Thread: Hurricane Irma
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Jester, Refugee Edition
Old 09-18-2017, 10:27 AM
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Jester Jester is offline
High Priest to Grog-Boozith
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: 24 33' 19" N / 81 46' 58" W. This is Paradise.
Posts: 6,184
Default Jester, Refugee Edition

Quoth Titi View Post
I remember seeing some episodes of Bar Rescue that I think he would like to try.
John Taffer is a douchebag. Also, Tom Petty was wrong: sometimes you really do have to live like a refugee.

Now that the important stuff is out of the way, I can give you all an update on my life the last couple weeks. (Thanks to Victory Sabre for aprising you of my situation the last week or so.)

In my 18 years in Key West, I've only ever considered leaving for a hurricane twice before: Ivan and Wilma. I stayed for both. Irma was the first storm in my time there that actually freaked me out. So as all my friends made their various plans, my buddy Popcorn and I made our plans, which were very simple: prepare for both staying and going, as best we could. Despite my little sister's panicked pleas to "GET OUT NOW!" many days before it was necessary, Popcorn and I both agreed to make our final decision the Thursday before the storm. He'd be riding with me in the Jestermobile, as he doesn't have a vehicle, but he was not dependent on me: if he decided to go and I decided to stay, I'd have him take the Jestermobile, to keep him and it out of harm's way. Also, he and I are both very fortunate in that we know people everywhere, and each had many offers to stay in places throughout Florida and beyond.

Wednesday night I packed up a lot of my stuff, clothes mostly, with the idea of packing my truck on Thursday, and either leaving Thursday or unpacking my truck Thursday night or Friday morning, all of this dependent on the track of the storm. Thursday I packed my truck, saw the track of the storm, and decided I was hitting the eject button, and leaving town. Popcorn decided to stay. So, since my friends B and S were leaving that day as well, we convoyed up to Fort Myers, where we had dinner. They had a hotel room in Fort Myers, and my original plan was to push on to St. Petersburg that night, but right after dinner, as I was looking for a gas station, I got into a minor fender bender with another car. I am fine physically, and the damage to the Jestermobile is minimal, but I was shaken up enough that I stayed the night in B and S's hotel room. The next day, they pushed on to New Orleans, and I went on to St. Pete. (Note: the fender bender is not public knowledge yet, so if any of you know me on Facebook, please don't mention it publicly there. My mom worries enough already. Lol!)

My plan for St. Pete was simple, and pretty much the same as my plan had been for Key West: track the storm, and if it was coming my way, go somewhere else. So I enjoyed a lovely Friday of cooking for a friend and her friend, and then the three of us playing Drunken Scrabble while going through three or more bottles of wine, some beer, and other libations. (I won, by the way.)

Saturday brought news I dreaded: Irma was coming right at the Keys, and then right at me. As much as I like St. Pete and all my friends there, three fourths of my worldly possessions were in harm's way in Key West, and the last fourth were in my truck, and I could not risk losing everything I owned, including my truck, or my safety. Some of my friends in St. Pete stayed, some decamped for other places. I set my bearings for New Orleans and hit the afterburners. Or so I thought. North of Tampa, I-75 was slow. Real slow. Three hours to go 100 miles slow.

Because of that, I got delayed enough where, by the time I hit the Panhandle, I knew I did not have enough in my personal tank to make it all the way to New Orleans, so I took up the offer some of my St. Pete friends had made me, and crashed with them in Pensacola. Early Sunday morning, I departed Florida and drove the rest of the way to New Orleans, making it here just in time to unload the important things from my truck and go with my friend/host to a bar to watch NFL football. Although, to be honest, as much as I love my Raiders, and as excited as I had been for Opening Day, I had trouble focusing on the game, as bits and pieces of news came in from Key West, which was in the midst of the storm.

I'll save you the suspense I went through: all my friends are safe. It took me a few days to learn this, and found out about most of them from third parties, as power and cell service were down, so most of them used some landlines to contact loved ones, who then posted on Facebook on their behalf.

In my apartment complex, one building either lost part of its roof or had it partly collapse. I saw the picture of this at the same time Sunday that I heard the rumor coming out of Key West that my complex was "coming apart." Luckily, it seems that was a major exaggeration. Other than the one building mentioned, which I could see from the photo was not my building, the complex seems to be mostly okay. Aerial satellite imagery from NOAA shows that only the one building had damage to the roof. Also, a few days after the storm, when people were slowly getting power and cell slide back, one friend in KW was bored, and on Facebook offered to check out anyone's property who asked. So I asked. Amazingly, considering the complex did not board up, all my exterior doors and windows seem to be intact. Still don't know if the roof leaked, but if not, biggest issue should be cleaning out the refrigerator. (My roommates evacuated separately to Orlando.)

On the job front, the bar I work at was not damaged, and management has made it clear that anyone who evacuated can come back whenever we feel it is appropriate. So I've been, it seems, amazingly fortunate.

Not everyone in the Keys were. At last count, there were nine confirmed deaths due to the storm, and while damage in Key West for the most part wasn't too bad, a few places did take more serious damage. And up the Keys from Key West, in Cudjoe Key and Big Pine Key and, to a lesser extent, Marathon, the damage is far worse. Many people have lost their homes. Many have lost their businesses. Many have lost their jobs. There are going to be a lot of pieces to pick up. But the thing about island people is that they're a tough bunch. We may bitch about the cold we left up north, but these people are already picking up chainsaws and shovels and mops and hammers, and getting to work. Yesterday (Sunday), Lower Keys residents who evacuated were let back in for the first time. Many chose to return immediately. Many others chose to stay away for a bit longer.

Power is not yet fully restored to Key West, less so to the rest of the Lower Keys. Cell service is still coming back. Water and sewage are still issues that are being resolved, and there is still a curfew there. For several of these reasons, the bar I work at is not yet open. For several of these reasons, I am one of the people choosing to stay away for now. I have a lot of talents, but carpentry and effective use of a chainsaw are not among them. Most of those who stayed in Key West have asked people who can't effectively contribute right now to stay away, as resources, while returning, are still a bit limited. I will honor their request. For the moment, that is the right choice for me, and starting today, I will be talking to a few places here in New Orleans about picking up some temporary work.

Many of the Keys Evacuees ended up in Orlando. Many others went to Nashville. A lot of the aid and relief are being coordinated from those two cities. I've been I touch with some of the Keys folk in Nashville, and hope they'll have some way I can help from out here in New Orleans.

But one thing is clear: Key West is not gone. The Florida Keys are not gone. Banged up, sure. But not gone. Any reports you see or hear telling you that they are, are completely wrong. As much as I enjoy certain news networks, all of them have reported some horrible inaccuracies and falsehoods from the Keys. The Keys will be back, they will be open for business, and it will happen sooner rather than later. So if you're thinking of taking a vacation to the Florida Keys, do so. If your friends are considering it, encourage them. We are a tourist destination, and our economy thrives on visitors to our little island paradise. Give us some time to clean up and get things back up and running, but come to Key West. Come to the Florida Keys. There is a magic there that is unique to that place, and that magic cannot be killed by something as simple as a hurricane.

Jester, in the Big Easy....for now.

"The Customer Is Always Right...But The Bartender Decides Who Is
Still A Customer."

Last edited by Jester; 09-21-2017 at 06:51 AM.