Harvey, Irma, Jose.... this is feeling personal


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September 8th 2017
Published: September 9th 2017
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Hi all

Sorry it has been so long since our last blog. Regrettably it turned out that our motel in Orlando, where we booked for 5 days, had non-existent WiFi in the room and barely working in reception. In fact it lacked in many ways, particularly no fridge nor microwave.

But for this blog we have jumped 10 days or so to update regarding Hurricane Irma. We will blog for the intervening days shortly.

At the end of the last blog we were 'fleeing' Hurricane Harvey which was wreaking havoc in SE Texas. We gave some facts on Harvey at the last blog. We have since learnt that around half a million cars were written off due to flooding! Along with thousands of properties, and sadly 42 lives.

Jumping forward to today, Friday 8 September, and we are blogging from Chattanooga, Tennessee, where we have genuinely fled to from Orlando, this time because of Hurricane Irma.

We first became aware of Irma many days ago when The Weather Channel reported its start just off the coast of Africa. Since then it has travelled across the Atlantic gathering ferocity until it hit various Caribbean countries as a Category 5 Hurricane, which is winds of 185+ mph.

It is due to hit Florida on early Sunday morning. The latest forecast, given at around 5pm here, Friday 8 September, is that the eye will track directly over Key West, up over Tampa and continue along the west coast of Florida before it turns westward, diagonally across the Florida Panhandle.

The latest forecast is also that, although now only a Category 4 whilst going along the coast of Cuba, as it tracks over the warm waters towards Key West it will pick up intensity again and landfall as a Cat 5.

Key West, stuck as it is as an island at the end of the Keys is likely to be totally devastated. Sanibel Beach, half way northwards to Tampa, a beach famed for its shells, may disappear as a 12-15 foot storm surge is forecast.

Many areas have been subjected to mandatory evacuation orders - Key West, Miami Beach and other areas close by, Everglades City, Sanibel.... - each of these we were booked or planning to go to.

We therefore thought it prudent to also get out of Orlando and Florida. The problem was, where to?

When, yesterday/Thursday, Paul was booking somewhere he first booked Savannah, only for it to have mandatory evacuation ordered a couple of hours later.

So with most of the southern half of Florida and much of the northern too being ordered to or just deciding to 'get the hell out of there!', finding somewhere to get a motel room became very difficult. Paul spent 2-3 hours Internetting to find somewhere (or at least somewhere reasonably affordable) to stay. It became necessary to widen the scope ever further. Even Atlanta had no reasonably priced rooms.

Paul eventually found a three night spot, Friday to Sunday nights, but it is in Chattanooga, around 550 miles from Orlando, and NW of Atlanta. Given the distance, and expecting heavy evacuation traffic, we decided to just go, abandoning our final booked night in Orlando. The motel were good about it and are refunding that night.

So, we were on the road around 5pm Thursday. The first 30 minutes or so through Orlando were OK. Commuting traffic at worse. But when we reached the Interstate, boy oh boy.

It took us 8 hours to do 215 miles of bumper to bumper US driving. And US drivers are SUICIDAL!! You may or may not know that is legal to pass on either side on multilane roads in the US, and reckless drivers in their hundreds exploit this. So we are driving at around 70mph, more or less, when idiots screech into your safe stopping space. You can see them zigging between lanes with reckless abandon, squeezing through gaps that don't really exist, just to gain a car length or so.

We stopped around 4am in a rest area for some in-car shuteye,

In total we were travelling from 5.30 pm yesterday until 4.30 pm today, and have done only 550 miles, and that is along major freeways with 2 up to 7 traffic lanes.

If you watched any of the BBC aerial coverage of the evacuation you may have spotted us - we were the dark silver grey car, the one trying to block idiots from overtaking.

But we should now be out of Irma's way especially as the latest forecast track trends it westward when it reaches northern Florida.

We've booked 3 nights here and another 3 further east, and expect the storm to mostly pass us by. We are taking it day by day.

And out there in the Atlantic there is Hurricane Jose heading for the Caribbean countries and no one knows whether and how it will hit the US.

No photos with this quick blog.

Be safe everyone

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