Hurricane Charley~ The Aftermath


     The days and weeks following the passage of Hurricane Charley went by in a surreal haze of halting recovery efforts. On Saturday, August 14, I was unable to report to work due to the numerous trees blocking the roads. The entire local area was under curfew, with orders to keep nonessential road traffic to a minimum, due to un-safe driving conditions. I called my employer, a major retail department store and found that, amazingly, they did not lose power. The store was attempting to open for "business-as-usual" despite the pleas of local officials to stay home. My employer ran with a skeleton crew, as most workers were understandably preoccupied with their own personal situations.

     Driving after the hurricane became a game of cat-and-mouse. Most intersections throughout the region had non-working traffic signals. Local police posted notices, asking motorists to treat all intersections as four-way stops. There are always those individuals who think they are above the law and many cars just zipped through the intersections at full speed, creating extremely dangerous conditions. There were many traffic accidents caused by people refusing to exercise caution when entering local intersections. The quest for gasoline became a MAJOR preoccupation in the days following the storm. I guess I did not believe that Charley would be as bad as forecasted, and failed to fill my cars' gas tanks before the storm as officals had recommended. After the hurricane, gas was virtually unobtainable. Most service stations had no power to pump their gasoline. The few that had electricity quickly drained their tanks dry. Because there was extensive damage to a major storage facility in Central Florida, gasoline had to be trucked in from much further away, adding to the local shortage.

     By Monday, August 16, my car was on it's last few drops of gas. I was on my way home from work when I noticed the service station at the front of my neighborhood had actually received a fuel delivery. The line of cars stretched for over a half-mile. I had no choice but to get into that line. The scene was reminiscent of the gas crunch days of the 1970's. I kept the car's engine off and pushed the car foot-by-foot toward the pump. After more than 90 minutes, I finally approached the front of the line. It was then that I noticed two police cars with officers standing watch over the pumps. When it was my turn (finally!) to gas-up, I asked one of the officers why they were present. It seems that a brawl had broken out over someone cutting into the line and the police were called to keep peace. It's amazing how quickly things break down after an emergency. I pumped my $10 limit into the car and drove home....only to find my electricity was gone.

     Remember, my street was the one small oasis of electrical power in a sea of darkness after the, 3 days after the storm, my power goes out! A neighbor was outside, who told me the power had failed several hours prior. I went inside the house, which was over 90 degrees (I had been SO spoiled with my A/C after the storm) and called the power company. It seems the lines-men were attempting to power up a neighboring sub-station...something surged and knocked out the electricity to the entire region. All my gloating of the past 3 days came back to haunt me....I was now one of the "Have-Nots" as the Orlando Sentinel defined those without power.


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