Posted: 4:45 pm Saturday, September 8th, 2018
By Ann Kelly
Like so many of you there’s one emotion I can’t shake from Hurricane Irma. Fear. From the time we first started watching the storm to the minute I walked out of the Hillsborough County Emergency Operations Center it was always there. Would I have a home to come back to, would my friends be safe and what would it be like walking out the doors of the EOC when it was safe enough to leave.
I blogged live from the EOC starting at 10 am Saturday, September 9th at 10 with my final entry posted Monday, September 11th at 4 am. Later that day when we were given the all clear to leave the ride home was sobering. No power for the most part so no traffic lights, lots of debris and finally making that turn onto my street. Then it was trees down, limbs, branches and no power. One large live oak was actually blocking most of the street but enough had been trimmed to allow for traffic to pass. I felt like I was holding my breath the entire way down the block and wondering what was waiting for me at home.
There were a lot of limbs and branches down but my massive live oak was still standing and everything else looked intact. I exhaled, opened garage and stepped inside. I had spent a adrenalin-fueled day before leaving for the EOC moving everything away windows and into the center of the house. I stood and looked at all that, untouched and damage-free and I cried. There wasn’t time for that while working but now that the worst was over and I still had my house it was all too much. Eight days later when the power was back on, I cleaned out the fridge and freezer and oh that was nasty! But thanks to my coworker Simone’s hospitality I had a place to live for those days and pretty much drove back and forth from Tampa to Clearwater to try and put things back where they belonged, make sure the house was safe and talk with my neighbors who had all stayed in their homes and were safe.
In the days following Irma we gathered as a staff and handed out free ice to residents who couldn’t believe we were just handing it those bags out. Many came back and used grocery carts to get it home and we grateful for the help, and I learned the fine art of catching a bag thrown from the truck. Yes, we managed to miss a direct hit yet again but in the following days, weeks and months there was so much to do to try and bring normalcy back to our lives. We heard the stories of heroism, of loss and of people just doing the right thing. If go to the top of the WDUV home page and use the search feature, type in “Hurricane Irma” and you can read all those stories and remember how lucky we were for the most part. The 2018 hurricane season is kicking into high gear so please check those supplies now and make sure you have a plan in place. We have plenty of great tips for you and along with our friends from Ten News will continue to keep you informed.