Saturday, August 14, 2004


It's the morning after Charley hit Celebration, and although I'm still 1500 miles away, it's not hard to learn about the aftermath. The community intranet is buzzing with war atories, as Celebration residents discuss the loss of trees, roof shingles, and even chunks of their houses.

My next door neighbor took in my flag, but it turns out our care taker didn't bring in the swing. Thank goodness the winds mainly hit from the back; they still caused damage, but nothing major like a window break or damage to the porch rails caused by a wildly flailing swing.

My little backyard took a nasty hit (I have decorations like wind chimes and solar lanterns back there), and the soffits sustained quite a bit of damage. The tree fell on a neighbor's car, but thankfully the little park across the street from us did not have any large trees. There is a nearby park-like area with some big ones, and apparently it took a very bad hit. Such a of the things I love about Celebration is how the woodsy areas and little parks are blended throughout the community, and in many cases beautiful old trees were saved. But you can't argue with gale-force winds.

You can see our damage by clicking here (will open in a separate window, so you'll need to disable your pop-up blocker if you have one), thanks to my neighbor who sent these photos. We have received photos from three of our friends, and it really eased my mind to see things firsthad; even though there is damage, it's relatively minor and should all be easily repairable.

You can also see some photos of damage throughout town on Tom's website by clicking here (will open in a separate window). Yesterday I was watching the winds buffet the downtown on the webcam, and his photos show the results.

But although we withstood some damage, we are actually the lucky ones. Celebration was very, very blessed. We can look in awe at the trees and branches blocking the roads and the chunks of roof and house debris that were torn off our dwellings, but we are safe, and the material things can be fixed and replaced.

Charley continued on to South Carolina, and on its way, it killed what the news is calling "a significant number" of people in a trailer park before crossing the state line. That's a sanitized way of saying that the storm brutally ripped the fabric of people's lives by mowing down their loved ones, and that fabric might be patched but it can never be fully repaired. I'm sure they were going about their everyday lives just days ago, maybe knowing that there was a chance that a storm would hit them, and maybe tear up their home, but never believing that they could wind up dead. Right now, the death toll in FL is being reported at around 15.

Although it pales in comparison to the human toll, the storm knocked out power to 1.3 million homes in Florida, and the cost of the damage is already estimated to be in the billions. Celebration still has power, but most of the surrounding area does not. Kissimmee and St. Cloud really got battered.

I can't even imagine the traffic jams and confusion between the downed power lines and traffic signals that are out, with wires and trees littering the roads and flooded areas blocking them even further.

Amazingly, all but one of the Disney World parks are open, although some of the rides are not running. The Animal Kingdom is, of course, the park that remains closed. It is such a lush, beautifully landscaped park. I can't even imagine what the winds did to the trees and how much clean-up they're going to have to do. And worse yet, I can't imagine the hordes of driving tourists adding to the traffic that is already snarled by blockages and non-functioning traffic lights.

One heartening thing in the light of all the devistation is the spirit of neighborliness that emerges. Throughout Celebration, people are banding together to help each other out, and many are volunteering to assist others in the surrounding communities. We are a close-knit community, both in good times and in bad. It's going to be a long, difficult clean-up, but the spirit of helping others will make it a little bit easier. The community intranet is full of people thanking their neighbors for helping out, and I am thankful too. Being 1500 miles away is driving me crazy with worry, but my mind is eased a little by knowing that my neighbors are keeping an eye on things and keeping me up to date.

Charley is the worst hurricane to hit Florida in over a decade; that's always a threat when you live in the Sunshine State. Florida is a paradise of warm winters and beautiful beachs, but it comes at a price. The threat stays in the back of your mind and usually doesn't emerge, especially when your home is as far inland as Celebration, but you never know when the next "big one" is going to descend quite literally out of the blue.

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