Archive for the ‘Weather Events’ Category

Remembering Charley

Eight years ago today, Hurricane Charley came ashore along the Gulf coast of southwest Florida as a Category Four hurricane. Places like Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte receive the brunt of this storm, experiencing catastrophic destruction in many areas. Later that evening, after being over land for a full eight hours, Charley was still packing a wallop when it came through the Orlando area, where I live. Official estimates rated the storm a borderline Category Two/Three hurricane when it came past my house. That would put the sustained winds in the range of 105 to 110 miles per hour (roughly 170 to 180 km/h for readers more accustomed to the metric system).

To make a long story short, here’s what my front yard looked like the morning after the storm.

20120813-081445.jpg

The picture above was taken while standing in the driveway, looking toward the house. At the far left edge, you can barely make out the roofline above the downed trees. The picture below, taken from the sidewalk, provides a different perspective. The roofline visible in this picture belongs to our next door neighbor.

20120813-081452.jpg

The following picture was taken from the same place as the one above, but is angled toward the right. By this point you may be wondering about all the brown grass. That actually had nothing to do with the hurricane. A few weeks earlier, we had had to replace the drain field, which is located beneath the front lawn. Following the work, we had sod put down, but it promptly died. At the time Charley blew through, I was waiting for the replacement sod to be delivered.

20120813-081500.jpg

The following picture provides a good sense of the power of this storm, by showing one of the trees next to the garage door.

20120813-081508.jpg

The next picture is interesting. It’s hard to tell by looking, but there are actually two cars in this picture. Can you see the red one? It’s parked right next to the beige minivan.

20120813-081514.jpg

From this angle, you can see both vehicles. Believe it or not, the red one did not even have a scratch!

20120813-081520.jpg

The next set of pictures show what greeted us when we opened our front door. We literally could not get out of the house by going that way. Instead, we had to go out the back door and walk around the house.

20120813-081526.jpg

The red you see in the picture below is the front of the same car mentioned above.

20120813-081530.jpg

20120813-081535.jpg

I can’t say enough to express my gratitude for the kindness of our neighbors and family members that day. Several people pitched in to help without being asked, and within a short period of time, we had chain saws buzzing continuously. By noon, all the trees were cut down into manageable pieces, stacked along the road. The man on the roof in the next picture is a neighbor, and the one in the foreground is our son-in-law.

20120813-081540.jpg

20120813-081551.jpg

As a postscript, I am happy to say that we were lucky not to have sustained any structural damage. The roof was damaged enough to need replacement, we had a bit of water damage inside the house, and our screen enclosure in the back needed to have the panels replaced, but all things considered, I believe we were very fortunate. Many others did not get off so easily.

One last thing to point out: if you look closely at the picture above, you’ll see a staghorn fern underneath the tree in the foreground. We were sure it was a goner. But once we got the tree off of it, it didn’t look like it was damaged too badly, so we hung it up in the oak tree still standing on the other side of the driveway. I am happy to report that that fern pulled through in good shape. In the picture below, you can see how it looks today.

20120813-133631.jpg

Advertisements

Flood relief

Summer is the rainy season in Central Florida. Rain is frequent and heavy, and is often accompanied by gusty winds and lots of lightening. Anyone who has visited the region during the summer months can attest to the severity of our afternoon thunderstorms this time of year. They can also tell you how, once the storms clear out each evening, the sky will clear up again and we will have a warm and muggy, but otherwise pleasant evening.

This past week was different. One storm in particular had all the locals chattering on Facebook and comparing notes for several days afterward. Several things made this storm stand out. To begin with, it caught nearly everyone off guard by coming through the area at night. It also produced exceptionally heavy and frequent lightening. And thirdly, it dumped an incredible amount of water in a matter of just a few minutes. The rain gauge below shows what this storm dropped on my garden in under thirty minutes.

20120813-001223.jpg

Under normal circumstances, if I have young plants out, I can see the storms coming well enough in advance to bring the plants in under a shelter. Not this time. My young seedlings caught the brunt of it. And by the time I was aware of the storm, there was far too much lightening for me to go outside safely. Thinking back on it afterward, I realized that I did hear the storm coming; however, since I live within earshot of the Magic Kingdom, I actually thought the thunder was just a somewhat louder than normal nightly fireworks display. Little did I know!

When I checked on the seedlings the next morning, the tray they were sitting in was filled to the rim, and it was obvious that the plants had taken a beating. I didn’t think to take a picture at the time, though. I just dumped the water, tidied up the plants and refilled their little peat pots with fresh Mel’s Mix.

Yesterday, we had yet another heavy storm. This one wasn’t quite so intense, but I did not see it coming, and once again my plants got hit pretty hard. Here’s what their tray looked like this morning. There was almost an inch in the rain gauge. As you can see, much of the soil was once again pounded out of the pots. Some of the pots themselves had even been ripped by the force of these storms!

20120812-235124.jpg

Today, I provided them some relief. I repotted those in the worst shape, moving them to plastic pots, and placed the plastic pots in a tray with drainage. I am hoping that does the trick. While they are still vulnerable, I will try to pull them in out of harm’s way, but obviously I’m not always able to be there for them.

20120812-235155.jpg

Here’s hoping they have seen the worst of it! In the meantime, happy gardening!