Hurricane Dorian: A Four Day Diary

Source: ABC News 9/1/2019

I never even knew a Category 5 existed…People have never seen anything like that.
President Trump, 2017

Never heard about Category 5’s before, a Category 5 is big stuff…A category 5 is something that, uh — I don’t know that I’ve even heard the term, other than I know it’s there. That’s the ultimate, and that’s what we have, unfortunately.
President Trump on Hurricane Dorian, 2019.

HURRICANE DIARY:

Sunday, September 1:

Prior to our moving to Florida in 2014, this state had not experienced a hurricane event on land for ten years. This fact was neither an encouraging nor a discouraging factor in our decision to come here. It simply represented another set of calculated odds and risks associated with relocating to an area where natural disasters can happen. Twelve years earlier I had to make the same set of mental calculations when I moved from Washington, DC to California, where the risks of earthquakes, wildfires, and mudslides are also a danger. In both situations, I decided to emphasize the benefits each place provided rather than the risks.

Oh, but when those risks do materialize, suddenly all that “calculated theorizing” from days of yore becomes fodder for personal scrutiny. Or, as my imaginary evil twin, Shlomo, keeps whispering in my ear, “Boychik, what were you thinking?!

For the last few days we have been running benefits and risks in our heads as we sit here waiting to see what Hurricane Dorian is going to do. At the moment, it has begun its assault on the Bahamas with winds of over 180 mph. The forecasts and projections for the storm’s approach to the Florida coast all continue to have it offshore, as it makes its way northward towards the Carolinas or Cape Hatteras. Overnight, however, there was a slight shift westward; in other words towards land. That shift was just enough to change the mood in our home from the previous 24 hours, when we thought with a degree of certainty, that it would stay out in the ocean. So today we are again feeling anxious.

Of course, this is also a holiday weekend for Labor Day. Dorian be damned, right? We do love our three day holidays. I was reminded of this at the gym while I worked out and watched the TV above my machine. In between storm forecasts and hurricane category estimates, I saw the dogged American spirit right in front of me. We still need to know what’s happening around town, right?

We are prepared for a shelter-in-place. We have the requisite batteries, flashlights, transistor radio, device charger, important documents stored in seal-lock plastic, etc. We are also stocked up with some cases of bottled water and non-perishables foods. From experience with previous storms, we’ve learned that we really don’t have much of an appetite until it’s over anyway. So we didn’t go overboard this time.

Regardless, it is interesting to see what was purchased after we arrive home from the store and began unpacking the bags. I offer you the below as proof of impulse-buying in advance of a storm. It’s not like we didn’t already have cereal in the house, you know — tsk, tsk.

Someone had a comfort need!

Monday, September 2nd:

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) update from 11:00pm last night, and their 5:00am one from this morning, both show a projected shift of the storm’s center to the east and away from land once it reaches our area of northern Florida. Last night’s estimates were 60-70 miles; today’s are now 70-80 miles. It’ll still be a lot of wind, of course, but it’s better for the eye of the storm to be way out there and not over land.

Reports and video from the Bahamas, the Abacao islands in particular, are scary to watch. I heard about a brother and sister who were killed. I cannot imagine being able to endure nearly 200mph winds on an island with literally no where to hide other than one’s own home or a community shelter. I fear we’ll hear of more fatalities as they begin to pick up after the storm.

With the storm now on its approach to the Florida coast, this starts the two-day period when it literally is the proverbial Calm before the storm. Our county has issued a mandatory evacuation, and I’m sure some people have followed it. But “mandatory” is relative. They can’t force you to leave; only encourage it for the sake of everyone’s welfare. And, to be fair, it’s also a subtle warning from authorities that once the storm starts, vital services such as police, fire, and rescue cannot be guaranteed. In other words, if you have a medical emergency you’re most likely on your own for several hours. Heart, this is not a time to give us problems.

We have had several discussions about whether to go or stay. Yesterday, for example, when the storm’s projected track took that ominous shift towards land, I was the one leaning towards getting out of Dodge. Gorgeous, however, is more inclined to stay; having faith that the eye of the storm will remain over the ocean, and also that even if it does veer dangerously close to land, that we can hold out against what will be a much weaker storm currently out in the Atlantic (estimates are that it will be Category 3 when it reaches our area).

Every single one of our nearby neighbors are also staying, giving us a sense of comfort and community. One of them mentioned to me that from his unofficial survey from speaking to people while walking the dog, most of our condo community is remaining. Indeed, a walk I took around the complex myself this afternoon seemed to confirm a full contingent of residents who have decided to stay.

We are collectively brave… or we’re all really foolish.

With absolutely no tourists in town, St. Augustine is comparatively a ghost town. It’s thankfully much easier to navigate than normal, with streets and roads not clogged with the usual cars of visitors slowing before intersections because they are unsure exactly where they’re heading.

I managed to get a haircut this morning. Most chain and big box stores are closed, but local establishments are mostly open. A popular diner looked as if it was packed, as was the parking lot for the Winn Dixie. To my utter delight, I saw that the bagel bakery was also open. I stopped in to add to our food supply. For the next two days I have bagels and cream cheese for breakfast. Score!

St. Augustine’s best bagel place.

Tuesday, September 3rd:

Dorian has absolutely ravaged the Bahamas. The death count is now five people, and it probably goes without saying that many, many more will be reported in the days ahead. The storm hasn’t really budged from that area either; it has instead simply hovered over the islands on its slow crawl for 30+ hours. I cannot imagine the horrific toll it’s inflicted on the population there. One has to assume it will take years, if not decades, for those island communities to recover.

Dorian has now been lowered to Category 2. The mid-morning NHC update pushes its path projection a bit further away from our area, now between 80-90 miles from the shoreline; by virtue of that, we are projected to be out of the storm’s cone when it passes. Tropical storm winds of up to 45 mph are expected to be felt, though.

Because of the evacuation order, it’s not wise to really venture out beyond our home. I was told yesterday that in some areas of town, law enforcement will let you out of your neighborhood but you might be prevented from returning. I’m fairly certain this only takes place in those places most prone to flooding. For the city of St. Augustine, that would mean the entire downtown and historic areas and their surrounding neighborhoods. It shouldn’t include us because we’re a few miles from those places, but I’m not particularly interested in testing it. So homebound it will remain.

A neighbor mentioned an unsubstantiated rumor of a car containing three youths driving around in our condo development yesterday, “casing” and presumably looking for empty homes of residents who may have evacuated. I’m wondering if it’s not just three bored teenagers who also live here and are tired of being cooped up; so they took Mom or Dad’s car out for a little spin. If I see them, I’ll offer-up our box of Lucky Charms.

5:00pm NHC Update: We can expect to feel some of the early winds from Dorian tonight around 8:00 or 9:00pm. By morning we should be hearing the start of tropical force winds estimated to be between 45-70 mph, and the center of the storm is expected to pass by St. Augustine at 2:00pm, 80 miles from the shoreline.

Wednesday, September 4th:

7:30am: We woke up to strong winds outside our window, but not the tropical force ones we’re supposed to start experiencing in a few hours. Dorian is now on the move at 8 mph and approaching our area. Wind gusts in downtown are reported to already be 49 mph. The TV reports show St. Augustine Beach — our favorite beach to visit here — with 15 ft waves crashing in and already causing four feet of beach erosion.

There are apparently already approximately two thousand people without power in Jacksonville and the outer areas of our county (St. Johns). Our condo development is built with underground electrical lines that has redundancy built into it. Ostensibly if one part of it fails, other parts will kick-in to pick up the slack. We got to see this work as intended during Hurricane Irma in 2017, when sure enough we temporarily lost power three times only to have it return within five minutes or so. However, the grid is connected to a sub-station about a quarter a mile away which services us and the surrounding neighborhoods. So if that fails because of wind or flooding, then we’re toast.

The first thing we did after waking up earlier was to take showers in case we lose water pressure today. The second thing we did was to turn on the coffee maker for what I hope is not our last cup of hot coffee for awhile. I’ve filled up both bathtubs with water so that we have a supply to flush toilets in the event that we do lose pressure.

The reports from the Bahamas, in particular the Abaco islands, is horrific. One couple had to climb on top of their kitchen appliances and cabinets because of rising water. When the cabinets finally gave way from the wall, the man watched his wife tragically float away and eventually drown. I cannot begin to fathom his grief.

One thing is already clear about today: the rhythms of the previous few days, in which our attentions were laser-focused to the next regularly scheduled forecast update from the NHC, are now over. The storm is now on the move and we are watching everything in current time as it slowly approaches us. Those who live in the Carolinas are now inheriting that worry of intensely watching the storm track. I am thinking now of fellow blogger, Laura Bruno Lilly. Stay safe, Laura!

11:00am:

The first tornado warning screamed over our phones just as we approached the 11:00 hour. The storm track has been updated by the NHC to now place it 85 miles from the shoreline; a slight nudge to the east.

Gorgeous, ever the optimist, and probably using her gift of clairvoyance, isn’t worried about losing electricity. Starting at around 10:00am she began work on tonight’s dinner of chicken curry and baked cranberry almond bread. It’s admittedly an odd confluence here of coziness and meteorological drama.

2:00pm: The storm hasn’t really packed the kind of punch with tropical storm winds that had been projected. In our county of St. Johns, the beaches and shorelines are taking a beating as a result of storm surge, with beach erosion and damage to dunes happening. Parts of the A1A Coastal Byway are impassable and have been closed for clean-up and some road repair. Areas of St. Augustine’s Historic District are experiencing flooding, but so far nothing like what it sustained from Matthew in 2016 and Irma in 2017.

Thankfully, the earlier forecasts of wind speeds of 45-70 mph have not materialized.

Local meteorologists on the Jacksonville stations are starting to get defensive. People are allegedly calling in or tweeting their disapproval at how the storm was overhyped. Overhyped??!!! Are they nuts? Dorian hasn’t even left our region yet. Have they looked at the devastation inflicted on the Bahamas? A Category 5 storm with wind speeds of nearly 200 mph is not overhyped. We are so far very fortunate.

3:00pm: The eye of Dorian is now making its trek out of our area and heading to the Jacksonville beaches and coast. There is low-level flooding in many parts of St. Augustine, but according to the news reports not nearly the scope that was inflicted by Michael or Irma.

A cursory walk around our development shows no damage; only debris from palm trees and other vegetation. The landscape maintenance crew will have their work cut out for them.

We got off lucky. We’re safe, dry, and we have our electricity. If you’re thirsty, feel free to stop by. I can offer you a bottle or six of water.

I hope you’ll join me in donating to relief efforts for the Bahamas:

https://give.helpsalvationarmy.org/give/166081/#!/donation/checkout

Until next time…

52 thoughts on “Hurricane Dorian: A Four Day Diary

  1. Glad to hear the worst is behind you and that the worst wasn’t so bad after all.

    I can’t begin to imagine the horrors being lived by the people of the Bahamas. I’ve never experienced a hurricane and I hope I never do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Joanne. It’s a relief it’s all over for us. But Bahamians tragically are going to live with this for years and years to come.

      We did have some long conversations over the last few days about living here. One thing we’re positive about: we don’t want to be running from hurricanes when we’re in our eighties!

      Like

  2. Glad you are past the threat. I have a blogger friend in Brevard county who was active with updates on Facebook. Can’t even imagine the Bahamas. They are so flat. There is no perfect place to live or if you find it, let me know. Thanks for the link.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I thought about you down there in Florida. I thought about my girls but I have no idea how they fared. Sigh.
    I’m sort of glad I don’t live in Charleston anymore…and am not still an EMT. I wouldn’t be evacuating…I’d be working. 🥴

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I like your daily summary of what you did and felt about what you did. We’ve been watching from up north and have to say that the news + texts from family in FL have convinced us that no one really knows what to make of hurricanes– until they are right there in front of you. Stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, Ally. I used to become bewildered when I read or saw reports about people who rode out the storm. Obviously I now understand it’s a little more nuanced than it appears to those who don’t live here. These aren’t necessarily black-and-white decisions. Thanks for your solidarity.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow – thanks for the mention!
    Your diary layout is a great approach to showing what it’s like to wait out a storm…Yes, we’ve inherited the worries that accompanies the watched progress of the storm. And I’m thrilled you guys ‘got lucky’ even if to outsiders it is dismissed as being ‘not all that bad’…geesh.

    According to recent reports, we’ll be experiencing the beginning of intensity around 7AM Thursday culminating through 2pm.

    I chuckled about you getting your AM brew in before possible electricity outages! It even got me to thinking I should for sure be up and about at my usual time to brew my morning java – just in case.
    😉
    BTW: I love the photo of Gorgeous baking in the kitchen ‘the morning of…’!

    See you on the other side.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Great post! I m so relieved that you didn’t get the full brunt of the storm. People who complain that the storms are over hyped just don’t get it. I’ll take over hyping any day of the week if it saves lives. And, your prep is way classier than mine.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Marty, I was very glad to see the path go further east. Yes, I watched it quite a bit early on – there were a few projections taking it cross Florida. We’re on a barrier island that’s about 4 blocks wide, so it doesn’t take much storm surge to put us into flood conditions. I cannot imagine the fear of riding it out in place if it was a Cat 5. Glad to know you’re safe and secure…with Chef Boyardee for dinner. Pat

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pat, the seven year old inside of me had no problems reaching for that Chef Boyardee can. 😉 True enough, that initial track did indeed have it going across the state. That could have created such havoc. I’m glad we escaped its clutches, and I hope the Carolinas do too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Marty – I did and THANK YOU so much! In fact, I just joined Goodreads because that’s where you reviewed my book. I’m curious to see what it starts to recommend for me…I’ve got about 20 books in my to-read pile at the moment though.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. These horrendous storms are certainly taxing on the mind and the body. Glad you survived and lived to tell the tale, and I like your thinking – always worry about the next cup of coffee is coming from. 🙂 Prayers to all those families who weren’t so lucky and thank you for reminding us about making a donation. I hope the rest of your week is extremely boring.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great post Marty, I have a solidarity with gorgeous, I think I would have just kept going. It’s interesting to see how you made your decisions, as you say nothing is black and white. But the thing I said to Rich about is how people complain that it was over-hyped, instead of counting their blessings. Highlights that sadly those type of people are all over the world.
    Stay safe. M ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Very happy you dodged Big Bad Dorian. It looked early on like we might have D barge right across Florida and knock on our door. We kept looking for that turn to the north but hated that others were going to suffer. Our hearts break for the people in the Bahamas. Enjoyed your Diary! We love it in Florida but it seriously has us wondering how many more hurricane seasons we want to endure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s the thing, isn’t it? If it isn’t you, it’s going to be someone else. G-d help all of us, ultimately. Within two hours after it passed us, Gorgeous saw our downtown on the TV news and commented on how pretty it was. “I love it here,” or words similar. But she wasn’t talking like that in the previous days. 🙄 We too ultimately wonder how long we’ll want to endure. And so it goes. Thanks for reading!

      Like

  11. VERY scary, Marty. Before I began reading your post this morning I thought I’d better read news and make sure everyone upright (or mostly upright, and some not at all, VERY sad:(

    I get it on the “calculated theorizing.” Lucky (so far) in my neck of the woods.

    Yes, on the comfort and community with neighbours. ‘No one is an island’ especially when challenges arise.

    Very interesting about the underground electrical.

    Thank you for sharing your first hand experience. Learned a few things to add to my list (documents in plastic) And this “overhyped” business, people are a little nuts. Hoping people stay safe as it continues.

    Always thinking of others, Marty and sharing your Lucky Charms:)

    Decent food supplies ready. Wondering about the meat grinder?!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Erica. This was our third hurricane. Most of our neighbors are longtime Florida residents and have been through this so many times. There’s a danger in being over-confident, but at the same time, at least with this storm, it was reassuring to talk with them and have them around us. We knew we were collectively in it together, and that was comforting. Indeed, no one is an island. I like that.

      That’s a grain mill. Gorgeous uses it to make all kinds of different flours (rye, spelt, wheat, etc.) for her baking. I think I have a funny video of her using it somewhere on my computer. I’ll look for it at some point and shoot it to you. 🙂

      BTW, on a tangential note, this post was definitely my most involved using thg Gutenberg editor. I learned a few tricks, the quotes up at the top for one thing. I still do not like it, but I’m nevertheless getting the hang of it. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ohh, an entirely different picture in my head now that I know it is a grain mill, Marty.🙂 Gorgeous is amazing, taking the time to mill, bake, cook. You are right on being cautious with over-confidence. We have some earthquake supplies although your post is a reminder I should recheck all. Your post was great, Marty! (Coming from a Newbie Blogger:) I didn’t notice any hiccups. Everything looks professional and nice and easy to read ( coming from a Newbie:). I am still afraid to touch a Gutenberg button or anything Block quotes. Good for you, Marty on moving forward. I am seeing Donna (Retirement Reflections) in about a week. Blogging “may” be discussed:) I will let you know if anything noteworthy comes up:)

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Marty! I’m hoping this comment “sticks” (I think my last one may have ended up in your spam folder… could you check?). I’m so glad you got through the storm alright, and you even have your sense of humor intact 🙂 I love the picture of Gorgeous cooking away. Too bad some idiots think Dorian was “overhyped” (did they see what happened in the Bahamas??). They are probably the same idiots who will ignore all warnings next time because it obviously is just fake news.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi, Janis. Thank you for asking me to check (I’m terrible about looking in that spam folder). Indeed, it was in there. I went ahead and deleted it so as not to have two similar comments from you.

      You read my mind about these people bitching about how the storm was overblown. I wrote my sister and said I assume they’re the same ones who don’t believe in climate change. They obviously have no clue how lucky we were here. Jerks!

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Whew!! Glad you were spared from the worst of it. It was interesting reading what it’s like to go through this. I wouldn’t stress too much over living there. No matter where you live, there’s something negative to deal with. Your account reminds me of how we handle snowstorms in Iowa, except for the mandatory evacuations!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed. There’s something everywhere, isn’t there?

      Gorgeous was complaining about living here in the days leading up to the storm. But today? A slightly different story.

      As we drove in beautiful sunshine and warm temperatures over St. Augustine’s iconic Bridge of Lions to visit the beach , she said: “I love it here; I don’t want to move now.”

      And so it goes…

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Living 4 hours from the coast is close enough for me! Besides, in the not too distant future, it will be on the coast! ;-). Seriously, glad you are okay and St. Augustine was spared. But it’s a dicey business – I couldn’t face the yearly prospect of losing my home, all my possessions and maybe more. I’m just too darned old to start over. You and gorgeous are much braver than I! Like you, my heart goes out to the people of the Bahamas – horrific catastrophic devastation. The people and the country will never be the same.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had mischievously called our move and home purchase here our “forever” home at the time, but in fact we’ve always known we eventually will have to (sadly) relocate someday. Neither of us wish to be running from storms in our eighties! But if the good lord can spare us the next several years, then we’ll be fortunate. At least with Dorian, thank G-d Alabama was spared, eh???

      Like

  15. I came here because of a nod from Laura Bruno Lilly, I wanted to hear from someone who can give first-hand experience, especially how to prepare, what to stock up on, etc. I get the part about batteries, flashlights and having perhaps your last cup of coffee and a shower in the morning before possible power outage, though I saw you had a bottled Starbucks for later.(good idea!) Kudos to Gorgeous for baking I thought the worst part would be the waiting for the storm to hit, but changed my mind when I heard about people being trapped in their own houses getting as high as they can go with the water rising and the storm is still raging and nowhere near over. Absolutely terrifying. I am glad you are safe and I will be donating money to the Bahamas, that is a true catastrophe. I have heard the same comments from people here when a tornado passed us by, but the warnings kept us prepared and safe. Perhaps they need to do some community service and wake up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Jane. Many thanks for stopping by. The quick morning shower was also so we could immediately fill the bathtub with water and have it ready in case our city’s water supply became lost (or at least limited). By pouring water into the toilet bowl after a usage, one can crate a “manual” pressure to flush each time. So we fill each tub for that purpose— a plastic barrel or garbage pail can also work.

      The days leading up to a storm are indeed very stressful. One is never sure precisely what to do, i.e. go or stay. Indeed, the Bahamas are a tragedy. It’s helpful to donate money to them if one possibly can.

      Like

  16. Marty, I remember hand plotting hurricane lat/longs when I lived in coastal Louisiana. Today’s weather forecasting technology is so much more advanced. Thank you for the play-by-play from your vantage point. I was thinking about you as the storm approached. Thankfully, you were not overly affected.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Oh boy, I got to this late, but maybe just as well since I know the ending. Not over-hype, just great fortune that the Cat 5 didn’t hit you all. My friend who lives in St. Augustine moved inland to her parents’ house with her 4-year-old during the long wait-out – didn’t want to take any chances. A scary time. But anywhere we live now can be scary. You live in a beautiful area = enjoy. By January I’ll be pea green in envy.

    Liked by 1 person

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