It was Sunday, September 10, 2017. Hurricane Irma is a category 5 storm expected to hit Florida. I live in Central Florida. The expected time of impact for my area is roughly 2:00 a.m. We prepped as best as we could – plenty of water, non-perishable food plenty for a few days, batteries, flashlights, and so on. Our roof was in the beginning stages of repair so the roofer’s placed a tarp over it to avoid any further damage. We cleared the patio terrace from all furniture, plants, wind chimes and any other potential projectile as recommended. It was very calm – no birds flying or chirping. A clear sign of what was to come. They knew to steer clear from the monster that would creep in.
Besides my family and my myself, we expected to have my mom and a friend of mine with her 4-year-old child to weather the storm at our home. We were 8 people, two dogs and a cat. The wait was endless. We tried to make the best of it by playing board games, talking and watched some TV even though most of the television time was spent watching the news. Some of us were anxious, bored or worried.
The rain began at around midday with some wind gusts of about 40 miles. It seemed like a long day. At around 11:00 p.m. I was ready to shower and head to bed. The winds began to pick up as soon as I got into bed. Chewy, our 25-pound dachshund/chihuahua mix, was trembling with fear. I allowed him onto our bed instead of his.
I heard the winds pounding on our windows and what sounded as if either the shed, roof of the outdoor kitchen or the fence was ready to come off. It stopped for a few seconds followed by silence, which was just as terrifying as the howling wind. Irma was not happy. I tried to sleep, but as I was about to doze off I heard a text message come in. It was my sister. She was giving me her accounts of the storm. We texted back and forth for a little while when I decided that I’d prefer to wait it out in the family room. I got up and walked into the family room. The double glass doors vibrated from the winds force. I walked towards the other side of the house and knocked on the door to the bedroom where my mom was but she didn’t respond. I opened it slowly and called out to her a couple of times. She was fast asleep. I wished I had been able to sleep like that while the hurricane stirred outside. I returned to the family room and sat down for a little bit with my friend.
My husband, son and son-in-law all stepped outside the front entrance – crazy guys. Just then the power went out. It was 2:00 a.m. and just as the news anchor predicted, the winds picked up. My sister sent me another text. It seemed to be winding down in her area so she was going to try to get some sleep. I could hear the clanking of flapping roofs and the tossing around of flying debris. I could hear the flapping of the tarp on our roof. It sounded as if the roof was about to give in and fly away. I didn’t know what category the storm was by now nor the speed of the wind. I really didn’t care. I just prayed to God to spare my family, friends, neighbors and Florida from any catastrophe. I headed back to bed even though it was so hard for me to fall asleep. I dozed on and off as the wind pounded on our windows like a mad man, in this case, a mad woman wanting to come inside. She grunted, howled and pushed with all her force and no mercy. She was relentless.
It was now 3:45 a.m. I still couldn’t sleep. I grabbed my iPad and logged onto Facebook and read how my local family and friend’s status depicted their Irma experience. Like I, many were terrified of what was going on. It was surreal. In between Facebook posting I maintained communication via text with my brother and my cousin. By now my husband was oblivious of what was going on as he slept peacefully with Chewy between us trembling. I got up a couple of times and peeked out the window towards the pitch, black night torment of Irma. The last time I glanced at the time it was 4:37 a.m. Irma’s furry was still thrashing away at the windows and everything outside. I was so tired but every time I dozed off I was awakened by Irma’s winds. It finally began winding down just enough for me to get a shut-eye.
I woke up at 6:08 a.m. still tired but relieved that the hurricane had moved on. I lived in Puerto Rico until 1996 and had been in many hurricanes back then and a few here in Florida. But I don’t recall any of them being as terrifying as Irma. It was the longest night of my life.