stilts and make the bottom a garage/woodshop?  

What if we don’t want to rebuild now, can we take some time to sit on that decision and travel a bit?  Maybe buy an RV?  (For some reason this RV plan kept coming up through my head all weekend although I have never been an RV proponent in my life.)  

On my way to greet Mr PoP, Kitty PoP (his first flight!), and his parents after their flight arrival, I was texting another friend and was telling him that we were all safe and that I really didn’t care about the rest. This was his text back:


I literally LOL-ed standing on the subway platform.

It was true. At that point, it was all just stuff. We were insured, and we have resources. Sure it might be inconvenient, but none of this was going to break us, and in fact might present a very interesting set of choices.

Part 2 – Schroedinger’s House

I tried not to look at the forecasts too much after that point, but let’s be real. That meant I was only looking at it 50% of the time instead of the 100% of the time that I really wanted to be looking at it. And it sucked because they kept getting worse and worse for our town. By Sunday AM (when the hurricane hit the Keys), NOAA was saying there was a 10% chance that there would be 6 feet of water above ground level pretty much across our entire neighborhood. 10% chance isn’t a guarantee of that kind of flooding, but it’s definitely in the realm of possibility. And 6ft of water isn’t nothing. When it was just 3 ft, our friend Lia very awesomely said, “Your beautiful counters will probably make it!” But at 6 ft… well, the counters probably wouldn’t make it. Nor would pretty much anything else.

The wedding on Sunday was beautiful, but making smalltalk with the the other guests was odd. It was just weird to be in celebration mode in the exact moment that a Category 4  hurricane was hitting our house a couple thousand miles away.

We were at a table with relatives from the other side of the family that we didn’t really know, and, of course, the “where do you live?” question came up.


“Oh, I hope you’re not going to be impacted by Irma”

“We are. It’s hitting our house right now.”

“… Is everything going to be okay?”

“Who knows!  We are calling our home “Shroedinger’s House” at this point. Maybe it’s still a house, and maybe it a pile of wood!”

Then there was an awkward pause and they would change the subject. All in all, I think we were in good spirits, the corny 80’s pop music was perfect, the wedding was beautiful and we were so happy for the bride and groom.

But by Monday morning, it became clear that the surge and flooding hadn’t materialized for our neighborhood. We still didn’t have word on any wind damage, but at least the flooding hadn’t happened.  We had partial relief.

IMG_7877By Monday afternoon, a few pics came in from neighbors from the street along with word that no one on the street had experienced “major” damage. But our house wasn’t in any of the 3 snapshots we saw, and what the heck does “major” consist of anyway…?!?  Especially when we could definitely see trees downed all over the street and based on the way they fell, our giant tree (50 ft tall and wide live oak tree) would have likely fallen onto the house.

When we saw our neighborhood gas station in a national news outlet without a roof over the pumps, was that “major” damage?  Or just “some” damage?   After all, the main building was still standing and looked ok.

I was starting to feel better, but not 100%. But by a few hours after that we got word from Mr PoP’s brother who had stayed down there on the damage to our house.  His first glance is that we lost 1 (of 28) solar panels (and probably have some roof damage where it was pulled off) and also lost a post from the screened pool cage, but otherwise he couldn’t see any damage.  Fabulous news – and a credit to Mr PoP for boarding the house up so well.

Then word came in from one of our renters that evacuated. Looks like a leak – which we will see if we can get covered under warranty since that roof is only ~2 years old. A tree also toppled in the front and is laying across one of the driveways – this tree might have roots extending to the leach field for the septic so we will take a look and make sure the leach field doesn’t need any repairs too. Their whole street also looks like a lake, as well, but the water never made it anywhere close to the house.

So 2 properties, still habitable.  A-freaking-mazing.  

Part 3 – You Can’t Go Home Again

At least not as quickly as we’d like.

1 week (168 hours) after Mr PoP and I talked about the hurricane on our nightly walk, we sat in our friends’ living room – with a tentative plan in place to get back.  It seemed like this was going to be at least a little messy, but way better than it could have been.

We started the journey back Wednesday AM with a flight to Atlanta.  There, we had a reservation for an SUV (and plan to drive around gathering what supplies we could find here – we scored a generator that had literally just been returned at Home Depot and the last small window AC unit!).

The power is still out on our street, and on Wednesday the roads from Atlanta to all points in South Florida were packed with cars with gas still a bit scarce even in the northern parts of the state.  Those factors, combined with the possibility that I-75, the main artery from Atlanta into FL, was potentially going to get closed due to the Santa Fe River flooding meant we stayed here in Atlanta for a night.  Luckily, that meant more wonderful food with friends – and a Pub Trivia Night!  It was way more fun than racing a potentially flooding river when gas is still such a precious resource.

The roads are clear now, and they’re saying the risk of flooding closing the bridge has passed, so by the time you read this post we should be almost home.  Fingers crossed we get power back sooner than later – right now the estimate for us is 9/22 (that’s still a week out for those keeping track at home!), though others that have been told the same have power back already so we’re really hopeful.

The goal is to get the house cleaned up this weekend (it’s a mess inside from all the crazy packing), and then start getting back to regular life and our J-O-B-S on Monday.

We will probably write more about this later – but if you don’t hear from us for a little bit, we are safe and probably busy as hell cleaning up and might not have power or internet access for a bit.

So hugs to everyone – and we hope everyone else came through safe and sound with possessions relatively unscathed as well.



20 comments to Irma; A Hurricane Saga in 3 parts

  • Jacq

    I am glad you are all ok. I’m glad kitty pop was with you, which was one less worry. I’m glad you were able to keep perspective that it is stuff, and you’ll get there. Best wishes for the clean up, even if it’s just from packing.

    • Thanks Jacq! There’s definitely some clean up and we’ll write more about it all later, but it’s so good to be home and slowly getting back to normal.

  • I hope all is well when you guys return. We didn’t have power up here until yesterday. Things are slowly getting back to normal, but let me know if you guys could use an extra set of hands this weekend. Happy to pitch in.
    Income Surfer recently posted..Houses, Hurricanes, and Bull*hitMy Profile

    • Thanks so much for the offers, Bryan! We have a handle on most of the repairs – though it’ll probably take us a couple more weekends to get through them.

  • I’m so happy you guys are ok! Even better you have minimal damage to clean up from. I can’t imagine the worry and anxiety you felt during the weekend.
    Gwen @ Fiery Millennials recently posted..Book Review: OverlapMy Profile

  • Sounds like you dodged a bullet, hopefully that’s what you find when you get back. Thanks for sharing.
    Money Beagle recently posted..Random Roundup – September 15, 2017My Profile

    • The seemingly random hits that the storm left – the pool cage across the lake from ours that is completely collapsed, the friends and coworkers who live further inland and in newer houses who experienced flooding and losing their roofs while we sustained no such damage. It’s hard not to feel lucky.

  • I have to say, when I saw the hurricane change course to your area, I knew I didn’t have to worry for your safety… but I was really afraid for your cabinets! It sounds silly, but all I could think about was how much work they were and how upset I’d be if something I built got turned to scrap. Every time that radar came up on the news, or they showed the winds, I thought “Oh no, the cabinets…” I’d imagine your roof getting ripped off and the cabinets being selectively plucked out. Now it looks like everything will be ok, but annoying to deal with. Good luck!
    Norm recently posted..How To Camp Successfully: Your Tips and Supplies GuideMy Profile

    • haha! Mr PoP and I were pretty sure as long as the walls were still standing the cabinets would be there. They are pretty freaking securely fastened and we have joked that we could climb inside them to ride out tornados.

      My worry, though, was the woodworking project I was working on all through August that I haven’t shared here yet – it’s going to be a couch! I couldn’t figure out how to get it high off the ground since the pieces were so bulky, so I just went ahead and stacked boxes of books on it in the hopes that at least the books might weigh it down if winds ripped through the house. =)

  • Glad you both are okay and your house + rental are mostly intact!

  • Glad you made it through safely!

    One of my other blog reads was hit by flooding from Hurricane Harvey. Thankfully, their family and pup are all safe. But their house is a total loss. Her blog is not a financial blog so . . . they’re not quite as well positioned as you for this loss. Hopeful that our government can help with funding for those who are affected and struggling to rebuild.
    Leah recently posted..TimeMy Profile

    • Oh that’s terrible. And I feel so bad for Puerto Ricans getting hit again today by Maria. There are going to be a lot of people working hard to rebuild – but the good news is that if you have any kind of trade skills, your skills are in ridiculously high demand right now!

  • Similar to Norm, I was fretting for your cabinets. And who am I kidding, the NSX too. In my mind’s eye, I had a vision of Mr. PoP speeding away from the hurricane in the NSX with Kitty PoP in the passenger seat.

    In any case, it’s wonderful to hear that you made it through with minimal damage.

  • The NSX was actually up on jack stands in the garage that Mr PoP reinforced with 2×2 boards to keep the wind out. We figured the extra 22″ of height couldn’t hurt if we had any flooding!

  • […] friends, the Penny Planters, had a not-so-fun adventure courtesy of Hurricane Irma. I was concerned about their cabinets and NSX. Both survived. […]

  • […] friends, the Penny Planters, had a not-so-fun adventure courtesy of Hurricane Irma. I was concerned about their cabinets and NSX. Both survived. […]