Several former Alhambra residents now living in Florida rode out Hurricane Irma as it pounded the sunshine state. Another former resident was working near Houston when Hurricane Harvey hit. After the storms had passed, all were reached by telephone, and were able to give first-hand an accounts of the massive storms.
Shanna Uhe has lived in Florida for several years and works for the school system in the Tampa area, where she now calls home. Uhe lives in an area that could have been destroyed as it is along the Gulf of Mexico and right in the path of Hurricane Irma. She chose to stay, but went to stay with friends that were a bit more protected. In many instances, workers are not allowed to leave their jobs until just a few days before a hurricane comes in. In the case of Irma, the roads were packed with cars and the threat of gas shortages and the fear of getting stranded was worse than staying, Uhe said in a phone interview.
Dondee (Riepshoff) Rex, her husband Matt, and daughters, Talia, age 4, and Tiana, age 2, stayed in their house in Orlando. Preparing for the hurricane meant taping windows to guard against them being shattered by the wind. Plywood was also put up, and they placed a few sandbags around the bottom of the doors. They stockpiled food that required no heating and lots of water and drinks for the girls. They also charged up all electronics and downloaded plenty of cartoons. They also came up with games they could play together to distract the girls in case the wind got loud. The worst of the storm hit after the girls went to sleep, and they lost power about 9 p.m., and were fortunate enough to get their power back on by about noon the next day.
Dondee Rex and Uhe both mentioned that the news media were still talking about how horrible the hurricane was going to be even when it had been downgraded to a Category 2, which is just a tropical storm. Both ladies said they went through a lot worse hurricanes in 2004. Damage in Rex’s neighborhood was minimal, although one huge tree was completely uprooted at the end of her street.
Jay Ross and his wife was visiting their daughter in Gainesboro, which is in about the middle of the state. They had actually planned to leave before the hurricane got there, but the traffic was so heavy with the evacuations that it was impossible to get on Interstate 75, they said. They just got what supplies they could and braced themselves. The wind came in at a steady 80 mph and managed to dump 13 inches of rain over night, with slashing sideways rain that managed to come in under the door. The next morning, there were some tree limbs down and some shingles laying around. It took 24 hours to get power turned on again, and it was a few days before the grocery stores had anything on their shelves.
Ross said, when they finally headed home, all lanes headed south were bumper-to-bumper, and it was amazing how many power trucks from other states were on their way to help those in need.
Dondee Rex mentioned what a top job Florida Power did to restore their power.
Russell Reinhardt had a different story to tell about Hurricane Harvey. Reinhardt is currently working in a small town about six miles from Houston, Texas. He stays in a hotel and usually eats his meals out. He said he didn’t think he would ever wait in line to get into a grocery store, but that is just what he ended up doing. He went to the store across the street and got what he could, which was just some snacks. He had already bought water and noted that there was no water at all in the grocery store, but they still had beer.
Harvey woke him up around 5 a.m on Saturday, Aug. 25 with rain and wind that was so hard the grocery store could no longer be seen. The amazing part of this was the fact that it continued non-stop until Thursday afternoon, Aug. 30. By the time it stopped, the town Russ works in had a total of 58.88 inches of water. It would be two weeks before he would be able to go back to work. His truck sat out in the parking lot during this. When asked about how it fared during the storm, he remarked that there must have had good drainage in the parking lot, because his truck was fine. Most of the business places were not able to open for quite some time, and it took awhile before grocery stores could restock.