Saturday, October 02, 2004

storm-blasted Florida

Folks, the picture coming out of Florida is grim. A buddy of mine down there, Arn, sent me a long email about the devastation. I've reproduced it here in the hopes that you might feel motivated to do something to help Floridians, either by sending money, or going down there to help out, or at least spreading the word. If you're a blogger, it might be nice if you would copy Arn's letter onto your blog. Floridians need assistance from the willing.

Arn writes:

Well...sunny Florida has been spanked like she NEVER got spanked before. The Weatherdogs said the only other time a state has been gang-shagged by four hurricanes was Texas in 1886 or 1896 or something like that.

Overall, it's a friggin' mess. The rains, though long gone, are STILL affecting people. Rivers and lakes are spilled over their borders, there are people with a foot of water in their trailers while it's bright and sunny out. A lot of the outlying areas that weren't hit held together while us urbanites got smashed; so, our wiring was new, strong and tight, and held together. Melbourne, the city south of me, has a string of wooden poles on US 1 that all area leaning west about 30 degrees, the streetlamps attached to them are just dangling by their wires, and the wires are broken in places. People in West Melbourne, a tiny community attached to Melbourne, only had their power back a week before Jeanne came blasting in just south of them and blew it out again. There are people who have gone almost a month with no power, and their minimum wait is 3 more weeks. The reason the devastation is so total is that each hurricane followed similar paths, but each varied enough to make sure every last part of the state got smacked.

My poor ol' Dad, who lives with me, is scared of the things. He was ready to evacuate every time. This last one, he almost demanded till I explained, "It's coming right up the middle of the state. There's nowhere to evacuate TO." One of the Elementary schools in Melbourne that was serving as a shelter for "Special Needs" people had it roof ripped off, and they had to evacuate about 300 people, many on gurneys or wheelchairs, often with oxygen bottles, to another shelter. My house is situated on the south side of a small hill, with a swamp behind me that was once a shallow lake. There are trees just outside my yard, so the hurricanes going up mid-state were ideal for my survival. They spin counter-clockwise, so those trees took an awful beating, lost nearly all their leaves and quite a number of branches, but they kept my house from getting it directly. Since I was laid up with that leg infection, friends came down, took a chainsaw to the oak branches on my roof, and trimmed it back enough to keep my house safe.

I've been one of the truly fortunate ones. I live Southeast of Cape Kennedy. The VAB, Vehicle Assembly Building, lost hundreds of panels off its sides, and that's about all they'll tell us about out there. The shuttles were all hidden in more hardened buildings. We've had a mold problem around here for years. There's a very nasty strain of mold that's quite common, and now, well, things are ALL outta control. There's so much standing water that the mosquitos are breeding at an insane rate. Even though several species of fish consume millions of eggs, they can't put a dent in this. You need both spray and electronic repellers to stand a chance.

FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management something or other, a Federal group, is down here handing out ice, the Red Cross and State are helping people everywhere with ice, food, they're rushing gasoline tankers down here. Just before Jeanne hit, I found an open 7-11 with a tanker parked out front. They said if I'd wait 20 minutes I could have all the gas I wanted. I filled my generator cans and the truck for $30. That's about 17 gallons. By the next afternoon, they were out of gas. 38,000 gallons sold in half a day.

Now they're using empty tankers to try to contain some of the flooding in north Florida. They get filled up, drive out of state to some place that needs water, dump it and come back. I'd say, over the entire state, less than 100,000 people are still without power, but that's a guess. It could be very low. There are power guys from all over the United States here. They start down before the hurricane hits, stop in various states to wait out the hurricane, then come streaming into Florida as soon as the hurricane's gone. They're from as far away as Minnesota. They work 16 hour days, sleep 8 hours in a motel room, and hit it again.

Some cop ordered his neighbors to shut off their generator so he could sleep, they refused, he arrested them, and it turns out there IS a law on the books forbidding that. The legislature is about to override it. I think the cop was jealous because he didn't have a generator. It is SO humid, so miserable, that if you don't have AC to sleep in, you don't sleep. Period.

Somebody found a Spanish coin from an ancient shipwreck on what's left of the beach, and now there are about a gazillion people all over the sand with metal detectors, anxiously searching every inch of beach. There are dozens of shipwrecks off our shores, and treasure hunters have never found all of it. Mel Fischer, the famous treasure hunter, found a few million bucks' worth here several years ago, and even built a museum with all kinds of displays and dioramas. He sold it to some Evangelist, who also bought an adjoining hotel to make a "Christian Center" for his ministry, and to make money off the more Christian oriented tourists. He flopped, and Fischer's museum is now Fairvilla Adult Superstore.

Another big problem here is, we were recently one of the top 10 places in the country to buy a retirement home. Prices went through the roof. A house worth maybe $45,000 in practical dollars would sell for $85,000. Now you have people who just want the hell out and this is a BAD time to sell Florida property. The banks are going to be glutted with Repos soon, and they're NOT going to get their money back out of them. The citrus crop was hit hard, as well as the flower industry and tourists are scared shitless to come down here. We're in BIG trouble financially, as many of our sources of revenue are shutting down. That means businesses will be closing, damaged ones may never reopen, and the jobless rate is going to skyrocket. Even with Federal Disaster Aid, it's going to be a mess for years to come. Fortunately, my livelihood isn't dependent on the economy so much, I'll actually make MORE money during this time.

Anything else you need to know, gimme a scream! Right now, everybody's got a few hundred pounds of palm fronds, tree branches and hacked up trees sitting by the side of the road. It's a mess.


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