While we are preparing for Hurricane Irene, I can't help remember Wilma and the damage it caused in Florida, particularly in Pompano Beach where I was living at the time.
Picture me sitting in my 18th floor apartment, on my living room sofa, at 9:00 am, staring in the dark at the wood panels blocking the bay window and sliding door to the balcony. The rest of the windows were sealed by hurricane shutters completely blocking the day light.
I've called a friend who lived in a building with hurricane-resistant windows to ask what the weather looked like outside. With panic in her voice, she said she was watching cars flying and landing on top of each other.
Imagine my terror when the sofa moved and the chandelier hanging above the dining room table swang left and right with a mind of its own, the way you see it in ghost movies. Except that this was real life!
I asked my husband in a weak voice if there was a chance for the building to collapse. You see, we were living in an apartment building on the beach, a beautiful area for vacation, but the worst place to be in case of hurricane. My husband was scowling at the wood panel too. He muttered he was more concerned about the window and wood cracking under the wind hammering. In fact a few seconds later, streams of water leaked from the side. We used all the towels we had to stop the water. In a bedroom, the shutters unhooked and opened. My DH rushed to close them. I rushed behind him, my arms wrapped around his waist, I pulled him back with all my strength to stop him from being sucked outside.
By 10:30 am we had no electricity, no telephone and no elevators functionning. We climbed down the eighteen floor to find a chaos in the building lobby. An owner cried that the wall between her bedroom and her neighbor's living room collapsed. Another neighbor called on his cell for help. He'd locked himself in his bathroom when his bedroom window blew. The wind created a vaccum and he couldn't open the bathroom door to get out.
We huddled in the conference room and exchanged stories while the wind roared outside. Wilma was a category 3 and came with a tornado on Pompano Beach.
Amazingly, in the evening the storm abated and the sun shily appeared at the horizon just before sunset. We finally went out to assess the damage. The beautiful resort looked like a war zone. The beach was littered with window frames, shutters, rails, doors. Crashed cars cluttered the parking lots. Trees and electric wires blocked the streets. Many roofs had collapsed.
There is nothing like a disaster to bring people together. All the apartment owners emptied their freezers and refigerators, now useless without electric power, and brought their meat, poultry, fish, seafood, veggy to be barbequed on the terrace. We had a huge get-together, complete with wine, songs and nervous laughters.
The next morning after coffee and breakfast on the terrace, my husband who was president of the building association, organized the assessment procedure. Teams of volunteers entered each apartment and recorded the damage. Later my DH prepared the report for the insurance.
We remained without electricity and telephone for a week. Not bad under the circumstances. The next-door building lost its water supply for three weeks when a huge tree collapsed over the tank. The residents came to shower and filled pails of water from our building.
It took more than two years to repair all the damage. Now I have a respectul fear of hurricanes.