Where do you go in Florida when a hurricane is about to hit? Many will say evacuate. But where if you’re not rich and can take a short vacation to Jackson Hole? Of course it is best to leave very early and go far north to New York or Chicago. My Aunt Justine did last week when she left the state – smart woman.
My first thoughts when I woke up this morning were for friends riding out the storm. My elderly neighbors in my condominium stood in my head, along with Merlin Law Group attorney Ed Eshoo and his wife Libby. So was a crazy storm that chased meteorologist Derik Kline.
Leon Mezrah is the president of my 14 member Garrison Cove Condominium Association. Over the weekend I argued with him about staying in Rhode Island with friends and not coming to Tampa. He felt bound by duty and better if he were to return. Misery loves company, so he brought his wife, Diane.
I could feel the panic and fear with Diane yesterday. I reassured her that the storm was passing south and east of us and that we are on the safe side of the storm. I explained how the building will shake later today and how the strong gusts will come and then go. I also told them they are welcome and should come up to our unit if they felt unsafe as I have an electric generator and a satellite phone if worse comes to worse. My unit is 100 feet above water, and no storm surge will get us.
Ed and Libby Eshoo are from Chicago. There is no better and more experienced property insurance attorney in Chicago than Ed Eshoo. In an age of legal ad counterfeiters on the Internet, colleagues recognize Ed Eshoo as a challenger, not a pretender.
Ed and Libby bought a second home in Clearwater Beach to escape the harsh Chicago winters and watch great football in Tampa. After Sunday’s game in Tampa, they planned to evacuate to Chicago. Unfortunately, their flight was cancelled. Living on Clearwater Beach is not where you want to be during a hurricane because storm surge is a real danger. So where were they evacuated to?
Estero is a small town south of Ft. Myers. If Hurricane Ian were to stick to its original course and hit Tampa, Estero would be a safe place to go. Ed Eshoo must be a hurricane magnet. As he traveled south to stay with relatives in Estero, Hurricane Ian continued its path south and tracked Ed. As I write this, I feel for Ed and Libby as they are east of the eyewall and will experience much stronger winds than those of us in the Tampa Bay region. The lesson is that in Florida, just because you evacuate doesn’t mean the place you went to is better than the place you came from. Still, they did the right thing to get off the beach and away from the threat of storm surge.
Some of us do some really crazy things for a living. I have written about Derik Kline in What is it like to be in the eyewall of a hurricane? The photo above is of some friends in front of Derik’s storm track car. Derik and his crew left Tampa at 4 this morning and are somewhere around Port Charlotte hoping to be in the middle of the eyewall.
Storm surge is the leading cause of death from hurricanes. It’s not a joking matter. I wrote about an example of dear friends and customers in Pay!:
Ray and Ann Stieffel decided to ride out that storm. They, and many of their neighbors, remembered when the stormwater stopped during Hurricane Camille. The Stiffels assessed their safety based on what they believed to be the ultimate hurricane. These memories proved fatal to many others, and the Stieffel family was lucky to escape.
In the Stieffel home, the water continued to rise and enter the house. Ray and Ann moved up into the attic. As the water began to fill the attic, they were trapped. With nowhere to go, they made their way through the attic and out of the house. The water was up to the roof. They held on to tree branches to keep from being washed away, bobbing up and down in the floodwaters until the storm surge receded. By the time they could stand without being swept away, the water had washed the clothes off their backs and their houses had been washed away. They had to go into their neighbors’ homes to look for clothes. They were lucky to be alive, but their lives were the only thing that had been spared. Everything they owned was gone.
Coming back from this kind of loss is not easy. Ann and Ray were still working, even though they were past retirement age. Losing your home and everything else always takes a toll. A home is your castle, and at that age it can be daunting if not impossible to start over.
I appreciate all the kind words, prayers and thoughts from so many as we go through this. Riding out Hurricane Ian will be much easier for me than for some others who are truly in danger, and for those who are first responders ready to help in the aftermath.
It’s a very sobering feeling to be up in space and realize that your safety factor was determined by the lowest bidder on a government contract.
– Alan Shepard