This is what became of my 300-500 word Physical Geography assignment about a personal experience of severe weather…
It was early September of 2004. I was a twelve year old just beginning the seventh grade at DanMcCartyMiddle School. My school was located in what my fellow students and I called the “armpit” of Fort Pierce,Florida. My family and I lived in the late twentieth century “city” of Port St. Lucie just thirty minutes north. Located in St.Lucie County, Port St. Lucie was marked by the late housing boom of the early 2000s and was described by my father, a project manager with a housing construction company, as the “fastest growing city in the state and probably the nation.” Just three years before the great housing market collapse, Port St. Lucie’s surface appearance was that of a gleaming model of the suburban lifestyle, brimming with potential. Block by block, the city bloomed of strip malls, grocery stores, and parking lots. New subdivisions were being constructed along one of the three major drags that made up Port St. Lucie. The residential zones that filled in between the main boulevards made up the three major neighborhoods of Port St. Lucie and my family and I lived right in the middle sector.
Directly east of our cookie cutter, four bedroom home’s backyard, was Hutchinson Island. The long barrier island was Port St. Lucie’s only access to the Atlantic coast, and our only retreat from the monotony of three lane boulevards and poorly planned stoplights. The environment of the island, that of layers of sand dunes, mangrove swamps and palmetto trees, was eclipsed by a row of empty, concrete high rises.
It was a late evening on a Friday, when I turned on the TV and saw the shocking news that a Category 4 Hurricane named Frances was headed directly toward the dot on theFlorida map labeled Port St. Lucie. The great, swirling mass on the radar was on a direct collision course with Hutchinson Island, and my new town. Each day the image on the radar portrayed the great eye moving closer and closer to our little dot, and each day preparations for the storm were gaining ground on land.
The day came when the schools closed down and the storm was expected in the next forty-eight hours. By then, the hurricane had crossed slowly over several islands and had begun to weaken. Because of this cut off of warm water, the storm’s intensity decreased to a category 2. However, with a top sustained wind of 105, the storm was still destined to be quite dangerous and with a concerned father, every stop was pulled to ensure the safety of the home and family which it contained. The windows and glass doors were boarded; the trees and bushes in the yard had been trimmed to complete austerity and the patio furniture was thrown into the pool.
We gathered in the living room the morning of the big hit, and we could already hear the gusts that precluded the onset of the storm. The radar on the screen showed the outer rain bands preparing to wipe across southFlorida. As they day progressed, and the large outer wall of the storm inched closer to landfall, the rain and winds began to pick up speed. Due to the way our screened back patio was positioned in relation to a wall of the house and a sturdy wooden fence, we were able to sit down and watch the show. We watched the high winds whip through the screen and watched a squirrel hold on to the fence for dear life. The day slowly faded into night, and the gusts continued to get stronger and louder, large debris flew overhead and the rain filled the pool to the very brim. Thunder and lightning were running rampant across the sky, and with one strike of lightning and a blue flash, everything went dark. My parents decided soon after, that it was time for us to go to sleep. Candles were lit, flashlights distributed and all three of us girls were sent to bed. As the winds constantly howled, and debris slapped against my window, sleep was nearly impossible to find. I got up and found my mother in the living room, eyes glued to the tiny TV hooked to our small generator. I told her I couldn’t sleep and we sat on the couch together as the eye wall was making its final approach to land.
CRASH! From my parents bedroom came a huge cacophony of cracking wood, and pieces of shattered ceiling hitting the tile. We rushed to see what happened and saw a giant hole in the ceiling, through which rain, debris and wind came rushing through. The ceiling around the hole appeared to pulse and breathe with every new gust of wind. A sense of panic swept over me. It was exactly like the stories I’d seen on the Weather Channel happening right before my eyes. Were the extremely high winds pouring through the roof of our home going to rapidly change the air pressure inside causing the roof to lift right off? As my mother ripped me from the scene, I could see the bulging ceiling dipping lower and lower with every blast. I was sure that was it, and then the winds lessened and subsided.
We were now in the eye of the storm. My dad burst outside to check the damage, and I followed close behind. Stepping outside, it was calm, yet intense. The still air around me seemed to weigh down on my body and I looked up and I could see the stars. My mother swept me back inside and made me go to bed, before I could take in anymore of the eeriness around me. I slipped back into my sheets and listened, but heard no wind or rain. I knew the onslaught would begin again and the battering of Florida would continue, but I seized the quiet moment to drift to sleep and see what would become of my house, neighborhood and town in the morning.