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What's a hurricane like in Key West?

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Key West, FL
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What's a hurricane like in Key West?

For those of you who have never been through a hurricane, I will do my best to try to describe it.

You work your a$$ off getting ready, especially if you have a lot of outside stuff or if you haven't lived in a place long.

Shutters or plywood. Secure the garbage cans. Secure the grill. Secure the patio furniture. Secure anything else that could become a missle. Make sure the coconuts are out of the trees and the palm trees have a "11 and 1 o'clock trim" (although you should have done that prior). Make sure the scooters and bicycles are safe. Drive the car to higher ground if possible.

Usually, much of this is being done as the wind picks up. It is still really nice weather, but getting windier and gustier.

Make sure you have enough supplies. water, gasoline for the generator, water, canned food, water, munchies, water, batteries for the flashlights, and water.

Bring whatever tools inside that you may need to do emergency repairs or break through the roof. Dig out the Coleman lantern and cookstove and make sure you have enough propane. Find all the flashlights.

Make sure the generator runs and the oil level is good. Find all the extension cords. Install window A/C's in windows if you are fortunate enough to have central air.

I am sure I am missing some stuff, but this is all stuff one does before a storm when it is still hotter than sh*t out.

Take a shower.

Go have drinks. You earned it.

Eventually, the clouds will start rolling in as the winds continue to increase. You head home because all the bars in KW are closing.

You turn on the TV and watch the storm as it approaches. You become a weather channel and Channel 7 (Miami) junkie. Ditto on every weather site you know on the internet.

The first storm squall hits. It is like a strong thunderstorm where you live. The wind is blowing at maybe 30 MPH and it is raining buckets. It lasts for a 10 minutes or so. It stops, but the winds continue and the sky has multiple shades of grey, made worse because it is getting dark.

You head back inside and watch some more TV. The squalls keep coming and are becoming more and more frequent with shorter intervals between. Your eyes are glued to the TV and computer screen.

The winds continue to increase and are now gusting to 50-60 MPH. The lights flicker a few times. You know it is only a matter of time and run to get the flashlights and get the generator extension cords in place. The floor looks like a snake pit as a result.

The lights go out during a particularly bad squall when a gust hits your house that you swear must be 90 MPH. It's dark. You fire up the generator and get the lights back on as well as the refrigerator. You also plug in a window A/C and fire it up. If you still have broadband, you get info from the laptop. If the power outage is widespread (and it likely is), there is no cable. If you have satellite, most likely the wind has moved them from the optimum position so they don't work either. The winds are now blowing HARD and the rain is nearly constant and coming down sideways. The trees are bending in the wind.

You go to bed and try to sleep.

In the middle of the night, you hear a number of loud bangs and other scary noises. You have no idea what they are but you hope to hell it isn't the house coming apart. Sleep is difficult as the wind is now howling (and I do mean howling-literally) outside. You get maybe 2-3 hours of sleep. You get up and look at your watch. It's 4 am and the wind sounds like a freight train. You have to go the the bathroom, but first, you have to find the flashlight. Mission accompished, you try to go back to sleep. No deal. So you get up and try the internet. No signal. You turn on the radio. You can't find a station.

You are now isolated totally. You have no idea whether everything is OK as close as the house next door. It's a very lonely feeling.

As light comes, the storm is still raging. A few hours after daybreak, it starts to diminish, but very gradually. You just want it over. You have already read a book and a half. You decide to take a shower.....by flashlight.

Within another couple of hours the storm has declined to the point where it stops raining. You go out to survey the damage. There are tree limbs everywhere, one on top of your neighbors car. He is also out, as is nearly everyone in the neighborhood. You all meet and share stories. The drone of generators makes it hard to hear. The wind is still blowing and all of a sudden, here comes the rain again. It's a feeder band from the storm and they will continue, on and off for 24-36 hours.

As soon as you pick up the yard and open the house back up again, you go out and have a drink or 20 and congratulate yourself for making it through another one.

Philadelphia...
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1. Re: What's a hurricane like in Key West?

Thanks for the "blow by blow" BK! This is my favorite part

"As soon as you pick up the yard and open the house back up again, you go out and have a drink or 20 and congratulate yourself for making it through another one."

Sanibel, FL
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2. Re: What's a hurricane like in Key West?

It really does sound like a freight train outside your window - For hours. Great description!

Memphis, TN
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3. Re: What's a hurricane like in Key West?

This is an excellent post. I have lived through a number of Atlantic hurricanes as well as typhoons in the Philippines. They are very scary events, even to a rough and tough old war horse like me. Nothing feels worse than not being in control of a situation and there isn't a darn thing you can do about it.

west palm beach, FL
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4. Re: What's a hurricane like in Key West?

Right on. The only part you missed was when the "eye" passes over. Everyone runs out to walk the dog QUICKLY then get there asses back in side before the other side hits....not fun, but still an interesting phenomenon...

key west
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5. Re: What's a hurricane like in Key West?

I'm not sure this is going to promote tourism in KW! My experience in almost 20 yrs here is fairly similar.

I get quite nauseous the day before a hurricane because the weather is so very different and you have the impending doom in your head. The sky goes an eery green...hard to describe but certainly not our normal cheery blue. Makes you sick. Another feeling comes over you as you wonder if you've done enough.....are the shutters tight, am I looking at something that could fly and don't realize it, do I have enough food and drink, questions questions. Never a calm moment, it's almost as if you want it to come RIGHT NOW so it ends sooner. Depending on the wind direction the bay washes completely out so there's a sea of brown mustard colored seagrass left. Everything smells different, people are acting strangely and yet there's a comaraderie among neighbors. "You OK?" Hammers, drills and screws are delivered and exchanged at the last minute.

During these aweful things you're quite alone. There is no police or fire service (they need protection too!). TV is done. The generator will suffice for the necessary stuff as BK said, lights and food and light AC. Oops! remember to top it off with gas before sleeping.

Your mind is racing to the point of needing either a snappy cocktail or Tylenol PM to calm down. What did I forget? Your signifcant other is freaking (in my case) and rightly so sometimes. I love bad weather but I hate hurricanes.

I can't begin to explain how they are or what they are like.

After it has passed a whole new feeling takes over, one of problem solving and compassion. Perfect strangers show up to help pick up something heavy, somebody is hungry, somebody needs nails, somebody can't find their cat. It's at this point that I truly love where I live. Nothing is owed or negotiated, it's just DONE, no questions asked.

Then we get back to business, a week later, and wait for the next one.

Key West, FL
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6. Re: What's a hurricane like in Key West?

lucilee

I am fortunate enough to have never had an eye go over. Seven hurricanes in two years, but no eye. I know that you had the eye of Wilma. We didn't miss it. We were too busy wading through the house in 18" of saltwater and sewage.

I'd rather have the eye.

One somewhat humorous side note. During Wilma, the dog was inside for nearly 24 hours, The back door, which led to the deck was shutterred from the outside. All exterior doors in South Florida, if they are built to code, open outwards. That way, the door frame helps keep the integrity of the door during extreme winds, rather than just having a lockset and a deadbolt to do so. When the storm stopped, I waded through the front and side yards to get to the back door to open the shutters so the dog could go out and do her business. We figured she would water the deck, since the flood level had dropped below that. The yard still had nearly 2 feet of water.

So we let her out and she makes a beeline towards the yard, takes a flying leap and starts swimming. You could actualy see the look of relief on her face as she swam. It was like Steve Martin at the dinner table in "Dirty Rotten Scoudrels". Of course, then she needed a bath.

Key West, FL
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7. Re: What's a hurricane like in Key West?

KWT

I am sure this doesn't promote tourism. However, I just read that there were 14,000 tourists who stayed in Jamaica and rode the thing out. We have had threads here about tourists leaving before a hurricane and to not try to stay and "ride it out". My purpose in posting this was to help them make a decision to leave. It ain't worth it.

This site and the people here do a good job of promoting tourism in KW. The other side needs to be addressed also, IMO.

Memphis, TN
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8. Re: What's a hurricane like in Key West?

I agree that this isn't helping to promote tourism, but as both CBK and KWT point out, if you have never been in a hurricane, the last place where you want to be a tourist is on an island where the highest point is 13 feet above sea level and most of the island is just a few feet above. I was evacuated once, and it turned out to be a false alarm. A lot of tourists grumbled about that, but it is better safe than sorry.

I would not discourage traveling to Key West during the season, but everyone who goes there this time of year needs to have a Plan B ready. Travel insurance is a must, IMHO. When I got evacuated, I was put on a chartered bus and dropped off at a shelter outside Miami. Insurance got me a room at a Courtyard hotel and I can tell you that I was much more comfortable than being on a cot in a high school gym.

New Hyde Park, New...
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9. Re: What's a hurricane like in Key West?

The last I faced was a category 3 20 years ago. I hope KW and I never face that again

Key west, FL
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10. Re: What's a hurricane like in Key West?

Great description CaptBK

During Hurricane George we hosted a major TV network camera crew at the hotel I managed at the time, so we had some guests (With waivers signed). The eye of the storm was just long enough to dash around making sure everyone was fine, get them extra towels, or whatever they needed, (and yes walk the dog) before hunkering down for the next half of the storm, which peeled the metal roof off parts of the hotel like aluminum foil.

Needless to say they do not stay there anymore. They got a little more than they bargained for, and we had to move some of them to less exciting rooms in the middle of the storm. We were the last place to get power back after the storm. (3 weeks)

The clean up after was what I remembered most. It was HOT. Clear blue skies, and not much breeze after the first day or so. Clearing all the debris from the pool and grounds area I got more blisters, scratches and bruises than I have ever had at one time.

If you don't live here then please don't stay during a storm. You are only a burden to others who are trying to take care of their family and porperty. But please come afterward. We will have a hearty welcome for you and plenty of tails to share over a cold beer (Or few).