Irma gets personal

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For more than 40 years our family has owned a condominium in Naples, Florida. It’s a beautiful town and we’re lucky to spend some time there, especially during the cold weather in Ohio. In all those years we have never known any kind of storm like hurricane Irma.
It’s now almost two weeks since it hit our beautiful town and I know you’ve heard a lot about what is going on. Friends there have shared some experiences, so here’s how it really was.
School there has been out for more than two weeks and will not resume until next Monday. In fact, schools were being used as shelters until just a few days ago. The power is on nearly everywhere in town, but the first days were terrible.
Keep in mind it was 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity before, during and after the storm hit. In our condo, the power never went off and that was a blessing for us because the air conditioning stayed on.
We needed all the help with that air conditioning because the water came roaring in through our sliding glass doors in the living room and bedrooms almost as if there were no doors there. One observer said it was just like a waterfall in the room. Our carpet was soaking wet, but the glass doors didn’t break in our 45-year-old building. Our air conditioner compressor was still in place on the roof unlike the last hurricane when it was ripped off. Our neighbor’s air compressor, however, was destroyed. There was no air conditioning for them, of course, even though they had power. They live there year-round.
Some people a few miles inland had to wait days for their power to come back on. It was very hot in their houses, so many slept outside. In order to do that, they covered themselves with bug spray because the little creatures are quite plentiful now, and were especially so after the storm. I’m sure anyone with a screened porch felt very grateful.
We are just in the drying-out mode at this time.
Oh yes, there were almost no services in the town for the whole first week. I kept trying to call for help with our problem. I called Servicemaster twice for water extraction, the day after the storm and the next day. I finally heard from them a week later. It was a crew from Ohio that had gone to Florida to help.
Also, there was no water for two days. You can imagine what it’s like not to have running water in your house. The first thing you might think about is there’s nothing to drink. Even when the water did come back on, it still wasn’t safe to drink and had to be boiled for more than a week. But, remember, you need power for that.
Of course, people had loaded up on bottled water, but that went quickly. For me, maybe an even bigger problem would be flushing the toilet. Now think about this. It’s really hot outside, you don’t have  air conditioning, can’t take a shower and now you are not able to flush your toilet! Some people had access to swimming pools and could take a bucket from the pool and fill their toilet tank when they needed to. Others were not so lucky and I don’t want to share with you how they solved their problem.
A friend did help us out with a home carpet cleaner, you know, something that looks like a sweeper. He was able to suck out a lot of the water in our carpet, but there was concern about the pad underneath still being wet and mold growing. We have had fans running and are hoping for the best.
There’s a grocery store in town called Luckys. It’s a large place but still kind of a specialty store, more than your basic chain grocery. Apparently, either their generator couldn’t keep up with keeping the food cold or they ran out of gas, but the food had to be cooked. So they were out in front of the grocery with giant charcoal grills cooking all the food they could and giving it away to anybody who passed by.
Ten days after the hurricane, sewage problems emerged. Since the city is so flat the water has to be pumped from the sewers through one of 800 lift stations to the sewage treatment plant. It doesn’t just flow downhill there as you might have heard it sometimes does. The pumps didn’t work at all at first because of power loss, and when they started up there were breaks in the lines. Sewage built up and flowed into some streets and some homes. Those repairs are a priority now. Remember, it’s 90 degrees there and the odor could be overpowering!
We realize how lucky we are with our property and are thinking of those who have had extra problems and didn’t have any place else to go. The structural damage to Naples was quite limited. Actually buildings are built well there, but the loss of power and water problems were huge for a few days. It was, however, nothing like the devastation in the Florida Keys.
So for now, we’re hoping for the best for our property and for everyone in the state. Now there’s hurricane Maria on the way through the Caribbean. I’m sure Florida could not take another hit so soon. Let’s pray for the best for all of us.
(Melanie Behrens – melb@marysvillejt.com)



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