Late last week, when we were receiving enough gentle rain from Tropical Storm Debby to quench our drought, I told Richard, “This sure beats a Maine blizzard!” Three days later, I was singing a different tune.
The rain had been hitting us off and on for days but we didn’t realize how bad it was going to get, nor how quickly. On Sunday, Richard and I were supposed to go on a short anniversary trip (our 13th) and we got up early, packed our bags, and took the boys to Ali and Justin’s house on Anna Maria Island. They had offered to babysit for the night. It was raining and windy…but it had been raining and windy for days so we weren’t worried. When we got on the island, there was high water on several streets and we got a little concerned. The water was halfway up Ali’s yard and that made us even more nervous. Ali assured us that the locals were not concerned (she’s already talked to friends) and that, once high tide came and went, everything would start going down again. High tide was two hours away. I made Ali promise to take the boys to our house if the water continued to rise. I told her, “Remember the flood we had in Texas? Remember how fast it can happen? Don’t wait to leave, okay?” She again told me not to worry. We gave everybody kisses and hugs, got back in the truck, and headed up the road.
Only about 15 minutes had gone by since we’d arrived on the island and the water was already noticeably higher than it had been. Richard and I looked at each other, and shook our heads. Richard called the hotel and they said we could reschedule without a penalty. We turned around, and drove back to Ali’s and the water was EVEN HIGHER!! They live across the street from a small marina and the water was about to crest the top of the docks and spill over into the streets. We could still drive just fine because we were in the truck but we weren’t so sure about smaller cars making it.
We went back to Ali’s, ran back through the deluge of rain to her door (we were pretty wet by then), and told them we were going to grab a quick bite to eat, and then come back and spend the afternoon at their house. We then took the main road toward the city pier. The water kept getting deeper and deeper, the wind was shaking the truck, and it was difficult to see through the front windshield even with the wipers on their fastest speed. What we could see through the rain slapping the windshield in sheets were the tops of blurry palm trees swaying violently in the storm.
When we got to the end of the road by the pier, we had to turn around. The ocean was on the road and moving very quickly further onto the island. We drove back to Ali’s as fast as we could but the conditions were getting very bad very fast, just like I’d warned Ali they would. We got to Ali’s, ran inside, and told the boys to get their shoes on NOW. Ali walked in and her face was white. She’d left the boys with Justin, and had driven down the road to see how bad the flooding was. The tide had crested the marinas and salt water was spilling onto all the roadways. To top it off, now the pounding rain had nowhere to drain. Ali told Justin, “Get the pets! We need to leave NOW!”
We hustled the boys out the door. The water was 6 inches deep and worse on some roads now. A few houses had wakes from passing cars hitting their exterior walls. One small vehicle was coming out to the main road and water was coming up onto the hood, splashing on the front windshield. They had to stop for traffic and I’m sure their car died right there. At the main intersection in town, the police had just blocked the road, and weren’t letting anymore cars in. We were in a long line of vehicles trying to get off the island and the line was moving sooo slowly. Mason (who just turned 6) was crying in the back seat. Richard was trying to calm him down, telling him we’d be home soon. I was driving and felt like an IDIOT for leaving our house in the first place. We had no idea it was that bad out there! There were no warnings about the island being underwater in the news before we left! Max (age 10) seemed more excited than nervous. He thought it was a grand adventure!
The water was coming up much faster than the traffic was moving and my hands started shaking. I was sure one of the cars in front of us would stall out and that we’d be stuck in high water with the boys, and have to abandon the truck. What do you do in those circumstances? Swim to the highest house and knock on the door? Yes, every possible scenario raced through my head. But, we finally made it to the main road and were able to go uphill just a few inches. We all let out a collective, “Shwew!!!”, Mason stopped crying, and I stopped shaking.
Ali, Justin, and Jarrett (Justin’s little brother) were a few minutes behind us. They were in an SUV so they were fine, too. Once we were back at our house, we felt safe…until that night. The rain continued and, while Justin cooked us a wonderful gourmet meal, the wind kept increasing outside. Our entire living room wall is covered with those old Florida windows that are horizontal and hang down. You open and close them with a crank. With each gust of wind, they would go out slightly and then BANG! shut. I got the boys’ bicycle helmets out of the closet just in case. The wind was HOWLING! We ate dinner, and were in a merry mood as the evening progressed. We have a special weather alarm in our security system and it kept beeping over and over again – so much so that we weren’t even paying attention to it anymore. At one point, we were under 7 different weather warnings. I didn’t even know they had that many!
After dark, we were sitting in the living room watching TV when all of the sudden the satellite signal went out on the TV. Then, all the hanging windows opened outward simultaneously, the atmosphere changed, and all the trees went WILD! No words were necessary. We all knew it was a tornado and we all jumped up. I grabbed Mason, pulling the iPad out of his hands, and dragging him from the couch. I grabbed Max with my other hand, and was about to race to the shower when the lights went out. Then, as quickly as it all started, it stopped. The lights came back on and the wind went back to its regular howl and it was over. I put on Mason’s helmet anyway and Max and Mason wore their helmets for the rest of the night. I was so scared I thought I was going to throw up. The last time I was that scared was when our house flooded in Texas during a tropical storm and I had to evacuate in the middle of the night on a flooded road with the children. When the satellite signal came back, they confirmed a tornado had passed over us. Incidentally, we had a tornado touch down in our backyard in Texas once and the “change in atmosphere” feeling was the same then. There’s an odd “shift” (don’t know how else to describe it) right before it happens and everybody can feel it, especially family pets.
The storm continued raging but the tide only came up a few inches over our dock, and didn’t get anywhere close to our house. At 3:30 a.m., I woke up from a dead sleep to the windows banging against each other repeatedly. I jumped up, and ran into the living room and, through the dark windows, saw an explosion of blue and green lights outside. Then the power went out. I have no idea what those blue and green lights were, a transformer perhaps? They looked ethereal and that freaked me out even more! I yelled at Richard, “It’s happening again!” He came running out and the power came back on and the wind went back to its normal howling again. Part of our roof was hanging down over one of our back windows and another large piece of the roof was now in our pool. We turned on the Weather Channel and the radar showed another rotation over us. I wouldn’t be getting anymore sleep that night!
On Monday, oddly enough, it was sunny most of the day but the wind was still screaming and the windows kept beating against themselves. The sound was driving me NUTS!! If we sell the house in Bangor (it’s about to go on the market), we’ll use any profits we might get to replace all the windows in this house. I spent three days jumping repeatedly as they BANG!, BANG!!, BANGED!!! over and over again.
On Tuesday, it was cloudy and a few more downpours passed over but the wind was less intense. The pool is full of roof debris, leaves, dirt and more. That’ll be a fun job! A power line was down in the front of the neighborhood, a tree fell on the main road, and some neighbors lost a few large portions of their fence. In the afternoon, we could hear the sounds of chainsaws all over the neighborhood so we know other trees were lost as well. We were very, very lucky! The roofer has us scheduled for a new roof on the flat part of the house in mid-July. Until then, we have 6 leaks in our living room. Oh joy!!
HOW TO REMEMBER, WRITE AND PUBLISH YOUR LIFE STORY! by Angela Hoy
Using Angela’s MEMORY TRIGGERS, recall memories that have been dormant for years, and record those memories in chronological order in your memory notebook. Using the memory notebook as your outline, write your autobiography! **Also works for biographies and memoirs.**