No Direction Home

This humble blog was started to document our travels around the country during the summer of 2006, We have opted to continue updating it due to the requests from family & friends. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Evacuation



September 22, 2017









Evacuation

With Hurricane Irma impacting our home and forced to be away for an unexpected amount of time in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, we decided to try and make the most of the family time and made sort of a mini-vacation out of our evacuation. It was much easier after we had received word that our home and most of Key West was safe. It also helped take our minds off of what I call Hurricane Fatigue. 







The fatigue comes from the constant watching of the news and weather channels which always focus on the worst aspects of any storm and we had already literally been watching it for a week before we ever even left the island. You get glued to the TV and end up rushing inside for the official storm updates that are released by the National Hurricane Center every six hours as the storm approaches.
Watching the storm from the time it rolled off Africa to the time it exploded into a Category 5 monster in a single day then set records by remaining at that strength for days as it rolled through the Caribbean.







 It was all pretty harrowing and we had been subjected to it for days on end. So once the storm had passed the Keys, we opted to take advantage of the beautiful early Fall weather in North Carolina and do some exploring.





 



While my sister Marika and her husband Brian have a beautiful condo in the city, their main home is located in Stokes County, which is about a 40 minute drive into the country from downtown Winston-Salem. Kathy and I ventured out there a couple of times during our stay for a nice visit and a couple of swims in their pool since the weather was still beautiful and warm enough to permit it. It was so relaxing and helped certainly take my mind off what was happening at home.







Of course no visit to Stokes County would be complete with-out a stop at Priddy’s Country Store, which is just as described an old-time throwback country store that probably has not changed much in 100 years. They still make bologna and cheese sandwiches (on white bread) to order and sell just about any kind of crazy nick-nak or food item that the average country dweller would need, and they are so nice to visit with as well. 









As luck would have it, the annual Stokes County Fair was happening while we there and loving a fair, we of course had to attend. It was small as to be expected, and quaint, but it had all you could need from a fair including animal competitions from the young farm kids in attendance, a nice Midway with a plethora of rides and games, local civic organizations set promoting their causes, delightful fair food and of course the ever popular pig races.



 



We enjoyed a wonderful Friday night at the fair and enjoyed it so much. Even my favorite pig came home a winner in the pig races, Dale Oinkhart. Watching the people was almost as much fun as anything else at the fair as many dressed up in their finest country attire to be there. There was a great bluegrass band that we enjoyed and we had too much food as is often the case at fairs. We ate so well during our evacuation that Kathy joked that she had gained the “Irma 20” while we were there.



 



That wasn’t the only festival we attended, we also went to the annual Apple Festival at Historic Bethabara Park in Winston. It was a true Fall festival and was jam packed with families enjoying the perfect weather and incredible food and fun that was there. Apples were the theme and we ate apple ice cream, apple pie, apple cider and more. They even had more pig racing at the apple festival with an entirely different pig racing outfit who also raced, ducks, goats and more. 





Wednesday, October 04, 2017

IRMA



September 15, 2017



 

*photo by Rob O'Neal

IRMA

 



We love living in Key West, there are just so many positive aspects to living on America’s Southernmost Point, chief among these is the incredible tropical weather that we experience pretty much year round. It really is a tropical paradise most of the time, except of course on those rare occasi0ons when we get the worst the tropics has to offer and a powerful hurricane threatens.



 



We have been very fortunate over the last decade or so, with very few storms that really had much impact at all and we had not evacuated since the horrible year of 2005 when four hurricanes impacted Key West, Dennis, Katrina, Rita and worst of all Wilma. Wilma caused much of the island to flood, including our house which experienced about three feet of water throughout the house.



 

Shelter of last resort at KWHS gym.

This year had already proven to be another especially destructive year with Hurricane Harvey hitting Houston causing the worst Hurricane disaster in the USA since New Orleans was hit by Katrina in 2005. Massive flooding and incredible scenes of destruction were fresh in our minds as Hurricane Irma rolled off of Africa and made its way across the Caribbean with the state of Florida directly in its crosshairs. 





As the storm exploded into the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Atlantic basin and became a massive Category 5 storm, we spent much of the week prior preparing. Having not gotten the house ready in years, we were a little out of practice and had to cut some new plywood to cover the windows and move as much as we could up off the floor. The time before any hurricane is unlike anything else. The constant TV coverage on all the major networks as well as CNN and the Weather Channel just adds to the anxiety as the storm approaches.

Shel Silverstein's house 



This one remaining a strong category 5 as it got closer really had people in a frenzy. Lines like I have never seen before formed at every gas station, with many running out of fuel, there was also mass chaos at places like Home Depot and Publix as people scrambled to get ready. Kathy and I had already made the choice to evacuate, it was only a matter of when to leave. We were all set to leave Wednesday late at night, but were just too damned exhausted to go and put it off until Thursday morning. (The storm was scheduled to hit on Saturday night).

 



Reggie

The evacuation itself was crazy, we headed along with our three cats (Sammy, Van and Huey) and dog (Jack) to Winston-Salem, North Carolina where my mother Marta lives and my sister Marika and her husband Brian have a condo we could stay in as well. The problem was that though much of the Keys had already cleared out, the possible path of the storm up the east coast of Florida had evacuation orders in place all the way up the East coast into Georgia and South Carolina. Basically the entire state of Florida was at risk and it became one of the largest evacuations ever.

Monroe County Sheriff's Animal Farm animals taking refuge in the jail. 

Historic Sugarloaf Bat Tower destroyed

To avoid the masses and bumper to bumper slow traffic on I-95, the Florida Turnpike and I-75, we decided to take old route 27 right up the gut of the state. It turned out to be the best decision as while it was slow going, we never stopped moving and gas stations along the way actually had fuel and we did not have to wait like so many others did to fill up. We ended up the first night in Yulee, just North of Jacksonville a normal 10 hour drive taking closer to 14, which is still way better than if we had used another route.

 



The second day of evacuating was even slower going as traffic from Georgia and South Carolina flooded the interstates and we used back roads through Georgia, South and North Carolina to get to Winston Salem turning a 6.5 hour trip into more than 10 hours on the road. We settled in and watched the news intently as the storm struck the Keys. There is something deeply unsettling about watching the potential destruction of your home, your city and seeing your friends who stayed imperiled. 





The news was shaky at best as far as getting an honest assessment of what had happened, but as word trickled out, it became clear that Key West escaped a direct blow as the eye wall passed over the Keys just North of the island, sadly wrecking havoc on nearby islands such as Rockland Key, Cudjoe, Sugarloaf, Summerland, Big Pine and up through Marathon. Widespread destruction, tidal surge causing flooding and basically a direct hit from the storm caused a great loss of property and thirteen deaths in the Keys. Thankfully none of our close friends were harmed, though we had a number of friends who lost almost everything in the storm.





Of course Kathy and I and our pets were fine, word started coming out within a day or so from those who stayed behind and a number of people went by and checked on our property and reported back to us. The first text came from our friend Leigh who simply wrote,”Your House Is Fine”. Talk about a relief. Thanks to our friends Leigh, Bruce, Joyce, Effie and Greta who all checked on our property with much the same news. We lost a lot of our landscaping including a number of fairly sizable trees, but we had no structure damage and water did not appear to get in the house.

Our house 

Yard

While we were very fortunate, many others did not fare so well. Power, water, cell service, internet service, television both satellite and cable were all out of service. The aftermath is always worse than the storm itself and the Keys were in no way ready for us to return. In fact for a week we simply were not allowed to return as the rebuilding and clean-up process got underway. Kathy and I decided to remain at least until our house had power which we were able to check by calling our landline and seeing if the answering machine picked up.

Buco improvises a land line at the Green Parrot post storm.