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Published by kayakpaddler2010, 2018-12-14 11:56:17

From the Outer Bands

From the Outer Bands

From the Outer Bands to
the Eye of the Storm

The Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria

An Anthology

Anthology Copyright 2017 by
George Mindling

Individual contributing authors are the sole copyright owners of their individual
writing, and retain all rights to their works and writings, except for those expressly

granted to the Anthology author in this Agreement.

No part of this book maybe reproduced or transmitted in any form, nor by any means,
mechanical or electrical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information
storage or retrieval system, except as may be permitted in writing from the authors.




To the Weather Forecasters who kept us informed,
To the National Hurricane Center of the

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
who kept the forecasters informed,

To the USAFRes/NOAA Hurricane Hunters
who still prove it all the hard way



STEVEN St. VINCENT – The Florida Keys............................................................8
BILL BRITTON – Vero Beach, Florida.................................................................16
WAYNE WARD – The Villages, Florida............................................................xviii
About the Authors.................................................................................................xxiii



We thought it would be easier to watch a hurricane from a thousand,
safe miles away than to peek out the cracks in the storm shutters as it
roared overhead. We suffered through Andrew in Miami and Charlie in
Port Charlotte, so I know it was far easier and a lot safer to be a
spectator rather than a participant. Still, it was nerve wracking for my
wife and I to watch the track of the eye of a category five hurricane go
dead center over our house in Florida. We watched breathlessly as
our friends and neighbors at home braced for a direct, 175 mile-per-
hour hit from Hurricane Irma.
Hurricanes don’t happen quickly. They are a full time, life changing
intrusion into your way of life. A week-long, frustrated, wait for the next
update from the National Hurricane Center, always some three hours
away. For four or five days it is a life changing event; nothing but
constant worry and hurried telephone calls between the updates.
The next part is the hardest for those who get hit. Living without power
or water, no communications, no gas, and often no window glass or
screens and with gaping holes where the roof used to be. The shock
makes all the preparation and worry spent before the storm
meaningless, even though it may have saved your life.
This was more than a Florida-wide storm. Friends were impacted from
the Florida Keys to Georgia. I asked many of my writer friends to write
about their feelings and what they felt before, during, and after Irma.
This isn’t a damage list compilation. Some suffered more than others,
but we all suffered. The mental anguish and relief is unique. You know
the thing is coming, and you can’t stop it.
This is what they felt.

George Mindling 2017



I had the pleasure of meeting many great writers during the several
years I was associated with the Sarasota Writers Group and the
Florida Writers Association. Many of my friends and associates are
also extremely talented at expressing themselves with the written
word. Some use poetry, others use prose.
Almost all live in the path of this summer’s hurricanes.
They have contributed their thoughts and impressions of the
emotional and physical experiences to this anthology. They retain all
rights to their works, and have allowed me the use of their works in
this collection of stories.
My sincere thanks to Bill Britton, Vero Beach, Florida; Steve St.
Vincent, of Key Largo, Florida;


GEORGE MINDLING – Veterans – 1960

My brother and I stooped over in awe as we watched water bubble
through the keyhole in the doorknob. The full-length, frosted glass
jalousies that ran down the front door just inches away were
absolutely wind-tight as my mom had dutifully hosed down the front
door with a garden hose before twisting the crank handle to close us
off from the threat of hurricane Donna.

The wind whistled and rattled the front door back and forth against the
door frame, but there was no wind through the front door. Water
seeped under the door, but except for the bubbling through the
keyhole, the door was air tight.

The house went dark, but, again, my mom had planned well, lighting
the Jewish seven-day candles she kept in stock for just an event. We
spent the night mopping the terrazzo floor by candlelight and
squeezing sopping-wet towels into the toilet. The bathtub was half full
of water to flush the commode in case the water was shutoff.

My mom called City Gas earlier in the week to top off the house
propane tank in preparation for the upcoming power outage. Power
outages were just another reason my mother didn’t like cooking on an
electric stove. She could always rely of gas. We had food, water, and
candles, what else could we need in an emergency? Oh, we also had
a transistor AM radio and two sets of batteries. We were ready.

My job was to wring out the towels stuffed under the front door, to
keep them as dry as possible. For a couple of hours it was a full time
job. I was seventeen, just graduated from Southwest Miami High
School, waiting to leave to start my Air Force enlistment. Donna came
through as a going away present.

I fell asleep as it calmed down around two in the morning and when I
awoke, it was eerily quiet. We were fortunate as Donna’s eye made


landfall on Florida’s west coast some ninety miles away, but we had
our share of wind and rain. We were now officially hurricane veterans.
At least, that’s what we told everybody.


STEVEN St. VINCENT – The Florida Keys

A gentle breeze and swaying palms complimented by sparkling
waters and colorful reefs can lure anyone into a state of unending
relaxation. Worry seems a thousand miles away. Any morning the
islander can watch the sunrise from private coves. Only islanders, and
the occasional wandering Mainlander, know the right location for the
perfect view.

Summer evenings bring the end of day as the blaze of the sun says
goodnight and the mosquitoes and no-see-ums make their presence
known. Hats, sunglasses, loose clothing is the dress code as is sun
screen and mosquito repellent, a fragrance known as Keys Cologne.
And if you know where to go after sunset, you can lie on your back
where the Atlantic greets our shores and gaze into a heaven of an
ebony night sky glorious with a twinkling blanket of stars. Everything
on the rock is slower and more paced. Some call it the Keys Disease
and you will know you have it when most things can wait until later or
even tomorrow. Mainlanders have a hard time understanding this but
after a few days here, some begin to understand. Others leave
complaining of slow service in restaurants, no one to help them at a
store, or why does a place a business close so early. There was a
time when chain stores were not allowed but that’s changing like a lot
of things.

They live and work and play on the easternmost third of the
archipelago. It sounds exotic as if it were some faraway Paradise but
it’s just a place they call home; the Upper Keys of Key Largo,
Tavernier and Islamorada. There is a special language in this place
where they make their lives, memories, retire or raise their children
and there only are 2 seasons; Off season and In season. The people
of the islands love Off season and tolerate In season. If asked
directions, they tell you what you are looking for is north or south or

just the mile marker, bay side or ocean. Seldom will you hear an
address. There’s only one main road unless you live here and then
you know the original highway. Outsiders are called Mainlanders.
They don’t live here but they vacation, sometimes leave trash and
often take advantage of this pristine environment – they are
temporary. The Overseas Highway from Florida City to Key Largo is
“the stretch.” Key Largo is simply called, “The Rock.”

Looking to the east on this day the bay was calm. The tops of the
mangroves peeked across western horizon. They fenced the bay of
light green waters called the Bogies that leads to the back country
where you can fish or paddle your Kayak.

A southern breeze pushed a cooler breeze than usual for this time of
year and he could feel the change on his skin. The late sun had cast
long golden shadows on the dark-green waters of the bay and the
waters pulled around pilings along the waterfront behind the homes
that lined the area where he watched the small bait fish fight the light
current as the tide had started to rise early and kiss the bottom side of
the docks although she was hundreds of miles away battering the
British Virgin Islands. Her eye was crossing the Caribbean and
threading the needle toward San Juan approaching Cuba. A northern
turn was predicted. He closed his eyes and inhaled that uncertain
fragrance of an imminent hurricane.

It was Friday, a day usually heralding what the locals call the
weekenders or Mainlanders but not this day as it was not the usual
anticipatory Friday preparation for the weekend. Most weekends he
would see boats decorating the docks, patiently waiting for their walk
across the water. On this day, the waterway was abandoned. A large
swirl on the water’s surface exposed a manatee navigating gently
along the water bank as they did most afternoons. Her large broad tail
gently fanning the water surface as if it were just another day. Often,
these gentle creatures wander through the waterway three or four
abreast, stopping to nibble the grasses that proliferated along the
banks. He would sometimes toss lettuce into the water for the

rambling mammals or drop a hose with fresh water for a drink. Today
he watched as remaining residents hurried with tying down anything
that could blow, attaching shutters or plywood to windows and
preparing for what the news was calling the Storm of the Century – a
Category 5 hurricane destined for a direct hit in the Florida Keys.

Hurricanes are capricious entities and all the people of the Keys knew
was Irma would hit somewhere between Key Largo and Key West. If
they were lucky she would move less west and more north or south
and miss their Paradise. The last hurricane threat of this magnitude
was 1935. At the end of the day, as the sun set on Paradise, the
remaining hold outs evacuated their island lives for higher and safer
grounds among the mainlanders until the threat passed. They had
locked the hatches, left their world, and prepared for the worst.
Knowing the Mother Nature’s vacillating way, the eye of the storm
could hit anywhere and any one of them could return to nothing. She
creates an unfamiliar anxiety.

Evacuees having safe haven to ride out the event were fortunate.
Some had moved slightly north of her and others had left the state.
Some had family in local areas that were less threatened. Others had
no one. Some felt they could ride out this storm where they were. His
situation allowed him to stay north of the storm, but still within the
track and he understood the path could change and with this storm
over 400 miles wide there were few places to hide.

Saturday arrived. Held up in a safe place, he had prepared as best he
could. Shutters were on the windows, yard furniture tucked inside the
house. One last journey around the property for comforts sake and he
felt a better sense of ease. He made a mental list of his survival kit;
water, canned food, gas for the generator, batteries for the flashlight,
tarps in case of a leak, where to take cover in the event of a tornado.
Amidst the fear and unease of the approaching storm, this was at
least a level of comfort knowing his family should be safe and cared
for in the days ahead. There would be power outages, no running
water, no internet, no phones, no cable, roads blocked, flooding so

deep on everyday streets, a boat could travel through. He attached an
antenna to the TV as a precaution then rested for a moment on the
couch knowing they would still feel the fringes of her fury.

The latest news blared from the television and he watched as many
did with eyes glued to the constant chatter from news reporters filling
the time slots until the storm hit. The weather people stood in the rain
and wind while showing the beach surf and the last-minute chances of
getting gas for cars, grocery stores with empty shelves and long lines
of worried faces and warned everyone to take safe shelter and
prepare for the worst. They stood in their time of shining telling the
eager public that Irma had wobbled west. In the next update, she was
moving north. In the late-night update, she was headed west again
with her focus now on the lower Keys near Marathon and Big Pine
Key. This is the unfamiliar anxiety felt as this force of nature bears
down toward home, her path wobbling through the Caribbean. She
was coming with intent and determination and she had focused her
fury nearly dead center of the Keys chain ensuring total coverage of
her destructive force.

She was tired of her battery of the lands and her force had dropped
slightly. The biggest fear was that once off of the coast of Cuba, she
would strengthen to Category 5 and everyone knew that a direct hit on
the Florida Keys would result in widespread devastation. The areas
with hurricane strength homes would probably survive, manufactured
tin boxes called trailers, the staple of vacationers and residences
alike, would likely be wiped away-splintered into a thousand pieces
with everything they owned and left behind spread across the area.
Thousands of sailboats, fishing boats, and houseboats harbored in
marinas would be sunk, destroyed, or lifted and moved. Ground level
homes on the ocean side would surely be flooded from the expected
surge if not wiped away. Stilted homes would most likely survive while
bearing high winds and the surge but the older ones not built to
current standards would probably be destroyed. The morning after
would be the tale and everyone knew the devastation would be

Sitting on the couch, Steve’s phone rang. The ID showed it was Ed
his business partner he works with at marine shows during the
season. Off season they don’t talk much so this was a surprise. Ed,
an unassuming, soft spoken gentleman from the Bronx, makes and
sells custom fishing lures and Steve sells LED lights for marine use.
Ed was, at one time, a boat captain in the Keys and knows the other
charter captains that still have a business.

“Hey buddy,” Ed said. “You doin’ okay?”

“I’m good. Thanks. Are you prepping for this thing?”

“I think we’re gonna be fine but if you need a place to stay, you’re

“I’m out of the Keys and will ride it out in Fort Lauderdale.”

“Good ta hear. Ya know, I been trying to contact my friend in
Islamorada, Captain Tommy. He runs a charter.”

“If you’re trying cellphone the towers might be jammed or down with
the wind picking up. If he’s smart, he’ll be headed north.”

“Yeah. I was figured the phones but he’s a smart guy. He’ll figure it
out. Just worries me, that’s all.”

On Sunday morning, Paradise—the place where thousands make
their life—hailed good morning to Irma as she pounded upon their
nirvana and churned the seas, uprooted trees, rose waters, destroyed
buildings and beat homes for 12 hours. Anyone that remained from
Key Largo to Key West would be destined to see her fury as she
roared upon the Cudjoe Key shoreline as a Category 4. By Monday
evening most of the storm had passed and she was headed north to
Naples and then the rest of Florida.

The Monroe County Sheriff’s office, Florida Highway Patrol,
Homestead and Florida City police blocked the Overseas Highway
from travel. The flooding waters surged and winds had made the
highway unnavigable. For the first time in the history the entire chain
of the Keys was closed to everyone—there was no access to the

roads that were crossed with trees, flooded with water, and contained
everything imaginable from seaweed to boats, cars, trucks,
refrigerators, and freezers. The ocean access, bay waters and
channels were clogged with debris, sunken vessels, and other
obstructions making boat access impossible. There was no power, no
water, no cellphone. The integrity of the bridges connecting the
islands had to be inspected. The Keys, and anyone foolhardy enough
to stay, were on their own.

Countless numbers of ambulances, fire trucks, police vehicles, power
company trucks from across the United States along with FEMA – the
Federal Emergency Management Agency – Florida Wildlife Officers,
Red Cross, and volunteers had already staged knowing the
devastation that would be ahead by storms end. As soon as it was
safe the bulldozers began clearing the highway. It took over a week to
allow any access beyond mile marker 74 where the road had washed
away. Key Largo was a ghost town only accessible by residents and
business owners. Fear enveloped Steve as he watched the
devastation on television and could only hope his home was standing.
Those living on the Rock, we were the first allowed entry to drive the
stretch. Curfew was 7:00am until 7:00pm and strictly enforced. If you
were out after or before curfew, you would be arrested.

Steve was allowed to return and in the early morning hours he saw
the devastation that remained in Key Largo. It was as far as he was
allowed to travel. As he rose to cross the bridge at Jewfish Creek, he
saw Gilbert’s, a popular restaurant underwater. The buildings looked
like islands. The docks were gone. Past the bridge, he checked his
favorite restaurant, the Black Siren. She stood but the parking showed
the rage of the water surge. An old man had made his home in a
houseboat along the canal and Steve could see the remaining pieces
floating in the brown stained waters. He hoped the man had found
safety and survived.

He heard of areas south to Key West, although mostly devastated,
fared better than others. Boats and house trailers were tossed like

toys and lay strewn across the highway and marinas. Over 10,000
people were left homeless. There was no water and no electricity with
summer temperatures above 90 degrees. Large 2-story homes
destroyed, neighborhoods flattened, trees uprooted. Destruction in
some areas, devastation in others. Mosquitoes were now breeding in
shallow ponds left behind. Her touch was felt widespread and the
people of the Keys had one thing to say.

“It could have been worse.”

As Steve turned off the Overseas Highway and onto Sexton Cove
Drive it seemed he could feel his heart beating. His hands gripped the
steering wheel tighter than usual. He turned on the first street and had
to stop – a large tree blocked the road. He looked over to his wife.

“You okay?” he said.

“I’ll be fine,” she responded.

He could see the worry on her face and hear the tension in her voice.
He drove to the next street knowing that if blocked, they wouldn’t have
access. As he turned, there was a large tree covering half the road.
They maneuvered around the tree but still had to get through another
road before arriving. Half the road in front of their line of homes was
blocked with trees and brush but they could make it through if careful.
Images of splintered remains of his little trailer filled his thoughts.
Perhaps the water surged so high that it washed the trailer off its
foundation he thought. All the windows could be compromised. They
had arrived. Palm fronds, a cooler, wood and other trash lay across
the property. The home appeared intact and with only slight damage
on the outside. They turned to each other.

“I can’t believe this,” he said.

“Really! It looks normal,” she said.

“I’ll check inside.”

“I’ll go around the house,” she said.

Entering the home, he was sure he would find evidence of the water
surge, but there was nothing. Everything was exactly as he left it and
they had escaped the wrath of Irma. Other neighbors ranged from
devastation with roofs blown off to nothing at all.

Over 65,000 people had no power. It took over a week for Steve to
get electricity back. For some it took longer. Some didn’t have a
home. Others experienced total devastation and had lost everything
and some that chose to stay lost their lives or were missing.

The community responded like an army determined to rebuild and
help those in need. Locals that rode out the storm and protected
others property from the looters that these things bring. The
Mainlanders that responded side by side with the evacuated Islanders
and brought in supplies; water, food, shelter. The force of Irma, her
tragedy and devastation that she brought was met with another force
and that was the Force of Humanity. This became a time when there
was no they or us, no locals or Mainlanders. This was one human
family working together with teams from across the United States
rebuilding our Paradise for us to share with everyone. It’s who we
are. It’s what we do.

In this chain of islands, it’s said everyone is either running from or to
something. The truth is everyone here is searching and the people of
the Keys are resilient. They rebuild. They bring it all back with the help
from all of the brothers and sisters—the Mainlanders, as if…

BILL BRITTON – Vero Beach, Florida

From W. C. Bryant’s “The Hurricane”:

Lord of the winds! I feel thee nigh,
I know thy breath in the burning sky!
And I wait, with a thrill in every vein,
For the coming of the hurricane!

Under ordinary circumstances, complaints about the weather revolve
around temperature and precipitation; fear is seldom part of the
conversation. Weather extremes are another matter, especially when
they cause flooding, tornadoes, or winds above gale force. Hurricanes
are unique in that all three are possibilities and raise the fear of
personal harm. Millions of people lived through this fear as hurricane
Irma wandered across the Caribbean and up the west coast of
Florida. Bryant’s “thrill” was more fear, not mere excitement as is
suggested by the poem.

For me, Irma represented little more than an inconvenience: I lost
power for 20 hours and TV and internet access for a bit longer.
Because I now live in a senior facility that has sufficient auxiliary
power to run the kitchen and air condition the hallways, we managed
to survive quite comfortably. Not even Toby, my Jack Russell was
inconvenienced. We would stand on the leeward, protected side of
our three-story building while he selected targets for his daily squirts.

Our fellow citizens on Florida’s west coast weren’t so lucky. But
compared to the devastation inflicted on the Caribbean, first by Irma
and then by Maria, they were fortunate. In times like these, especially
in a country like the United States with its vast resources, the federal
government must step forward and offer both comfort and relief. In the

case of Puerto Rico, the federal government, in the person of
President Trump, came up short.

Instead of donning the mantle of Great Comforter, Trump became the
Great Confronter, diminishing his office by picking a fight with Puerto
Rico’s mayor. To what purpose? Instead of turning his cheek in
response to her emotional criticism of delays in federal assistance,
Trump responded in the only way he knows how: lash out. For shame,
Mr. President, and apologize for once.

WAYNE WARD – The Villages, Florida

They arrive by the hundreds every month. Actually about six hundred
a month, more or less, for the last twenty years. That’s one hundred
and forty thousand so far. Upon arrival they are met immediately by a
highly motivated marketing staff that knows the right words to entice
them to look, stay and purchase. The pitch all boils down to this: Step
right up folks, we have what you want, a retirement home of your
dreams, and you have what we need, money. We need your money to
buy even more land to build even more homes to fulfill the dreams of
the countless streams of retirees that doesn’t seem to stop. The pitch
is well planned, well-rehearsed and executed with precision.

They come from every state and several continents to pursue the
American Dream. Worry free retirement in a community where
everybody is friendly, crime is at a minimum, the neighborhoods are
all well-kept, and fifteen hundred clubs and organizations exist to keep
you active and healthy in your later years. Everything that can be
controlled to ensure that you have that expectation of perfect
retirement filled. There is even a mantra to describe the life here in
case you missed the concept.

“It’s always a beautiful day here”.

Except when it’s not. They all came from somewhere that had
weather issues, snow being the big one. Walking, driving, shoveling,
canceled flights and travel plans etc. Don’t forget tornadoes and
floods. They certainly deserve a seat at the table. The snow is now
gone from their lives and the other two that may occasionally happen
here are small time compared to their larger cousins elsewhere.
However when you choose to live on a peninsula that juts three
hundred and sixty miles into an ocean that consistently produces
cyclonic heat engines with winds that sometimes exceed one hundred
and eighty miles an hour maybe you should expect the occasional

involvement in these events. And then there are the thirty thousand
lightning strikes annually. Let’s not leave them out although they don’t
seem to be a problem to most golfers who treat them with

This community is fortunate to have Fifty Foot Experts and WFA’s –
World’s Foremost Authorities – living among us to educate us on
almost anything. That would also include various weather related
events. It seems that no matter what subject you may be speaking to
someone about, no more than fifty feet from you is the World’s
Foremost Authority on that subject. When it comes to hurricanes the
WFA’s are abundant. They have proclaimed on multiple occasions
and with great authority that we cannot have a major hurricane here.

“Really? You ask. “And why is that?”

Their logic, or lack thereof, behind that statement is that we are too far
inland to be affected by a major storm. Looking at us as if they feel
sorry for our lack of common sense they explain that obviously the
winds will be scrubbed off by the land before the storm gets to here
leaving us with at most high winds to contend with.

At this point I am forced to ask these self-proclaimed authorities, “And
just out of curiosity, where are you from?”

“Indianapolis you say?”

We are sixty five miles from either coast and Irma was four hundred
miles wide. Do the math. Those of us who have spent our entire lives
in Florida experiencing multiple hurricanes are not going to be
convinced that any place in Florida is immune to a major hurricane.
Major as in a Category 3 or above. Major as in wind speeds of 130
mph or more. Major as in sitting up most of the night in your boarded
up house listening to the wind howl outside and then something slams
into your roof at speeds approaching 100 MPH and you don’t know
what it is and never will because it continues on it’s journey
compromising other roofs until it finds someplace to stick and stay and
intrigues the homeowner who finds it as to where it could have

possibly come from. Major as in listening to your house give up parts
of itself in order to try and appease the monster outside with the
insatiable appetite for what you own and cherish. That kind of major
storm. Your 90 MPH Category 1 winds don’t entitle you to proclaim
you are a veteran of a hurricane. You are a veteran of a strong wind
storm, not much more.

Frances began to set the stage for the inevitable disaster. She tracked
by the west side of the community with gusts up to 90 MPH doing
damage to tree limbs and toppling some trees that were in water
soaked footings. Then Irma reinforced the false feeling of security by
passing over the top of us doing much the same type of damage but
this time there was the water to contend with. Hardly any structural
damage to our homes but sacred ground was violated when the
excess water was pumped onto the golf courses to eventually work its
way through the clay and sand into the aquifer while creating the
occasional sink hole. The majority of the residents did not lose the
four basic elements required to sustain life. Water, electricity, internet
or cell phone service. So much for facing down a natural disaster. The
stage is now set.

“No need to get all worked up folks. These things aren’t that
dangerous after all. Been through two of them so far. Nothing to write
home about.”

Despite the proclamations of the these in-house experts, it will
happen. There will be something to indeed write home about. I
continue to place my shutters on the windows, much to the
amusement of my neighbors, knowing that one day I can be the one
to laugh. But I won’t. I have seen the effects of major storms and you
may see it on television but it is impossible to understand the impact
on a community unless you have actually been there and witnessed
the carnage. It is not something to laugh about.

As I write this another depression is growing into a hurricane in the
Gulf of Mexico.

“Next! “

“Step right up folks, we have what you want…..”

About the Authors

Steven St. Vincent
Bill Britton
Wayne Ward - The Villages, Florida, Community Emergency
Response Team Commander – 2010 – 2015,
George Mindling

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