7 September 04
Well, let's see...where do I begin?!
Friday we pretty much finished up getting our supplies. We needed D cell batteries. None were to be found. Out of all the stores we went to, we finally found four 4 packs. We went home, and all was well. Frances stalled off the coast of the Bahamas, which gave us a few more hours of preparation time.
Saturday, we came to the decision that maybe it would be a good idea to get a generator. A little too late, actually. But, we had alternative plans if we couldn't manage a generator. The stores were getting hourly shipments and they would announce who got generators in. All we wanted was a small 1500 watt one, just enough to run our refrigerator. No one was getting anything less than a 5500 watt. And they were selling out within minutes of the announcement. So, no luck with the generator. So, we would have to make due with running our truck for an hour every now and again to power the 750 watt inverter we had, if it came down to it.
Next came the patio furniture and the BBQ grill. The BBQ grill would be our means of cooking if we lost power. So that HAD to go into the garage. The canopy over our patio was the next to come down. It was anchored to the ground with rope tied to bricks. Well, unfortunately, Anthony was in such a rush to get this in before he had to go to work, he forgot his gloves. He reached into the brick to move it. And low and behold, he quickly removed his hand because he felt something on it. He looked down, saw a big old spider and said "oh no you don't" and brushed it off. He noticed that all 8 legs were wrapped around his finger and she was doing the butt jiggle like she was biting. He didn't feel anything. But, as she hit the ground, it was like a spotlight shown on the unmistakable red hour glass on the under belly of the dreaded black widow spider!
Into the house he came and we called the Nurseline. Adrenaline was pumping on top of the caffeine we had consumed--not to mention the Fioricet Anthony just took to kill the headache that he had been plagued with for the last couple of days. So, with all that was churning inside him, he was unsure if he had been bit or not. Despite his uncertainty, the nurse told us to go to the ER as soon as possible, just to be safe.
I had to wake Joshua up from his nap and remain calm the whole time. I think I did rather well. Anthony packed his newly found 'girlfriend' up in a zip lock bag, while I got Joshua ready. The hospital was only 7 minutes away. But, as we got in the car and out of our neighborhood, Anthony noted that "maybe we should hurry". He was starting to double over in pain! As I read before we left, Black Widow bites are a neurotoxin and start in the abdomen. Every inch of muscle starts cramping causing horrible pain. Death from a black widow bite is rare; but the pain can be so excruciating you wished you were dead. I needed to hurry.
When we got to the hospital, I dropped Anthony off at the door and went to park while he signed in. When the nurses in the triage station read "black widow bite" they immediately came out and questioned him. "How do you know it was a black widow?" And when he raised the ziplock bag to show them, all doubt was removed! They got him back to the back as soon as possible. The doctor came by and had the nurses give him a rather large dose of Morphine and Valium.
We must have been the talk of the ER as so many people stopped by to see our "spider". And those who hadn't heard about it, we had to warn them, because the spider was in a specimen jar rather close to where they were working. But everyone was in awe and everyone had a "similar" story to tell. No one really seems to know exactly what a black widow bite entails.
But, after 5 hours, Anthony was released.
Now, we just had to go home and finish the preparations. We didn't get
everything in the house and ready until 2am. Luckily, Frances hadn't
made it to us yet! She stalled just off the coast! I guess she was just
taking a breather after visiting the Bahamas for so long.
All day Sunday we had our TV tuned to the weather channel while we went about our daily routine. It only started getting breezy around lunchtime. Breezy, I mean 30mph wind gusts. And it was a bit overcast. We kept waiting and waiting...It seemed like Frances was moseying her way along, chewing up as much as she could. As the day grew later, more and more power spikes and outages. It wasn't until 5pm that we lost power completely. By that time, the winds had raised to 50mph.
Throughout the day we would have patches of wind and rain, then calmness for a while. I guess since Frances was so large, we were just starting to get the rain bands as she hit land. And, as a slow mover she was, it took so long to get the brunt of the weather.
So, 5pm, no power, no cable. We were left
with our radios to tell us what was going on. We continued to do our
daily routine...minus the cooking. Luckily, I just finished with
Joshua's dinner. So, he was good at least. He kept asking to watch
"Blues Clues" though and didn't understand why we couldn't turn it on
for him. After his dinner, it was starting to get pretty dark in the
house. Joshua wanted nothing to do with playing in his room with no
light, even if mommom and daddy were there with him. But, he was very
interested in the flashlights and the handheld radios! :) Other than
that, he was pretty indifferent to the fact there was anything going on.
As the night progressively got darker, the storm got stronger. There is nothing more scary that not being able to see what is going on around you. We watched the winds and the rains from our front door. What we were really doing was watching the trees in our front yard. We have 4 very tall pine trees. In Florida, the pine trees don't look anything like Christmas Trees. The are tall trunks that reach about 30 feet in the air with only the tops of the trees getting branches. As we watched the winds get stronger, we watched our trees. Three of the 4 would sway like they should in winds such as these. But the one closest to the house would actually pivot on itself. All we could think of is the tree breaking under that kind of stress. Luckily, the winds were blowing with the direction of the house and if anything, it would have fallen on our truck. But then, we realized, we really didn't need to be worrying about our trees, but rather the neighbors. Out the back door, we noticed one part of one branch had cracked and was dangling from our pine tree. And oak tree we had was shedding all kinds of branches and sticks. But, that tree would shed branches and sticks if were Wednesday.
We kept an eye on the temperature in the refrigerator. Every few hours, Anthony would get up and baby-sit the truck while he started it up and turned the inverter on for the refrigerator. We would only run it an hour at a time, but this got tiring. At least he let me sleep while he took care of it. I returned the favor when Joshua woke up in the morning.
We managed through the night, with all the
warnings going off on our weather radio and babysitting the truck and
refrigerator. Not much sleep was gained this weekend. And, it's still
Monday morning and the storm hasn't past yet. We still had winds of 28mph with gusts up to 50mph. And now the rains come--like we didn't have any already! After a morning cool down session for our refrigerator, we ventured out for a brief trip down the road to see some of the damage and see if any businesses were open, maybe grab a bite to eat.
We didn't make it out of our neighborhood before we saw broken and uprooted trees. Our poor neighbors house. They had a tree in their front yard. It was "y" shaped at the bottom. And, it split, right down the "y". One side landed on one house, while the other side landed on another house. There were trees that broke 20 feet up. And there were trees that just leaned over from the roots. Debris was everywhere. Once we got on the main road, wind damage to business signs was everywhere. Luckily, there were a few fast food places open--drive-thru only. But the lines were wrapped at least once around the building. So far, Orange Park was lucky. We had no signs of flooding yet. Despite the 8 inches of rain we had already, we are still destined for more. We still have a threat of losing more trees due to the saturation of the land.
Not only do we have more rain and dangerous thunderstorms to go through, we have more tornado warnings to deal with. Over the last 36 hours, we have had 15 tornado warnings within 5 miles of our house. Five of those were within 2 miles. And last night, we had one on a direct path for our neighborhood. I gathered the Joshua, a few belongings, a blanket for cover, and our cats and stayed in our bathroom for about 15 minutes. It was heading to our neighborhood at 45mph and all of a sudden, just died. I'm not complaining mind you. But keep in mind, we are still under a tornado watch, with a strong possibility that more can develop later this evening.
We survived Hurricane Frances and the damage we took was minimal compared to those further south. I hope and pray that they are all taken care of and that they can return to normal life soon. As Frances slowly becomes a memory...as slowly as she trekked through the state...our eyes turn, again, to the Atlantic and another hurricane. Maybe it's God's way of welcoming us to the Sunshine State. I don't think there is any place in the grand old US of A that we can go where we will be completely free of the powers of Mother Nature. We will adapt and enjoy our time here in Florida. If a hurricane takes my stuff...so be it! It's only stuff. All I ask is we keep our family safe.