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Windy with a Side of Flooding

So, we had a bit of a night last night. Thanks, Ian!

This is my first time being in Florida during a hurricane on the coast. My family lived in Florida for about five or so years from 2005 in Fort Myers and then Jacksonville. However, I was only there during the summers or Christmas break while at university in Northwest Arkansas. After I graduated, I lived in Fort Myers for about five months before I moved to Korea, but we didn’t have any hurricanes during that time.

The only hurricane I can remember experiencing was one that hit while we were visiting my great-aunt when I was 12. However, she lived in Lakeland near Orlando, so it wasn’t much or anything to be worried about. By Oklahoma standards, it was a light thunderstorm.

A view from our balcony, though it's hard to see just how strong the wind is.

Anyway, we prepared for Ian, especially since forecasts couldn’t quite get a good read on how strong it was going to be or where it was going to hit. First, we were in the cone. Then we weren’t. I breathed a bit easier after that, thinking it wasn’t going to be super bad for us (though I’ve since learned that my definition of “not super bad” varies wildly from my roommate from Maine). We got bottled water, flash lights, and power banks for all the electronics in case we lost electricity. Made sure we had enough food to get use through the rest of the week so we wouldn't need to go out to the store or use delivery. I wasn’t even all that convinced we’d lose electricity, to be honest.

Still not, even though we have a few more hours of this to get through.

The whole time I kept saying that we weren’t going to get it that bad. This often earned me an exasperated look from Roommate No. 1. Again, our definitions obviously vary. I grew up in Oklahoma and weathered many a tornado season, so storms aren’t all that scary to me. She’s from Maine, though she keeps reminding me that she lived in Texas for a time.

Still think my tornado experience trumps hers, but it’s not a competition.

Anywho, I suppose my point is, my threshold of when to start getting nervous about a storm is a fair bit higher than hers, even though neither of us has experienced hurricane season. I've seen firsthand what tornadoes do and that shit is bad. I didn't think we'd get anything close to that bad in this storm. Strong wind, lots of rain, flooding - yes. Entire neighborhoods getting wiped out - no.

That’s where Roommate No. 2 comes in. He’s born and raised in Tampa. So he knows hurricane season and Florida storms. I decided last night that he was going to be my barometer on storms from here out.

Yesterday wasn’t that bad. We got a lot of rain all day, but it wasn’t super windy. Last night, I figured it would be some storming, but nothing major either. And honestly - it wasn’t. Compared to during the day, it was windier and we had more rain, some thunder and lightning. But nothing that I would consider a massive storm. It was actually really calm.

Another reminder, I’m used to Oklahoma storms.

These have massive winds; thundering-so-loud-you-can’t-hear-your-thoughts rain; and insane lightning. If it suddenly gets quiet, you run for the cellar. You get a tornado watch - meh, that’s just a normal, Oklahoma spring day. We practically live in tornado watches from May to July.

You get a tornado warning - you glue yourself to the screen or radio because there is definitely a funnel on the ground. The question is, is it near you? If it is, or heading in your direction, you run for cover because you have no idea if it’s going to hit you or your neighbor. Even our “weak” tornadoes are going to hurt since we typically get F2-F4 in strength. And every few years, there’s an F5 that always seems to hit Moore and then move up I-44 towards us. Those are tornadoes that will wipe out an entire town in about five minutes.

That’s the shit of nightmares.

Anyway… So, last night, I’m actually quite calm and not worried at all. We’re under a tornado watch, but again, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

And then we get a tornado warning at 7:30 pm, telling us to seek cover.

Now, again, I’m used to Oklahoma tornadoes, but I have no clue what tornadoes are like down here. I’ve read they are isolated and tend to not stay on the ground very long. I covered an F2 that hit in Cape Coral while I lived in Fort Myers back in 2007. However, that didn’t have nearly the level of damage I’m used to in Oklahoma. It basically hit a couple streets and peaced out.

At first, I got a bit nervous and walked over to my roommates’ room to check in. Roommate No. 2 told us it meant nothing and went back to gaming. Roommate No. 1 and I basically glued ourselves to the window, straining to listen for the telltale sounds and signs that a tornado was about to drop out of the sky. I downloaded a doppler app and watched it religiously. She was making me extremely nervous, so I put on some shoes and even loaded up one of the dogs into a carrier just in case we needed to run down five flights of stairs to the parking garage.

There was basically an argument going on in my brain. Half of me thought it was nothing while the other was starting to get pretty nervous. The half that was not worried, was making mad fun of the nervous half.

I then texted my sister up in Orlando about what was going on and she told me I was being a wuss and that there was nothing to worry about. Tornadoes down here weren’t like the ones up in Oklahoma - they're maybe F0 or F1 and tend not to say on the ground that long, nor do they inflict the kind of damage that we're used to seeing back home. And that tornado warnings happen, but most of the time it comes to nothing.

After that, I calmed down a lot. The warning only lasted about 10 minutes. We all ended up drinking beer on the balcony and watching the storm for a couple hours after that. It was windy, but didn’t really rain until just before we went in around 11:45 pm.

We had a grand total of three tornado warnings last night and there was no hint of a tornado near us.

Today, I’m pretty chill. We’re getting strong winds, but it’s not raining a whole lot. There’s a risk of flooding in the area, since we still have some rain bands from Ian still passing through. But I think - for Plantation, at least - the worst of it has probably passed. I don’t think it’s going to get much worse than what it’s already been.

It’s definitely not weather that you should be out in, by any means. The winds are strong. However, my roommates and I don’t have to go outside until maybe tomorrow (well, they do - I work from home), so we’re not in any danger. Roommate No. 1 is incredibly nervous about the large tree outside our balcony, but I’m of the mind that it’s obviously been there for 20 or so years. If it hasn't been knocked over yet, it’s not going to happen any time soon.

However, I’m worried for Fort Myers, Cape Coral, and Naples. I still know some folks over there, as does my sister. Her SO’s family is in Naples. That looks like where Ian is making landfall as I’m writing this. It’s a category 4, so there could be a lot of serious damage to the Gulf Coast. That’s an area that most definitely should be worried and nervous.

But, as I said, we’re safe. We’re not looking at damage. And I think that if we have any more hurricanes near us, I’m going to be a lot calmer and more put together. And really, my friends and family in Korea and Oklahoma are far more worried about me than I am. I keep trying to tell them on Facebook that there’s no reason to freak out. We’re not in the hurricane’s path and it hasn’t been bad at all for us.

Though, I will say, I’m ready for hurricane season to be over… Two more months…

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