Update from Florida — Howard Baird

I received an email from parishioner Howard Baird, who has been in Florida securing his property in light of the recent hurricanes. I’m posting his email so we can all be updated:

Just back from “Disaster Island”. I had Naomi and her mother stay at Pam’s in Louisiana until hurricane Francis passed to the east. Then when Ivan became a threat I moved off the island to a motel about 25 miles inland. Landfall was at 1:50 am Thursday 9/15 at Gulf Shores, AL., waking me at 2:10 with all the noise. No damage to the motel or parked cars from trees. The power had gone out Wed night about 9:30 but, miraculously came on Thurs evening at 6:45pm, permitting me to remain in the no-sweat-set! And it appears we were among the few in Pensacola and wide surrounding area to have power. Only those businesses with a generator were open in the next 10 days. Luckily my room had a refrig and microwave.

By Monday the sheriff arranged for buses to take the hundreds of property and business owners over the bridge; a process starting at 9:30 am and running to 2:30pm, for just a look-see. It was an ugly scene: shattered wood, bent metal, up-rooted and broken trees, houses with some damage to those that disappeared and personal belongings turned to junk everywhere. Any house not on pilings, or stilts, was gone from both the wind at 120 to 130 mph, and the surge estimated at our location to be 10+ feet. With our house on 8 foot pilings, and positioned among other houses and standing trees, that I believe diminished the wind effect, came through remarkably. Everything under the house, lattis on all four sides, storage shed and its contents, the lower portion of the elevator enclosure, the back stairs, the hanging storage cabinets and the in-house vacuum were gone. And so was the under-the-floor insulation and the particle board holding it up. The out-building with sink, toilet and shower for cleaning-up after fishing and the dock were gone, with the boat-lift crushed, the boat totaled and and half under water. Lattis on both ends of the back porch were gone with the screening and outdoor carpet torn-up. Inside I found the surge had not entered, but it did rise enough to wet the insulation and sub-flooring and warp the parquet flooring, dampening our just laid carpet in some places enough to pull it from the baseboard. And finally, on the roof, only one of the four turbine vents was blown away!
I included all this detail as practice for filing insurance claims for wind, flood, home owners and the boat. Our first retirement home, the Vista del Mar condo, is another and sad story. It was undercut by the wind and crashing 30+ foot waves, developed cracks on both side, dropping the east arm section, where our unit is, and is now awaiting the inevitable condemnation. No one is even permitted on the property. Naomi is losing an heirloom table cloth, me a keyboard, and both the memories of 17 years of pleasurable beach-side living with family and friends. No word yet from our board of what will develop.

Howard and Naomi are both back in town. Let us all be thankful to God for their safety and return to us here at St. Gabriel’s.

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