Okay, this is me putting down what is essentially a long journal entry. The TLDR is that the Ward clan came through the storm relatively unscathed. We were much luckier than many of our friends and fellow residents. I also found some gaps in my planning. Some were lack of imagination, some were thinking I had something until I went looking for it. We were very fortunate that we didn’t discover a discrepancy because we desperately needed something and found out we didn’t have it.

Let me take you back to Friday, September 23rd. This was when I first saw that what was, at that point, an unnamed storm, was projected to become a hurricane and smack into the Gulf Coast of Florida in a week. Worse, Ward Manor was smack in the middle of the cone. Feck. Hurricanes are like tactical nukes. They only need to be close to do some massive damage. That morning, The Wife and I discussed some of the probabilities. First, we were set for most supplies – food, water, and other consumables. The big issue was power. We couldn’t afford a generator, but what we could afford was a power station. We also found a deal on a big fan that ran on the same batteries as some of our power tools. I placed the orders. Home Depot said the fan would be there on Saturday. Amazon said the power station would be there Tuesday. I go back to work because I have a half-day. We’re supposed to get our COVID boosters and flu shots before some upcoming travel. As I’m working, I realize I either misread the initial track or the NHC updated their data with the projected hurricane coming Wednesday. Which is uncomfortably close to when the new power station is supposed to be delivered. The Brother could get the same power station delivered on Saturday. We decided against it because it would require time and gas on Sunday that we didn’t really want to spend.

As more information comes in, the NHC and the news started saying that it was going to be at least a Cat 3 storm when it hits us. Cat 3 is usually my normal threshold for deciding whether or not to evac. This was when I hit my first hurdle – I had not updated my evacuation plans when we downsized to just the Ward Wagon. Okay, technically we could also take MIL’s car. Still, I had to mentally plan for how to fit five cats, three humans, and necessary supplies and equipment in the Ward Wagon. Then there was the question of where to go. From the track, I wasn’t sure if my normal evac points would be reachable. Further discussion was derailed by my "Twelve Hours of Suck" that always happens after I get my COVID shot.

Saturday was recovering from the THOS, which was helped as we watched the track go north. Heck, we wouldn’t need to evac. Heck, we might not even need to put up the storm screens. I continued to sip down Powerade Zero and get caught up on anime. Then, the track started to creep down. At the very least, we’re going to need to put up the storm screens. Next issue – we no longer had a ladder tall enough to reach a couple of the windows to put up the screens. Discussions on how to procure such a ladder showed that: A) those fuckers are expensive, and B) there was a bit of a run at the moment, and C) there wasn’t a huge supply to begin with.

Sunday was more planning and discussion on how to get up the storm shutters. Fortunately, there were some greedy and mercenary handymen advertising on social media. In addition, the neighborhood Facebook group started up a list where volunteers would come around and put up folks’ storm screens. These are two solutions that warmed my voluntarism heart. I started doing more prep for losing power and internet. I have a stash of "dumb" light bulbs for if we lost internet but not power. What if we lost both for extended periods? Well, I have a battery radio. Wait, where was it? Um, it must have been lost during the move. Fuck. MIL offered to go in search of one on Monday since she had to go out for other appointments. Yes, please. The only other excitement was when there was a low pass by a quartet of fighters. I first thought they were F-16’s, but later photographs showed them to be F-35’s.

Monday had the track returning to smacking us – but with even more gusto. We began the process of getting everything behind walls. This meant shifting furniture around to make floor space. It also meant I found out that the dining room chandelier is approximately two inches lower than the top of my head. I would lose count of how many times I hit that iron frame. Damn thing hurt. Then, after The Wife logged off of work, we put up the storm screens on the first floor. The nice thing about the screens is that they are light and the mounting went up relatively smoothly. I was still sore as hell from using a bunch of muscles that don’t normally get used.

Tuesday was anxiety continued. We knew the handyman we hired was coming, but there were a couple of houses ahead of us – and time was running short. I kept busy doing storm prep. There was a lot of shuffling in the garage to clear out enough floor space to bring the Ward Wagon behind the walls. For those outside of Florida, since the water table doesn’t allow basements, and since our attics are around oven temperatures even in winter, garages tend to be the storage space. It is common to have the garage stuffed. Fortunately, ours wasn’t too bad. It still required a lot of shuffling, moving stuff about, and even bringing somethings back in the house. By the time The Wife got finished with work, we had the space to move in the Ward Wagon. As we did that, the handyman and his trusty assistant showed up, and quickly threw up the screens. As we shut and locked the garage door, it felt kind of like we were bracing for a siege.

Wednesday had the track going further south of us, but Hurricane Ian was now projected to be a monster Cat 4. That storm was several hundred miles across. And it was supposed to follow Charley’s path across the state. We were going to get some really nasty weather. Even before daybreak we were getting rain and some wind. A fraction of what we would get later, but enough that I was glad for my rain parka as I did an early morning perimeter sweep. I just wanted to make sure we hadn’t missed anything critical. The cats weren’t dealing with a newly crowded house and the inability to get on the back porch. We ended up having to drug one of them who was really having a hard time. Then, the wind really starts up. The whipping of the screens on the windows was on the unnerving side. We made cookies and threw some extra meat in the crockpot in anticipation of losing power some time during the day. Well, The Wife and MIL did all of that. I just supervised. Watching the news, it was odd to see Tampa Bay being pushed out by the storm.

In addition to watching the news, we monitored the neighborhood FB page. Several of the neighbors were reporting leaks around their windows. So, we start periodic window checks. I can’t tell you how relieved I was when one area turned out just to be the cats marking territory and not a window leak. Most of the day consisted of working a bit before drifting out to watch the news for fifteen or twenty minutes as the weather continued to get worse and worse and worse. Power was dropping all over the county. It finally got bad enough that the county put everyone under water restrictions due to so many lift stations being without power. So, it was "Let yellow mellow, but flush down the brown." Joy. By close to 1700, our neighborhood was part of the maybe 15% of our county that still had power. As the heavy stuff came through, there was a bit of water blown in through the bottom of the front door. If this happens again, we’ll need sandbags. As we continued to watch the news, Tampa Police updated on a couple of folks who decided hurricane was a good reason to try and break into the Tampa IKEA. Then the winds and rains were bad enough that the county said it was pulling first responders off the streets until things quiet down a bit. We get news that The Wife’s niece’s car managed to get whacked by a falling tree. By 1930, our street is part of the less than 5% of customers still with power. The BIL and SIL are some of those who have lost power. Throughout the night, we have a couple of flickers, but power and internet stay up.

Thursday morning comes and both of our bosses tell us not to worry about logging in. Good, because I was really kind of worried about what we would find once we cracked open the front door. At the 0800 perimeter sweep, we find that the tree in the back is leaning over enough that we’ll probably lose it. Well, I never really liked having an oak back there. The wife and I discussed replacements. If we have to replace it, I’d really like a palm tree since pines are not allowed. We took our battery powered fan and a spare power bank over to BIL’s. On the trip over we saw a lot of tree and fence damage. Fortunatly, we don’t see a whole lot of catastrophic damage. We ended up bringing home meat to store in our freezers for them. We made a couple of more stops to check on friends before going home and decompressing the house. We took down the screens on the first floor and moved stuff back out to the back porch. On the plus side, a lot of the stuff that had just been lain around the garage was now put away, and the garage is more organized than it had been in some time. We’ll see how long it lasts.

Friday saw BIL’s and SIL’s power restored and things getting on their way back to normal. For us, it will be much easier than a lot of folks south of us. As I write this, a lot of Manatee is still flooded. Heck, they had to shut down part of the interstate due to flooding from the Myakka. Yet, we’re on the road to recovery.

Overall, we were lucky that we didn’t get hit harder. I hope this is the only major storm of the season. If not, at least I’ll put the lessons learned to good use.