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HURRICANE REPORT Report #2 (October, 2004)

Hurricane Frances: Preparation & Experience
August 30-September 5, 2004

August 30, 2004 (Monday): The decision was made that my wife and I (Rev. & Mrs. Donnan) would make a trip up to St. Charles, Missouri (just west of St. Louis -- approximately 1100 miles), to look after some house affairs pertaining to my mother who had recently moved into an assisted living facility for clients with Alzheimers. When we left, we knew that Tropical Storm Frances was in the Atlantic, but it was moving slow. We also had the experience of knowing that we cannot plan our trips around hurricanes that "might" come our way, because far more often than not, they go some place else and our life would be on perpetual "hold" during hurricane season. By the time we arrived in Missouri, it was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane (70 mph winds).

 

Hurricane Francis: Preparation and Experience

Aug. 30-Sep. 5, 2004

Hurricane Francis: Aftermath


Sep. 5-6, 2004

Hurricane Ivan: Preparation


Sep. 7-23, 2004

Hurricane Jeanne: The Actual Hurricane Experience

Sep. 23-26, 2004

Hurricane Jeanne: Aftermath


Sep. 26-Oct. 4, 2004

Hurricane Jeanne: Clean-Up


Oct. 5-present

Coping with Trial : September 2004 Newsletter with Hurricane Report and Devotional

 

ABOUT HURRICANE MAPS: Below, you will see a series of typical weather hurricane landfall projection maps. The far right side of the hurricane is where the eye of the hurricane actually is. As the size of the cone opens wider, this is setting forth the "cone of probability" based upon the National Hurricane Center's best prediction of where the eye of the hurricane (where the worst winds are) will make landfall. The center of the cone is the most likely, according to their models. As you move away from the center, the probabilities become increasingly less. As the cone widens, you will see target times of approximately when the eye will be at the projected location. However, you will notice as you scan through the maps, the cone keeps changing direction, and with each change, as it gets closer to the U.S., it becomes increasingly likely of hitting somewhere within the cone. The cone only indicates where the "eye" of the hurricane will land, but additional indicators will be noted as you get closer to land, where hurricane and tropical force winds are expected. If you want to see the whole set of graphics in progression, you may go to the following website to see the Hurricane Frances from beginning to end.

Go to http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2004/FRANCES_graphics.shtml. (Your school age kids will find this a very "cool" set of information.) That is the source of the selected graphics below.

 

Sunday, August 29, the decision was made by us to go to Missouri because it seemed that the hurricane would probably stay well to the south of our part of Florida.

Monday, August 30, by the time were well on our way to Missouri, and not capable of watching television, you will notice that the track had changed from a west north west direction, in a more northerly direction. The little red markings in the Virgin Islands indicated hurricane force wind warnings. The blue markings in the northern West Indies, indicated tropical storm force wind warnings.

August 31 (Tuesday): After arriving in Missouri, we were able to see the weather reports on TV again and visually understand that the track for Hurricane Frances was not going to go south of Florida. It seemed headed more for central Florida, and furthermore, it was strengthening and had moved to a Category 3 (winds 110 mph or more), and was a huge hurricane in physical size.

 

Tuesday, August 31, it was becoming increasingly evident that hurricane was heading our direction, though there was some speculation at the time that it might move further up north and skirt off the coast of Florida.

Wednesday, September 1, you can see that the projected path was aimed right for Sebastian, Florida, 15 miles due east of Fellsmere where we lived. By now, it was expected to make landfall at 8 a.m. Saturday, but hurricane force winds were expected to start mid-day on Friday. Stores began announcing that they would be closed Friday. Schools began closing on Thursday.

September 1 (Wednesday): It was now a Category 4 (winds up to 130 mph) hurricane and expected to be a Category 5 in the next day, and it was becoming more and more clear that it was going to hit somewhere in Florida, with the track concentrating on the central Treasure Coast area (where we live) with hurricane force winds expected on Friday afternoon, September 3, and landfall in Sebastian, Florida, just 15 miles east of us. From calls to our family, we heard that because of Hurricane Charley, and the tremendous damage done by that on the western coast of Florida, people were well sensitized and awakened, and evacuations had already begun, gas lines were already starting, some items were already becoming scarce (all the typical things prior to a hurricane). The decision was made to finish our work in Missouri, pack up and get home two days early. We would drive through the night to get home in time to help prepare our property, and batten down the 75 or so openings in our two houses, one office, and various storage sheds. We left about 3 p.m. Central time listening to radio reports and praying all the way home.

September 2 (Thursday): As we got closer and closer to Florida, it became evident that the traffic coming out of Florida was moving at a considerably heavier pace than that which was going into Florida (except for trucks -- carrying hurricane supplies). We decided to buy the things we needed in northern Florida, such as groceries, gas cans, batteries and food items that we knew would be scare as we got further into the state. Already in northern Florida we found problems locating big tarps and sheet plastic to cover damaged roofs. Oil for generators was nearly impossible to find. We finally arrived at about 2 p.m. in the afternoon, quickly unloaded and began the process of pulling out the storm shutters.


 

Thursday, September 2, the track refuses to change and continues right for us. All the while, we are driving from Missouri to Florida arriving mid-afternoon that day.

Friday, September 3, the intensity of the hurricane begins to drop from Category 4 to Category 3, but the track remains the same. However, the hurricane slows down expecting landfall now sometime later Saturday evening, rather than Saturday a.m. .
 


This satellite picture of Hurricane Francis was taken from the southeast side of the hurricane facing in a west northwesterly direction sometime on September 1 or 2 while the eye is drawing closer to the Bahamas. You can see Florida off in the top left portion of the picture with Cuba to the far left side. In the upper right, there is the southeast coast of the U.S.
 

Traffic driving north on I-95 in central Florida to evacuate from Hurricane Frances at the same time we are driving south on I-95 to get home to prepare for the hurricane. We kept asking ourselves if we were being brave or stupid, driving into a hurricane from which most others were fleeing.

By the time we had arrived, David Card (who works with RCM and also is my son-in-law, had completed putting up the hurricane shutters on the office. That was one of five buildings done.

September 3 (Friday): Everything was closed, Home Depot, ACE Hardware, service stations, banks, post offices and most grocery stores. Curfews were going into effect and evacuations were largely completed. The police wanted everyone off the streets so that their job would be minimized. Announcements were made that as soon as the winds reach levels beyond 40 mph, no emergency responders (police, ambulance, fire dept.) would go out on the road. We made one last attempt to get to a grocery store. Winn-Dixie was open until noon, but the lines were so terribly long, it would have taken just an hour to get through them. Most of the things we needed were not in stock anyway.

Hurricane Frances was now hammering the Bahamas Islands and was clearly headed right for us. Even if the eye landed some place else, the size of the hurricane was such that it would encompass most of the state of Florida. At this time, Hurricane Francis was downgraded slightly to a Category 4 (winds 130 mph or more), but was still expected to possibly strengthen again. At the same time, it was also moving much more slowly, and as a consequence, the wind damage was expected to be much greater since the hurricane would hover in one place for 4-6 hours longer, rather than moving quickly through. We continued the battening down process, leaving only a few doors open that were in pretty safe locations for access until the last minute. I made last minute checks to be sure our generator was working. We also went through the entire house inside and out taking pictures so that if there was any structural damage, we had proof of the way the structure looked and the contents inside. Everything that was normally outside that was not secured down, had to be brought inside (challenging our space inside). Vehicles had to be secured in locations least likely to have direct wind hits to minimize their damage. It took four adults and 2-3 of the older grandchildren (ages 6-9) to get this job done, and by the end of Friday, it was still not done, but the hurricane had also been delayed, so there would be time on Saturday.

 

Saturday, September 4. Tropical force winds felt in the morning, hurricane winds beginning in the afternoon. All final outside work is finished in the morning.

Office (left), Card house (right) and Donnan house (behind the car) are shuttered, and cars parked in secure locations. This old RCM van is parked in perhaps the most secure location for a car because it is uninsured for hurricane damage, and has the generator placed into it. The generator cannot be kept in the house (because of the gasoline) yet needs to be kept safe to run after the power goes out and hurricane winds dissipated.
 

Three cars are secured partially under equipment leanto and carport. Card family van and Poettcker's car (Suriname) all placed for minimal debris impact.

North side of Donnan house secured with plywood shutters on windows and metal shutters over doors. All the patio furniture is inside the house (see immediately below).
 

South side of Card house (Card and Donnan houses are back to back with a screened enclosure between them) shuttered.

Donnan family sitting room full of furniture from north and south patios stacked inside with a small pathway to the bedroom. Note shuttered doors..

September 4 (Saturday): Since there is no more possibility that the hurricane is going to veer away, we now begin the process of hunkering down. The solar electrical system is checked one last time to be sure batteries have been fully charged. The office computers are now dismantled, all plugs removed from the wall. All electrical items on the floor are placed off the floor. File cabinets are locked to secure contents (as much as possible) in case the winds breaches the building. The computer bodies are brought into the saferoom to preserve all data in the event the office is damaged. All data has been backed up. With that done, the last unshuttered door is secured, along with the doors to the two main sheds. Winds are now tropical force and shuttering becomes more difficult (since the last shutters are for doors and can be like sails in the higher winds if they happen to come along while you are putting the shutters in place). We try to do this between the on-coming bands of rain and their gusts of wind, but some had to be done in the rain. At last, all of the outside work was now finished. The office and shed doors secured, and all but one door (well protected) on the Donnan house is fastened down.

Hurricane Frances is now delayed, moving at a painfully slow rate over the Bahamas, and is also being downgraded from a Category 3 to a Category 2 (winds are running around 110 mph), and it is moving at 5 mph. So, landfall is now expected early Sunday morning, about 5 a.m. While this is good news in one respect, in that the wind speeds are lessening, it was bad news in another. It would take longer for the hurricane to get to us and it would stay longer with us, meaning more storm surge (high waters brought in from the ocean) and more wind damage and higher rain levels. Furthermore, most people who were planning on riding the storm through (i.e. they had not evacuated), had had all their windows (minus one last minute door closure) covered since Thursday or Friday. Consequently, it gives what we call "cabin fever" from being cooped up without any light inside their homes.

Mount Donnan overlooking canals.

After we were well hunkered down, and before the winds got too high, Dave and Geoff took a walk to the back of the property to "Mount Donnan" (perhaps another 15-20 ft. above the houses over looking the joining of the canals in the back of the property. Upon our return (with no camera) the ladies wanted to get out of the house too one last time. Because of the wind speeds at 50 mph or so, it was

too difficult to hold the camera steady and the pictures turned out blurry. You can get a perspective of how high Mt. Donnan is above the water in the canals at the junction of the Park Lateral Canal (at left coming from Fellsmere) with the Main Canal (coming from top of picture) running into the Indian River and from there into the Atlantic Ocean (about 18 miles due east).

At 2 p.m., strong winds put out our electrical power (we would not have it back on for 12 days). At this point, we could not run the generator until the hurricane was past because they cannot be run inside the home and no place outside the home was really safe, so we operated on batteries and solar power.

NOTE: In 1998, when we moved to Fellsmere, we did so with some concerns about the possibilty of Year 2000 glitches. Consequently, knowing we were living in a place where hurricanes would hit periodically, and also aware of the problems that might result from Y2K, we decided to get something that would cover both contingencies. We purchased a solar electric system. We have fourteen 100 watt Seimen solar collector panels on a shed room facing south. They charge 8 huge six-volt batteries set up on a 24 volt system. These DC power of the batteries is then inverted to AC 120 volt power using a sine wave inverter (fancy language for "it works for computers") and we use this to run our telephone and computer systems, using it as an uninterrupted power supply. Computers don't work well on generators because of the constant fluctuation of power. We have constant fluctuations in our utlility power, and momentary power outages which this solar system removes from our five computers. It also acts as a source of backup power.

(Top left) Solar shed, on right, is joined to our tool shed, on the left. It has 14 - 100 watt photo voltaic solar power collectors, which feed in through a charger (top right). The charger and batteries are located immediately under the roof in the solar shed below. The charger is the right side of the two white boxes. The left box is the 24 volt inverter which converts the DC power to AC power. Any extra energy that is not being immediately used by our computers and phone system is then stored in the eight Trojan 6 volt batteries (right) kept inside a box under the charger and inverter.

Whenever the batteries run low, as on cloudy days, our utility power kicks in and supplies the deficit. In anticipation of a hurricane, we always shut down the load on the batteries and get them fully charged, knowing that we will have one or two cloudy days. If we are careful in our use of the solar power, we can have all the TV and radio that is necessary, and still keep our phone system working. When the hurricane is over, generally after a day or so, the sun comes back out and recharges the batteries. We also then are able to run most things except our computers and air conditioning off of the generator. The batteries then allow us to run our computers during the day when we are without regular power, so we can carry on our office work.


The Donnan house was wired to utilize the solar power in times of power outages, so when the power went out with Hurricane Frances, we were able to plug our TV into solar and stay abreast of the coverage on the hurricanes. Because we have no cable or DSL service in our area, and antennas receive limited signals and are prone to wind damage, the Donnans chose satellite TV (the Cards have no TV). Cable is often destroyed during hurricanes and wind storms, so satellite is generally much more reliable. Consequently, with the solar power and the satellite TV, we were able to stay in touch with the weather channel and the various news stations that were broadcasting vital storm information (like where the tornados are and what to expect in the next hour or two and whether to seek shelter in our safe room).

 

Directv satellite dish attached to a southwesterly facing direction and well sheltered from most winds enables us to stay in touch with the important weather information broadcast through the weather channel as well as the local news channels which convert to 24 hour hurricane coverage before, during and after a hurricane.

Grandma Donnan (Nancy) is watching most of the children while Kimarie and David are preparing dinner by candlelight on the eve of the hurricane.

Homeschooling for the grandchildren continues through the intensive information that they learn about the weather, weather patterns, preparedness and other matters pertaining to the experience they are having. The local news channel covering hurricane coverage becomes "entertainment" during the hurricane. Through this process, we turned the stressful experience of the hurricane into an enjoyable learning experience for the kids. As a result, they never had any real fears.

Refrigerators are kept closed while power is out. Batteries and water are kept at the ready in the Donnan kitchen.

However, in preparation for the possibility of tornados, beginning on the day of the approaching hurricane, the Card children had "storm drills." The Card house is adjacent to the Donnan house (joined by a hallway, but otherwise separated by a screened pool enclosure). However, the Donnan house is the most recently built (2002) and was built according to the new building codes required for all 2003 construction at wind loads of 140 mph. The Card house (built in 1991 by the previous owner) and the RCM office built in 1998 by RCM, were built to the older 110 mph wind load codes. So, the Donnan house is considerably stronger. Additionally, because of the large number living here and the frequency of tornados and hurricanes, the Donnans decided to build a "saferoom" composed of a walk-in closet off of their bedroom. The storm drills involve marching the children over to the saferoom in the Donnan house and having them sit on the floor. The adults join them, and then a system of door jams are utilized which enable the door to withstand windloads of over 200 mph (for details, see below).
 

The RCM saferoom

is a 10' X 13' walkin closet (which serves as chest, dresser and hang-up clothes closet off of the master bedroom). It is built of cement block with steel reinforcement bars (re-bar) in each block cell of the wall, with re-bar coming up from the floor, and a poured cement ceiling with re-bar on 1 foot centers. In other words, the floor, walls and ceiling are all constructed as a unit reinforcing each other. It has a steel inward opening fire-door with a dead-bolt into its steel frame. The room and door are estimated to be able to withstand winds of over 200 mph and is within a house built to withstand 140 mph winds. No trusses from the roof are tied to the ceiling of the saferoom, so that should the roof be blown off of the house, the saferoom ceiling will will not be compromised in the process. It also has a solar power outlet to enable a fan and light to be used, as well as a ceiling vent should the air-conditioning cease. The in-opening door was designed to allow us to get out of the room, in the event of debris blocking the door from opening in an outward direction. A door jam mechanism composed of two 2" X 8" beamsassembled from within the room, which jam the door against the opposing wall, prevent it from being opened by high-wind pressure from the outside. The steel door-frame with its inward opening door prevents the door from being sucked open by wind vacuums. There are two glass blocks built into the wall to allow for natural light to come in. While the room is a little tight for 12-14 people, it can be done for the short durations needed to protect from tornados and high wind hurricanes. It also has a much more sound-deadening than the house itself, so the horrible sounds associated with these storms is considerably less within, than outside the room. This is why we call it our "safe room."

The room is stocked with a supply of food for the children and water for everyone to last for perhaps 5-6 hours. Valuable papers, along with the RCM computers are kept in the room for safekeeping. Blankets and cushions, and small chairs are placed in the room for convenience, along with a storm radio.

Hurricane night: Because of the hurricane has been downgraded to wind levels that we suspect will not do much damage to our buildings (except from flying debris, which the shutters will largely protect), our primary concern is to stay alert to the tornados that generally accompany hurricanes. This can be done by staying in tune with the doplar radar on TV or listening to the radio (far less accurate, depending upon the area to which they are broadcasting). In the case of Hurricane Frances, because it was now only a Category 2 hurricane, the Card family stayed at home and slept in their own beds. Hurricane Jeanne was another matter, and we will discuss that when we come to that.

While the wind howled outside, and the adults got up from time to time to check conditions, the hurricane night, other than all the preparation, was not that traumatic, though there was the constant sound of things hitting the roof. Unable to see, the only comfort we took was that nothing was yet leaking. The walls of the house were not shaking, yet there was the fear of several large trees just to the north of the Donnan master bedroom which were big enough to do significant damage if they fell.

September 5 (Sunday): By 5 a.m., the hurricane winds were considerable. Since the winds were coming from the north and we had our remaining door very well sheltered and facing south, we kept that open in order to go outside and veer into the darkness to the east and see what we could see. Our camcorder was not working, so we were unable to record anything in a video format, but even worse, there was no light with which to see, and because there was no lightning with this storm, we could only see these vague shadows of our surrounding trees waving in the winds, and bending farther than we thought they would go without breaking, YET they did not break. The queen palms right near our screened enclosure were being whipped back and forth. We notice that the east facing screen door to this enclosure opened to the north and had been caught by the wind and whipped open. As a result, I ventured out in the wind and rain with a rope and managed to secure the door to keep it from being used to pry down the screen enclosure. This secured it and eliminated the damage to the large screen enclosure which protected much of our house from mosquitos. As daylight came, we began to be able to see what was still happening. The wind was whipping the trees tremendously. It seemed from the reports that winds were steady at 100 mph, with gusts up to 120 mph. By 11 a.m. the winds began to subside to perhaps 70-80 mph and finally by the early afternoon, they had returned to tropical force winds (under 70 mph).

As the winds subsided, the all night vigil fatigue began to set in and the noise of the hurricane allowed for better sleep. Both families slept perhaps till noon, having only gotten a few hours of sleep through the hurricane.

We strongly prefer hurricanes that take place during the day, but for whatever reason, all of those that we have experienced in our current location took place at night. As a consequence, the darkness hid so much of what was happening and added tremendously to the imagination and human fear. One's trust in the Lord never seems tested as much as it does when experiencing a hurricane in the middle of the night when all you can do is hear and feel, but cannot see.

We experienced no breaches of our two houses, and with daylight we were able to peer out of the few peep holes we had built into strategically located hurricane shutters. With the longer than normal duration, we were not fully prepared to know what to expect when we looked outside. We had imagined horrible things, but we will give you a report of the events later in this Sunday in Report #3.

 

Sunday, September 5, at 5 a.m. Hurricane Frances north eyewall passed directly over our residence, causing us to experience the heaviest winds in the hurricane. However, since those winds were sustained at no higher than 100 mph (even though gusts were up to 120 mph), things were not as bad as they would have been had it been higher. Yet, because the hurricane moved so slowly, those winds worked for longer times on the trees and structures, which caused more damage than had it passed through quickly.

By Monday, September 6, we were still experiencing bands of wind and rain even though Frances had now been downgraded to a Tropical Storm (winds under 70 mph) and was over 200 miles away.

 



Copyright 2004
Reformation Christian Ministries
13950 - 122nd Street, Fellsmere, FL 32948-6411
PH: (772) 571-8030 FAX: (772) 571-8010
 

 
 
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