Hurricane Charley

Two adults, two kids, four cats, two dogs and a mattress. This is where we hid from Charley.

It was August of 2004. Nine short months since the accident that paralyzed Arielle. School had begun and I had my first third grade class. I was sitting at Bob Evans eating dinner with Arielle and Kai when the waitress mentioned a hurricane. Hurricane? I was too busy with lesson plans and a class full of eight year olds. I didn’t have time to worry about a hurricane.

The next few days were all about Charley. Every time I turned on the radio or the television Charley’s name was being mentioned. He was quite popular. Charley was interrupting my life. My students couldn’t concentrate. Everyone was asking me if we were packing up and leaving town. My kids hoped school would be closed for at least a day, having never had the opportunity to experience snow days, they felt they deserved a hurricane day. When the schools closed, Arielle and Kai cheered. Life was put on hold to await Charley’s arrival.

Shelves at the grocery store were bare. Excitement was in the air. Everyone was discussing Charley.

Most of my friends were staying put so we decided to do the same. After all, Charley was going to be a category 3 storm on track to hit at least a hundred miles north of us. We believed it wouldn’t be that bad. Besides, I had my own zoo with four cats and two dogs. Where would we go? We covered the windows with sheets of wood, bought lots of water, batteries and snacks and waited.

The morning of August 13th, I woke and grabbed the video camera. I was going to get it all on tape. I remember standing on our balcony filming the trees blowing in the wind when I heard on the news that Charley had suddenly been upgraded to a category 4 hurricane and was expected to hit Punta Gorda a town very close to Cape Coral. It was too late to leave. We had no choice but to hope the house wouldn’t fall down around us or on us.

I remember the panic that overcame me. I went from being a little more excited than nervous to outright scared. I turned off the video camera and went into action. The news said to get a mattress to cover everyone. The four of us, with four cats, a cocker spaniel and a greyhound, all hid in a small area under our stairs with the mattress.

We listened to the wind scream and slam against our garage door. All of us quiet and calm. Slowly the howling died down and on the radio we heard that the eye of the storm was over us – they warned everyone to stay indoors. After a short time the wind picked up again and our garage door shook. We waited. Our cell phone rang. It was my friend checking on us. Everyone was fine at both houses.

Finally, they announced the storm had passed. We came out from under the stairs. I peeked through our sliding glass door to find a collapsed pool cage. Pieces of metal were strewn across our backyard and in our pool. Out front,  some of our siding and roof shingles were gone. Minor damage.

Our electricity was out for three very long, hot days. The neighborhood came together to collect supplies for people in Punta Gorda. It was actually the first time in four years that I had seen neighbors meeting and talking with one another. I remember driving to drop off the supplies and seeing  a boat lying ontop of a fallen billboard on the side of the road. Three days without electricity was nothing compared to the damage I witnessed on our short drive. Many living in trailers were homeless. Punta Gorda was hit hard.

My thoughts are with those up north preparing for Hurricane Irene. I have an idea of what you may be feeling. I would highly recommend having a battery operated radio nearby so you can follow the path of the storm and a fully charged cell phone along with all the other supplies like water and flashlights. Those with children, please make sure you keep them away from tempting water puddles after the hurricane has passed. There may be fallen power lines nearby.

Stay safe.


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The Picture Book Review

Reviews of Children's Board Books, Picture Books, Activity Books, and Graphic Novels

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