Monday, September 06, 2004

Boarding Houses, Boarding Planes

My husband and I are finally home in Celebration, and as we drove through town on the way to our house, he snapped some photos of the various homes that were boarded up to ward off Frances. I don't know if they are still up because people haven't gotten a chance to take them down or because they are waiting to see what Ivan will do, just in case this all this craziness happens for a third time.

Seeing all the boarded up homes gave me a really eerie feeling. Back in the midwest, I lived in an apartment that was not too far from a very blighted area. I drove through it often, since it was a shortcut to get to the places where I usually shopped. For every house that had a family living in it, there were at least three or four more boarded up on every block. I think that community was actually ranked as one of the poorest in the United States. In my immediate neighborhood, where my apartment was located, the only time I saw a boarded up house was if there had been a fire or perhaps if the home had been repossessed.

It gave me a real Twilight-Zone feeling to drive through Celebration and see all the beautiful homes with boards nailed over the windows. Celebration is a newer community, with a wide variety of architecture...that's one of the things I love about it. It looked so strange to see all these quaint, perfectly painted and landscaped homes with windows covered in plywood. Some of them were painted with pictures or slogans, adding some humor to the surreal scene. Perhaps even more interesting were the homes where people had decided to tape instead of board. Every tape job that we saw was perfectly symmetrical, almost as though it had been done for decorative purposes instead of to ward of hurricane damage.

Click here if you'd like to see some photos. We plan to go biking tomorrow and take some more, but we couldn't help taking a few as we drove home. Meanwhile, if you'd like to see some damage photos, click here for Tom's website, where he has posted some great pictures courtesy of Jan.

We were very fortunate to get to Florida early this morning (Monday). Our flight on Friday had been cancelled, so my husband booked the second flight out on Labor Day morning, hoping that Frances would be gone by then and that the airport would make it through relatively unscathed. It turns out that his prediction was a good one. We are always in a rush to get home as soon as possible; it's tough being a 1500 mile commuter. And this time we had a second big reason: We are scheduled to go on our 39th Disney cruise on Thursday. We are total Disney Cruise Line fanatics; if you don't believe me, click here to visit my Disney Cruise Line website, complete with everything you've ever wanted to know about the Magic and Wonder, including menus, activity schedules, and even a list of spa treatments/prices. We are sailing with another couple from Celebration, so it promises to be a fun time.

We got to the airport early, and the first flight to Orlando had not left yet. Its departure was delayed, since Orlando International wasn't scheduled to reopen until noon. We hustled to the gate to see if they could fit on two more people. Turns out that was no problem, as the plane was nearly empty. As we settled into our seats, my husband and I breathed a collective sigh of relief. Soon we'd be home, and over an hour earlier than planned.

Usually I don't like being on an empty plane because my paranoid mind reasons that I want to be with lots of people so there will be enough of us to overpower any terrorist who might manage to sneak on board. But this time I was glad that crowd was minimal. Sure, it was nice to be able to have a whole row to ourselves to stretch out and nap, but better yet, there was plenty of overhead space. I was in constant fear that my husband would have to check his carry-on, which was overloaded with almost a dozen tarps! Since they sold out in the Kissimme/Orlando area in the frenzy of panic surrounding Frances's approach, we had stocked up on them to bring them home for anyone who might need an emergency roof covering. But fitting that many 16 x 20 tarps into a standard-sized carry-on bag is like stuffing 50 clowns in a Volkswagon. I think hubby had to jump up and down on the bag a few times to get everything stuff down so he could zipper it. Then he added a luggage band for good measure, just in case the zipper gave way, since the bag was straining at the seams like a pair of Oprah's sweatpants when she's in her "fat" stage.

I really, really wanted that bag in an overhead compartment (there was no way it was going to fit under a seat) just in case it decided to explode. I didn't think it could survive the rough and tumble treatment of the baggage handlers. Fortunately, my husband was able to easily fit it overhead.

As we headed down the runway, I mentally fretted that the flight might be choppy, since we would be flying through some of Frances's lingering storm clouds. I am not a good flyer, even at the best of times, so I wasn't looking forward to having to sit through a roller coaster ride while warding off a panic attack. Amazingly, other than a short period of "air pot holes," the flight was relatively smooth. It wobbled a bit as we came in for a landing, but not nearly enough to scare even a paranoid soul like me.

As we deplaned and headed through the airport, I noticed that the carpeting was wet again. The industrial blowers were going full blast, trying to get things dried out. I'm so glad that Frances didn't cause the same level of roof damage that Charley did, or else I doubt that the airport would have opened at all this week.

Celebration weathered the storm with minimal damage. Our house, which suffered some soffit damage in Charley, doesn't have any noticable Frances-related problems (unless a surprise leak springs up due to missing roof shingles that we haven't noticed). I think the tree out in front of our house is finally a casualty after already being uprighted twice. But overall, we were spared the worst of it.

When I see the television coverage of Brevard County, I shudder for those poor people and say a quick prayer. They took the brunt this time; their level of damage reminds me of driving through Old Kissimmee after Charley. It's like the damage caused by a tornado, except that it goes on for miles. A tornado is picking, destroying one house while leaving its neighbor intact. In contrast, Frances cut a swatch of continual destruction like a runaway freight train.

As I type this, yet another hurricane looms on the horizon. But no one knows what Hurricane Ivan will do or where it will decide to head. The predictions so far this year haven't been very accurate, especially with Frances, so Ivan's next move is anyone's guess. I just hope it stays harmlessly at sea and goes far, far away from any human habitation. Florida has had enough storms this year to last at least a half century.

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