Braving Hurricane Irma

  • Graphic courtesy of NOAA—

  • Hurricane Irma. Graphic courtesy of NOAA

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, September 11, 2017


Jaffrey native Kim Lloyd has weathered her share of tropical storms since moving to Florida 20 years ago, but never one quite like this. Lloyd waited out Hurricane Irma in her Fort Lauderdale high-rise this weekend. Usually, her unobstructed ocean view is pleasant, a nice perk of a 15th-floor condo. But during Irma, it was a different matter.

“The scariest part was you could see everything coming,” Lloyd said. “The wind and the rain was like sheets. The building was swaying, I can't say I've been through anything like that, and I'm an adrenaline seeker and I don't think I ever want to again.”

Lloyd, her brother and her roommate waited out the storm together, along with about 50 other residents of the 100-plus apartment high-rise. They stocked up on food and water and closed up the windows, but as the hurricane was downgraded to a Category 4 before hitting Fort Lauderdale, they were spared the worst of it. Lloyd and a few other residents even made time to celebrate one woman’s 93rd birthday as the 100-MPH winds howled around the building. 

Margie and Wayne Hanson, who moved from Dublin to Key Largo, Florida in 1987, also decided to shelter in place in their cement block home. Despite the power being out since about 7 a.m. on Sunday morning, and a large amount of clean up from fallen tree limbs up to four or five inches in diameter to do on Monday, their home avoided any kind of major damage, said Margie in an interview on Monday afternoon.

"It was pretty bad," said Margie. "There was a lot of tree damage, damage to our fence, it tore the screens out of our screen porch."

Others nearby had suffered worse damage, she said -- a nearby neighborhood had experienced a storm surge and some flooding, and shingles from her neighbor's roof ended up in her yard, she said. 

Winds in their area got up to 130 miles per hour, and she could hear it howling throughout the night, she said.

A few of her neighbors decided to evacuate, said Margie, but the couple decided to shelter in place, thinking the storm would head more in the direction of Key West, and having a freezer full of fresh fish from a fishing trip they wanted to preserve by powering the freezer with their generator if the power went out for days. Indeed, on Wednesday, Margie said that their generator was powering their refrigerator, freezer, and a fan, and the two had been using batteries for everything else.

Gillian Huntley, who grew up in Peterborough and attended ConVal, now lives in St. Petersburg, Florida with her husband Michael Boyd. The two had tickets to fly from Florida to New Hampshire for a friend’s wedding before weather forecasters ever spotted a hurricane on the radar.

“Of course we wanted to get out and we were fortunate we had the option, but it’s also difficult to be back here (in New Hampshire) and not knowing what is going on and not being able to help,” Huntley said. “That’s been emotionally difficult.”

Even though they had plans to leave, Gillian said they spent all last week bracing their house for impact.

“Preparing was challenging,” Huntley said.

Huntley said everyone in her neighborhood was allotted 10 sandbags and sometime last week, she waited in line for two hours to claim theirs. She said they also used duct tape and caulk to board up their windows.

Boyd said he grew up in Florida. He said his parents live about 7 to 10 miles from their house in St. Petersburg. Boyd said his parents hunkered down for the storm. He said his parents and his mother’s friend, who is wheelchair bound, and her husband had to flee their low-lying homes and are now staying at their house while the storm passes.

“Our house ended up becoming their shelter,” Huntley said. “That was very nice and comforting for us.”

Huntley said they received word this morning that the power is still out, and some tree limbs are down.

As of Monday morning, Huntley said it’s windy and there are still bands of rain coming through St. Petersburg, but the storm has quieted down. She said there is some concern because low tide is a couple feet higher than normal and if it doesn’t recede by high tide than there could be additional threats of flooding.

Overall though, she said, the storm has been less intense than originally predicted.

“Thank goodness,” Huntley said. “I think everyone in our area is grateful for that. There was definitely damage, but this hit as a Category 1 and if it hit as a Category 3 or 4 like it was predicted, it would have been much more devastating.”

She said that’s the kind of devastation they are seeing in Naples.

Huntley said they plan to fly out of New Hampshire next Monday. She is flying to New Orleans for work. Boyd has a ticket back home on Monday but said he may try to book an earlier flight home. He said he is  a landscaper by trade and there will be a lot of clients who will need help clearing limbs from their property after the storm passes. He said he is anticipating a lot of work when he returns.

Elizabeth Rank-Beauchamp of Lake Lake, Florida said she was “absolutely terrified” on Friday while watching the news, as the projected path for Hurricane Irma placed the hurricane right in the heart of her neighborhood.

“We had been preparing all week because we were told that it was supposed to go right over us on Friday,” said Rank-Beauchamp, who moved to Peterborough in the 1990s and stayed there until 2003, when she and husband Gerald Beauchamp relocated to Florida. “My husband got gas at 4 a.m. on Tuesday and then we went to the grocery store, which was packed.”

Rank-Beauchamp and her neighbors were able to breathe a sigh of relief after the brunt of the storm missed their neighborhood. Rank-Beauchamp said there are a number of downed trees and branches, but no major damage in her area of the state that she’s heard of.

“I’m impressed with how prepared everyone was,” said Rank-Beauchamp, who said a hurricane checklist was circulated around her “village.”

On Monday, without much cleanup to attend to, Lloyd and some others gathered at a nearby restaurant which had power and set into a hot meal  – a burger and a Goose Island IPA. And while she didn’t face the devastation that others in Irma’s path did, she’d still trade the experience with her former New England neighbors.

“I'd go through the blizzard of ’78 again, any day,” Lloyd said.

Reporters Abby Kessler, Ashley Saari and Nicholas Handy contributed to this report.