7 March 2024

Hurricane Irma: My Journey through the Heart of a Storm [Join Me]

By Ronald Smith

I can’t believe it! I had the most incredible experience recently when Hurricane Irma paid me a visit. Let me tell you all about it.

Picture this: a mighty hurricane named Irma. It was a force to be reckoned with, and I found myself right in the middle of it. The wind howled, the rain poured, and I couldn’t help but feel both scared and amazed at the same time.

As I huddled in the eye of the storm, I couldn’t help but think about the power and intensity of nature. I had never seen anything like it before. The wind whipped around me, like a whirling dervish, stirring up everything in its path. The rain fell in torrents, as if someone had turned on a massive faucet in the sky.

It was a symphony of chaos and beauty. The air was thick with electricity, and I could feel the energy all around me. The sights and sounds were overwhelming, and yet, I couldn’t tear my eyes away. It was like watching a captivating movie, but with the added knowledge that this was real, and I was right in the middle of it all.

I must admit, though, that I had a mix of emotions during this wild adventure. Fear gripped me as I saw the destruction that followed in Irma’s wake. Trees were uprooted, houses were damaged, and the landscape was forever altered. It was a stark reminder of the power of nature and the vulnerability of us humans.

At the same time, amidst the chaos, I felt a surge of admiration. Admiration for the resilience of those who had weathered hurricanes before, and for the indomitable spirit of communities coming together to rebuild and restore. There is something truly remarkable about the human spirit when faced with adversity.

Through it all, I couldn’t help but be grateful. Grateful for the lessons learned, for the opportunity to witness the sheer might of a hurricane, and for the reminder of our place in this vast and unpredictable world.

So, my friends, if you ever find yourself in the eye of a storm like Hurricane Irma, stay safe, be amazed, and remember the beauty and chaos that exists all around us.

Hurricane Irma: My Journey through the Heart of a Storm [Join Me]

Just a few days before Hurricane Irma was supposed to hit us in Naples, Florida, we thought we were in the clear. The experts said it would go out to the Atlantic, away from us.

But boy, were they wrong!

Instead, we had to deal with 8 hours of pure nervousness as Hurricane Irma went right over our home, just 15 miles north of Naples, Florida, on Sunday, September 10, 2017.

In the days leading up to Irma’s arrival, we were constantly checking the weather forecasts. At first, we weren’t too worried. We were more concerned about the people on the east coast of Florida.

But as time went on, the forecasts changed. Irma veered to the east, then to the west, and then back again. When it hit the Caribbean earlier that week, it was a Category 5 storm – the most powerful there is. That’s when we knew we were dealing with a monster.

Hour after hour, we all began getting ready.

Our neighbors started closing up their houses. They had to attach those metal shutters to windows and doors. It takes a long time to do it, so they began early. The companies that install storm shutters were really busy. If you didn’t book them in advance, you would have to wait for a week. Our houses became dark because of the shutters.

A few doors down, our neighbors decided to go on a sudden trip to Germany to stay safe from Irma. Another family who lived nearby drove to Alabama. They found hotels away from where the hurricane was heading. Some of us packed up our cars and went to stay with family members who lived farther up north.

But some people chose to stay at home.

I couldn’t believe how many concerned friends and relatives from up north were constantly checking in, telling me and my family to get out of there. It seemed like every six hours there was a new forecast from the National Hurricane Center, and the models were changing all the time. The local weather forecasters were working day and night, adjusting their predictions as soon as the latest reports came out. I remember them sometimes even reading the newest report right off a sheet of paper while they were live on the air.

Those hurricane spaghetti models became our worst enemies. It turned out that only the European model got it right in the end.

By Wednesday, all the flights were booked solid. Actually, the airlines were canceling flights left and right, so flying was definitely not an option.

We thought about leaving in our car, but by Wednesday the gas stations were running out of gas. It seemed like everything was working against us.

By Thursday before Hurricane Irma, all the schools were closed. And businesses started letting customers know they would be closed by the end of Thursday or Friday morning. We got text messages from a few small businesses we often go to. The owners were smart and decided it was time for their employees and themselves to get their homes and families ready.

By Saturday morning, everyone was aware that Irma was going to hit Naples. We decided we couldn’t keep listening to scary weather predictions all the time. We had done as much preparation as we could. So my husband and I made a choice to stop paying attention to the weather and news reports telling us to evacuate NOW, except for a quick update once an hour. At that point, I couldn’t bear to watch another frightening map with five colors showing huge storm surges of fifteen feet.

Instead, my neighbors and I decided to have some fun and play a game of Monopoly. Before the storm hit, we made sure to quickly bring all of our outdoor furniture inside.

But as the day went on, the situation became more serious. Shelters were filling up rapidly, and new ones were popping up every hour. People living in mobile homes and those closer to the Everglades and coastal areas were told to evacuate, but luckily, my neighborhood, which is about 10 miles inland, was not in the mandatory evacuation zone.

Unfortunately, the situation was not as fortunate for those who had evacuated from the Keys and came to our coast. The hotels they were staying in were forced to close, and they had nowhere else to go.

With no other options, these people started reaching out to friends of friends in safer parts of Naples. And that’s how our neighborhood became a refuge for some of them.

One positive aspect of a terrible situation is the way people come together to help each other. It’s really heartwarming to see neighbors, friends, and acquaintances lending a hand when times are tough.

Later that evening, my husband and I tried to find some distractions. We decided to watch a college football game, even though the wind and rain were getting stronger outside. We also texted a bit with Brent Leary, who hosts our interview series here at USamerica.US. It’s something we sometimes do during college football games. We just needed a break from all the scary news that seemed to be everywhere.

Sunday, which will always be remembered as hurricane day in our house, finally arrived. In the morning, we and our cat went over to our neighbor’s house to ride out the storm. We really needed the company and support of others during such a difficult time.

Around 10 am on Sunday, the power and internet went out. Can you believe it? We were without electricity for a whole 8 days! Luckily, our neighbors had a generator, so they still had power, even though they didn’t have internet.

I couldn’t believe it, but our only way to stay connected was a radio with batteries. It was like a lifeline for us during the chaos caused by Hurricane Irma. Through that radio, we heard the first reports of the destruction that was happening in the Florida Keys. Listening to the updates felt like watching a horrific car crash happening in slow motion. It was terrifying and I couldn’t tear myself away from it.

The winds and rain kept getting worse. All day long, we could hear the constant banging of our neighbors’ metal shutters from the relentless wind.

Then the eye of Hurricane Irma passed right over our house, which is about 15 miles north of Naples, on Sunday at around 5:00 pm. That was the most intense part of the storm. At that moment, I captured the video above to show the full force of Irma.

When Irma had finished unleashing her wrath, she had exhausted most of her power. The backside of the storm was not nearly as fierce as the front part. It was mainly a heavy rainstorm. However, there was a significant change in the wind direction. Instead of blowing in from the northeast, the winds now came from the southwest due to the hurricane’s rotation.

As the evening progressed, around 8:00 pm, we believed that the worst was finally behind us. Oh, how wrong we were.

We had no idea that the aftermath would be even more devastating. And this was only the beginning.

Make sure to check back each day this week for the other installments of this 5-part series: