Monday, August 29, 2005

Katrina: No Such Thing as a "Small" Hurricane

As blasé Miamians, when we heard that a mere "tropical storm" that might just barely turn into a category one hurricane was approaching, and which furthermore would be passing some 50 miles to the north of us, we figured we were in for no more than a couple of rainy evenings watching it all on TV.

Bzzt! Wrong. At the last minute Katrina intensified further and made a sharp southerly turn, bringing the eye right through the city of Hialeah, only about 15 miles from our South Miami abode. Instead of the 30 to 50 mph winds that had been predicted we were getting gusts above 80. Time to start wishing I'd put up the shutters and bought more supplies.

Around 8:30 the lights went out. Nothing out of the ordinary about that. But about an hour later came a tremendous BOOM--sounded like thunder crashing right overhead. This was followed by some strange noises that led us to look around the house, carrying flashlights like we were in an episode of the X-Files. In the back bedroom we discovered a hole in the ceiling with about six inches of wood sticking out. It was the end of a branch of the rather large tree that had fallen on the roof, punching its way through roof and ceiling. Luckily it also pretty much sealed up the hole it had made so we were able to catch the small amounts of water that ran down it in a waste basket.

Around this time one of my cats, the least intelligent of the three, who had disappeared prior to the storm, decided to turn up and request admittance, so I had to go out and carry her in to safety. While I was outside I went to look at the tree. One of its two trunks, a good sixteen to eighteen inches in diameter, had split right to the base and was resting on top of the roof. No wonder it had made a noise--the whole roof had acted like a soundbox to amplify it.

The tree is still there, because so far we have failed to get any tree trimming company to actually show up. The morning after, we were able to patch the hole temporarily by sawing the branch off at roof level--leaving the rest of it inside--and covering it with tarpaper and caulking. The predictable aftermath has happened, with traffic lights out, stores closed, food and water and batteries in short supply, and lots of yard work to do. I now have a pile of debris the size of a small truck out by the road, with more to come. But we're more than grateful not to have worse damage or the kind of flooding that occurred further south from us.

So here we are, only a few days later, with our power back on, A/C running again, no more cold showers or lukewarm bottles of water or suffocating heat, just in time to see what the same storm, vastly increased in size and power, will do to poor old New Orleans. Having been through that with Hurricane Andrew in 1992, I can only wish them good luck. As low as we are, at least Miami is above sea level.

1 comment:

  1. Update: The tree is gone, along with most of the yard debris, but that branch is still in the attic like a thorn that will have to be surgically removed when the roofers finally get here (estimated six weeks).