in the eye of the storm

okay...i'm a little nervous. my sister heather, who lives in orlando, is down in ft. pierce, florida right now, babysitting my grandfather's girlfriend's condo (long story) while he's in the hospital recovering from gall bladder surgery. she'd be in the hospital right now with my grandfather, but since my mom flew down from cleveland to be with her dad, the hospital refused to let my sister stay, so back to the condo she went...to ride out the storm on her own.

she's a little annoyed, actually. it's a dry household she's in, so there is not a drop of any sort of spirits to drink in the house. in addition to that, there is no cable television, reception on the old TV is spotty, the only music to listen to are ray stevens 8-tracks, and the reading material consists of people magazine, in touch, and the national enquirer. heather told me she's ready to claw her eyes out from boredom. however, in typical fox family fashion, she's taking it in stride and keeping her sense of humor.

let's just hope the roof holds out.

*** 22:03 EST ***

heather just called...something crashed into the condo...she's going to go investigate.

*** 22:07 EST ***

not good. water is coming in everywhere...through the vents, the windows, and it seems the roof is heavily damaged. her cellphone is starting to fail, and luckily, the landline is still working, for now. power is out. conditions are deteriorating. for the first time, i heard fear in my sister's voice. and i am sitting here shaking...i'm 3026.65 miles away, and there's nothing i can do to help her. she's dashing through the house, grabbing old photographs and other unreplacable things, and putting them in bathtub, where she is going to ride out the remainder of the storm underneath a mattress.

*** 22:19 EST ***

tornadoes are roaring all around the fort pierce area...water is pouring through the air conditioning vents and soaking the condo. miraculously...the landline is holding. i'm on the phone with her now...i can hear the wind roaring in the background...it's eerie. heather told me to call my mom, who is still at the hospital a few miles away.


*** 22:26 EST ***

can't get through to my mom on her cellphone right now...and the hospital phone is busy. i'm sure she's fine, as the hospital is built to withstand a category 5 hurricane. my sister hasn't told my mom the severity of the damage to the condo, as she doesn't want her to worry. however, my father, my other sister hillary, and i all know the danger my sister is in right now...and to be honest, i'm scared. i'm sounding chipper for heather, though. since we're both slovaks from cleveland, i did what any self-respecting slovak from cleveland would do...i grabbed my yamaha keyboard, set it to an oberpolka beat, set the voice to "accordion" and started making up polkas off the top of my head, singing them to her. the "my sister is in a bathtub" polka, the "oh no the roof is gone" polka, and the "i'm sure glad i'm not in florida right now" polka rolled off my tongue, and she sang the "my brother is a big gay nerd in san francisco" polka right back. she was laughing hysterically, and it took the edge off her fear...if only for a few minutes.

yeah, that's what we did in the old country.

*** 22:34 EST ***

heather is holding the phone up to the air conditioning vent so i can hear the fury of this storm...not good. i hear water flowing everywhere, roaring wind, and a strange creaking, groaning noise. i have a feeling this condo is not going to be habitable after this is all over.

*** 22:54 EST ***

the landline is down, just a frantic busy signal...a sure sign the phone lines are finally down. i'm watching the live pictures from ft. pierce on cnn...not pretty. i just talked to my dad, who said "that condo is toast."

well, soggy toast. i'm sure there won't be anything left of it.

hold on, heather. don't leave that bathroom, whatever you do. and if the roof goes, stay in that tub with the mattress over you and hold on tight, especially if you hear something that sounds like a freight train bearing down on you.

god, i wish i was there with her. if you have ever had a sibling in distress, especially one you're close to, you know the incredible angst coursing through my veins...coupled with the profound helplessness that i feel.

*** 23:05 EST ***

got through to heather...still in the bathtub...bathroom walls are shaking...no wind in the bathroom yet. she just asked me when the hell the eye is coming through.

soon, heather. soon. hang on.

*** 23:20 EST ***

current conditions in ft. pierce, as per the weather channel:

78°F Light Rain and Windy
Feels Like 84°F
UV Index: 0 Low
Dew Point: 76°F
Humidity: 93%
Visibility: 2.0 miles
Pressure: 29.33 inches and steady
Wind: From the North Northeast at 47 gusting to 60 mph

phone is working again, so i just relayed that info to heather. her response: "it's a lot fucking windier than 47 fucking miles an hour."

i also suspect a lack of wine, reading material, and entertainment is the least of her worries right now.

*** 23:42 EST ***

just got off the phone with my friend wendy in orlando...she said the winds are picking up there, and "it ain't pretty right now." good thing she just got a new roof last week...a tree fell down on her house during hurricane charley a few weeks ago and punched a nice hole in her roof. she was out in her front yard letting her dogs out before it deteriorates any further. she's really mad at my sister for riding out this storm like that, but knows heather is tough. i just hope the condo is as tough as my sister.

*** 00:08 EST ***

it looks like the eye is going to miss ft. pierce, and pass south of it. about 20 minutes south of ft. pierce, the eye has made landfall and the air is completely still. i remember when the eye of hurricane erin came through pensacola...i lit a stick of incense out in the front yard, and the smoke went straight up into the air. i had never seen anything like it.

amazingly, the phone is still working at the condo. my sister is holding tight in the tub, with the winds roaring outside. water is pouring in through several air conditioning vents, and whether or not the roof is going to hold is unclear at this point. something definitely hit the building a few hours ago, and the damage it caused is allowing water to seep inside, not only through the vents, but through some of the walls themselves.

i just hung up with her...as it turns out the line has no call waiting. better to keep the line clear so other people can reach her.

*** 01:54 EST ***

this has all taken a toll on heather. she's bunked down in the bathtub with some blankets and pillows, and has pulled the mattress over the tub. she's gonna try to take a nap, although if the place collapses around her she might awaken. it probably won't, though...the worst of the storm has passed. just a lot more wind, a lot more rain, but it'll be tapering off now.

ai yi yi. i need a drink.



At 20:21, Blogger Sandi said...

Good lord, what a nightmare! My mom lives in Orlando, and had to evacuate 3 times. My step-dad was putting up the plywood this last time, and he drove the screw right into the picture-window, shattered glass everywhere. Good prevention job, Les! The storms themselves didn't cause much damage tho, luckily, other than my mom not washing her kitchen floor for 6 weeks. And that's pretty serious. Why does anybody move to Florida?

At 10:22, Blogger Mike said...

Will you be my big brother? I need a big brother. I'm the big brother and although I relish my responsibilities, I have nobody to be my big brother.

You're a sweet guy with a big heart. I hope your sister is ok.


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