My Week With Wilma -
Reports From Storm Center
Exclusive to
By Douglas Herman
Day 1, Monday
Awoke before 7am, wind pummeling the palm fronds. Turned on the Weather Channel. Wilma poised exactly above my apartment here in Pompano Beach, Florida. The eye of the storm staring me in the face.
Hurried to make coffee. Power failed just as the last drop brewed, a couple of electrical transformers exploding outside. Wilma still a Category 2 storm, winds over 100mph with gusts to 125.
Went outside and stood under an eave. Only partially soaked. Watched the roof peel away on The Auto Toy Store next door. Ferraris and Porches cowering under cheap awnings. A Hummer stretch limo tucked beneath an overhang. Wilma itching to take it for a ride--or give it a lift!
Learned later a tornado did just that. Touched down and flipped a stretch limo and a few other cars less than a mile from my house.
Wind ripping, first from the east, then the south, and at last from the west. A towering CITGO sign smashed to the ground. I hardly heard the sound in the howl of the wind.
Five hours later, after the storm passed, the skies cleared. Wilma had blown across the state at 25mph--fast for a hurricane, hardly diminishing in strength along the way. Max Mayfield, over at the Miami National Hurricane Center, predicted Wilma would weaken to a Category 1 but she strengthened instead. Mayfield also told a congressional panel that the spate of hurricanes "is more likely a natural ocean cycle that can last as long as 40 years." Florida already had eight hurricanes in the last two seasons, Wilma the ninth.
By mid-afternoon, the temperature dropped. Cold front from Canada. We drove along US-1. Uprooted trees blocked lanes, stoplights lay broken in the street. A couple of cops directed traffic half-heartedly. Little rain had fallen. Wilma moved so fast, flooding never happened.
Car radio stated the obvious: Stay away from downed power lines--as we drove over, around and under them. Said that five or six million south Floridians without power. Fallen trees everywhere, taking light poles and power poles with them.
Day 2, Tuesday
Cooler this morning. Last night the stars shone with an intensity and brilliance unseen for a hundred years in south Florida--or at least since hurricane Andrew in 1992. No lights to compete with the stars. Man humbled; his incandescent lightbulb, power poles, and transformers no match for 125 mph wind.
Curfew announced. 7am to 7pm. We heard it while driving around, wasting gas like most Floridians, looking at storm damage. We humans love scenes of disaster--as long as the disaster isn't happening to ourselves.
No stores open, no shops or gas stations. Along 441, we saw a long line of folks standing in line to get propane. Wilma stalled over Yucatan for a week and governor Jeb Bush warned everyone to stock up. Guess a lot of folks suddenly learned a personal lesson in self-sufficiency. Car radio says power restoration might take weeks rather than days.
Passed mile after mile of shattered wooden power poles, some broken in three places. Car radio advised us to boil water. With 80% of Broward county without power, boiling water might be a neat trick. Charcoal grill? Solar still? Car radiator?
Day 3--Wednesday
Only 2.7 million still without power, over 800,000 here in Broward. Jeb Bush said 6,000 electricians working, "double the amount of capacity," to restore power, many coming from out of state. Later we would learn how far some of them would come.
Day 4, Thursday
Drove my motorbike (75 mpg) along the main highway, US-1. Passed a Sunoco station. Gas lines 1/2 mile long. Tempers flaring but cops keeping the peace. People pushing cars. Looked like Baghdad without the bombs. A girl said the generator was broken. "It might be repaired in two hours," she said. "Five gallon limit; cash only."
Later tonight, back at the apartment complex, the streetlights along US-1 suddenly beamed. The kids cheered and saluted it with flashlights. No power in our complex but the mood optimistic.
Day 5, Friday
Sunny, pleasant days continue. No rain. A massive silver lining as hundreds of businesses have no roofs. Took the motorbike north again and saw the same lines. A couple of cop cars too. Few gas stations open. Where's FEMA, everyone wondering? More importantly, where are the generators needed to power electricity to the gas pumps? Stopped at Swifty's Deli. They were selling generators at the deli. $400 to $1,100. Guy next door said they sold a load of them yesterday. Indeed. the mini-mall across the street looked like generator city: two gas models and a larger diesel.
Prez Bush in Pompano Beach today, "Promised Thursday that 200 generators would be delivered to Broward county today," according to the Sun Sentinel.
"FEMA promised us more generators but we haven't seen them yet," said Broward County Water and Wastewater Service director, Tony Hui. One Broward mayor, Kristin Jacobs, urged the Bush brothers to get some generators, especially to the idle gas stations. "If anyone can put pressure on oil companies to get generators on site, it's these two," she said.
Day 6, Saturday
Power on here. Our complex like an island in a sea of darkness. Still no power along most of US-1. Businesses look forlorn and abandoned. Must be waiting for insurance estimates and free FEMA money. A year ago Miami, a Republican stronghold, scored $21 million from FEMA although that city suffered little damage.
Counted 12 inoperable gas stations in a five mile radius and only three that were open. Guess it takes more than 48 hours to get those generators airlifted from Iraq. Some say the war in Iraq was to corner oil in an oil scarce world. God only knows. I do know our oil-based economy screeches to a complete halt without a steady supply of gas.
Day 7, Sunday
Gas lines shorter. The CITGO opened across the road, the sign still down. Power still out along the US-1 corridor. In a few weeks, FEMA will spread a lot of loot around until next August and then we'll begin hurricane season all over again. The names of hurricanes have already been chosen.
Day 8, Monday
Drove west several miles. Huge areas still dark. No traffic lights. Then I saw the strangest sight. As traffic crawled in both directions, a convoy of utility trucks passed me. Ontario license plates on every truck! Canada, a couple thousand miles away, can send trucks and technicians to help Florida? (I never saw FEMA anywhere)? Our country must be in great shape if we can afford money, materials and manpower on foreign occupations but have to hire Canadians to get the power turned on again.
Douglas Herman writes regularly for Rense and is the author of the stormy suspense novel, The Guns of Dallas. Next stops along the Storm Coast tour: Biloxi, New Orleans and Galveston.



This Site Served by TheHostPros