My pre-storm experience can be read here.
Irma turned out not to be nearly as big of a deal in West Central Florida as they kept telling us she would be. In fact, the biggest problems we had stemmed from the total mismanagement of the shelter we were in.
We were supposed to be in the elementary school but they had too many people showing up so we ended up in the high school without anyone ever telling the Red Cross we were there so we had no access to the resources they were bringing in. Because we were the overflow section they were winging it, sticking people wherever, applying the rules here & there when they felt like it. I guess after days of telling everyone to get out they didn’t actually expect anyone to do it. It was pretty amazing on Sunday morning, with this monster storm bearing right down on us, all the hundreds of people who started showing up, a lot of them totally unprepared with no bedding, no cages for their pets, pretty much nothing.
They only had regular coffee so everybody drank that & sat around talking ALL. NIGHT. LONG. making it pretty much impossible to sleep in the echoing gym.
At one point an older lady came in the side door of our hall & said she just wanted to let us know that they were bringing four dogs through. Someone asked if they were bad, and she said yes, two are aggressive. Then a younger woman came & said she was bringing “four bad dogs” in. They brought them through to one of the locker rooms because these people were too stupid to bring cages, but by then the whole hall was in an uproar because nobody wanted to be anywhere near these dogs. They brought in someone who I think worked for animal control & was there to keep tabs on all the dogs, who then decided because these people had aggressive uncaged animals, they should get a whole locker room all to themselves! As they were moving around the younger woman said that the problems were because “people don’t know what aggressive means” & something about the dogs getting up in your face. OK, if you think that an “aggressive” dog is one that “gets up in your face,” YOU’RE the one who doesn’t know what aggressive means! Somehow these people had “made arrangements” with animal control the day before, something none of us with well-behaved, controlled dogs had been able to do. The complaints continued until the Animal Control employee brought in a Sheriff’s deputy & told him he would have to deal with it because she’d been yelled at all day. Eventually the people left with their dogs, according to the younger woman they were leaving because her mom (I guess the older lady) was freaking out “because somebody had to open their big f***ing mouth” ummm…yeah, that was Y’ALL, when YOU BOTH described your dogs as aggressive! The rest of us probably wouldn’t have noticed if YOU hadn’t said it!
An older couple in one of the other locker rooms moved all their stuff out into the hall, including their dog, an unassuming cocker spaniel, because I guess there was a two-year-old in there SHRIEKING & they just couldn’t take it anymore. Around lockdown time the Animal Control employee who had been so nice to the people with the big mean dogs got after them for having their quiet smallish dog in the hallway & argued with them about it before finally threatening to call the deputies back down! The lady said “yes, bring them down, they can kick me out but I’m not going back in there!” Eventually they moved them & a couple of other people into the locker room vacated by the mean dog people, including one woman who had been sleeping in the hallway but moved her dogs out of the room with the two-year-old. I can’t even imagine having a kid so out of control that people in a disaster situation don’t even want their DOGS around him/her.
They kept saying that all pets had to be in their crates & everyone had to be in their camps by 6 because they were locking things down to keep everyone safe, OK fine. They locked the pet hall (which you had to go outside to get to) so nobody could go in but never actually stopped anyone from going outside. People were allowed to go out & smoke, but nobody could so much as visit their pets, never mind take them outside or even walk them up & down the hallway, so they were locked in their cages for 12+ hours for basically no reason except It’s The Rules. My mom’s dog is a tiny, elderly, quiet poodle who stuffs easily into a sleeping bag & doesn’t move for hours at a time so we got one over on the mean Animal Control woman & kept her with us all night.
They made us gather all of our stuff up at 2:30 in the morning to run through ankle-deep water in an open walkway in the middle of the hurricane to the cafeteria because after 5 hours of pouring rain someone finally noticed that the water in the courtyard wasn’t going anywhere & was about to come pouring into the hallway where we were trying to sleep. The people in charge were out there digging around up to their knees in water trying to find the drain & get it unclogged, which they finally were able to do before all the people in the gym had to be moved.
Finally, around 6 am, we were in the eye of what was then a minor storm that was rapidly breaking up & people were frustrated enough that they wanted to just get out of there. The first announcement was that they couldn’t stop us from leaving but they couldn’t say for certain if it was safe for us to do so until the deputies had had a chance to go see what the road conditions were like. A little later another announcement said, essentially, that it was safe outside so we should gather up our crap & get out. I think they were as sick of us as we were of them.
The one gas station in Hernando that actually had gas had a line from the pumps, around through one of the stalls of the car wash next door, & about another half-mile down the road, which is pretty amazing since it looked like that before the storm too so I have no clue what everybody did with all the gas they were buying then. That was the only time I actually saw anything close to violence – somebody tried to cut the line & the people behind them ran them off.
Once we got a look at things it really seemed like Irma just made a mess. Some trees & power lines down, the occasional metal overhang roof peeled back like the top of a tin can, but it didn’t look like anybody’s houses had flooded or blown away, at least not on the inland halves of the counties I drove through. There are still a lot of people without power, but the worst real damage I saw was a number of large trees down in a yard around the corner, that was likely because of one of the mini tornadoes Irma was spinning off rather than the hurricane herself. My mom’s yard was covered with twigs & Spanish moss, a situation quickly remedied by hiring a couple of neighborhood teens to rake it all up. Temple Terrace was largely untouched, my neighbor said the ducks that hang out in our complex’s pond had a great time in the storm.
I certainly have no desire to do the storm shelter thing again after this ridiculous experience. There’s probably a lot of other people who were there who will be more likely to try to weather storms at home now too. So thank you, overzealous newscasters desperately trying to make yourselves interesting & county officials who don’t know how to organize anything properly. Thanks for that.