Hurricane Irma was the first time I've had immediate family members in the path of an impending catastrophe. My brother and niece live in Naples, Florida. Their experience has been an interesting prism through which to view the subject of preparedness and survival. And the thought process of evacuation.

Will preface with the good news that they are fine. They rode out the storm in a friend's 10th floor condo on Pelican Bay, where they stayed for a few more days. Their home is on a canal and given the forecasts of a 10'-15' flood surge they wisely opted to vacate. Thankfully, Irma came inland which lessened the surge to 5' and that kept the canal out of their house (came within 6" of the back door). However, the wind relocated part of their roof to the street. They remain grateful that the property destruction was not much, much worse.

They are very thankful to be alive and unharmed. They know full well how much worse things would have been had Irma come ashore as a Cat 5, especially if they had been on the northeast side of it (where a hurricane's winds tend to be the worst).

My brother is a fairly preparedness-minded person but not a devotee of the subject. Yet six days before (Monday) predicted landfall, he had all the cars fuel tanks topped off, gas cans filled, the generator ready, had been to the grocery for more non-perishable foods and more water bottles. Was rounding up his window-boarding stuff. And he was considering their evacuation options. That far out, forecasting is not yet a precise science, but it was pretty certain that Irma would run into Florida or the Carolinas and soon it seemed it'd go north up the peninsula and it was definitely an enormous storm -- much wider than the distance from Miami on the Atlantic coast to Naples on the Gulf coast. Everyone was likely to get high winds and a lot of rain and possibly surge.


At that time (Labor Day) and for the next few days, media reports were zooming in on Miami as the bullseye. On Thursday morning, the National Hurricane Center reported that Irma's track had shifted 40 miles west. My brother messaged, for the first time, that he was worried. News reports of fuel shortages on the roads north had been increasing since Wednesday. And Georgia and South Carolina were also in Irma's projected path -- hotels were booked to Atlanta -- so evacuation was, in his view (and mine), not necessarily the best option. They didn't evacuate.


Friday morning it was clear they were going to stay in Naples. The rising surge predictions (10'-15') negated their original choice of alternative lodging. The 10th floor was higher than desired, 3rd would have been optimal, but the 10th it would be. They had a heckuva view, windowless interior rooms, a sturdy stairwell and a week to 10-days of supplies and a generator in the building to run one of the elevators..

With his own home boarded up and most of their furniture elevated on cinder blocks and other things they could not take with them stored as high up as possible in the house, they finished loading the cars full of other valuables, clothes, etc. They had decided to position the cars on the 3rd floor of a parking garage -- parking them in the middle of the structure. Another friend who was out of state (a lot of Naples condos are used seasonally) told my brother to use his 4x4 pickup truck so that's what they kept at the condo -- atop the two-story parking garage there. Btw, the truck survived fine while a Jeep parked nearby was made into a convertible by Irma.

My brother spent most of Saturday helping others get settled into wherever they were riding out the storm. After settling into the condo, he helped others in the building (there were about 10 others in the 20-story building) prepare their shelter space -- usually a walk-in closet.

They then had a huge dinner and tried to get a good night's sleep Saturday. Irma was expected to arrive around 3:00p Sunday.

Sunday morning, around 5:00a, we were texting back-and-forth. He gave me all their phone numbers and those of friends. I had the address of where they were staying and their house plugged into my phone's RadarScope app. We assumed they would lose power for at least a few days, as well as cell service.

They (my brother, niece and their friends) had a big breakfast and took long, hot showers. They then checked on others in the building and looked again at the stairwell situation, just in case.

They finished situating their windowless "safe" rooms, which included placing full-face motorcycle helmets, in case the condo windows blew out.


About one-hour before landfall, the power cut out for good. It has been flickering for half an hour. The power would remain off at the condo until Thursday night. The house got power back on Wednesday.


This was unexpected and very welcome -- the cell service (they all have AT&T) stayed on the entire time, they never lost it. This allowed me to send them frequent screenshots of my RadarScope app which showed exactly where their condo was in relation to Irma's wind and rain bands, as well as the eyewall. The following day I was able to send them local news reports, which saved some of their battery charge. Btw, they went into the storm with multiple backup chargers.

My brother sent several videos of the escalating winds and rain as Irma neared Naples. I, and they, have quite a record of their experience.


My brother travels overseas frequently and for that has a satellite phone plus three batteries for it. He used it at the house over the next couple days (no cell service there until Wednesday). Nice to have if their cell service had gone out but during the storm would have required standing next to a window.


At the worst of it, they could feel the 20-story building shaking, ceiling lights swayed as if a moderate earthquake (he sent video). At one point he messaged: "The building is moving so much it feels like a ship at sea."

The top of a palm tree flew by the 10th floor. Vegetation plastered the windows.

During the tranquility of the eye, a neighbor sent a photo of my brother's roof in the street. Part of the roof.

As the backside of the storm began, they noticed one of the condo's floor-to-ceiling windows was wobbling. Most of the weather stripping had pealed off. It was in the master bedroom so they removed valuables and closed the door. Later, when the winds moderated, they duct taped the window to the frame. To their surprise, it never fell out.

THE NEXT DAY (Monday, September 11)

Naples was (and I think may still be) under curfew. That afternoon they were able to drive to the house. They patched over the hole in the roof with aluminum sheeting.


They spent the rest of the week cleaning up the house. Last night was the first in the house. Today he was able to obtain some building supplies and is working on the roof. Thankfully, my brother was well-tutored in home-building and maintenance by my father and grandfather. He also inherited my grandfather's tools -- which are considerable. The only material thing my brother was concerned about during the storm was Papa's tools. They have much sentimental value as well as practical use.

As of yesterday, the only food the local Costco had was bananas. But other groceries have more. And some restaurants opened up. Fortunately, my brother has ample canned and other food and lots of bottled water.

It is a very, very difficult time in areas of Florida (and Texas, Louisiana, perhaps parts of Georgia and South Carolina) where people suffered extensive damage, may still be flooded and without power-water-sewer and don't have the resources to easily come back from this disaster.

Be ever grateful for every good day, and prepared for the days that aren't.

Thanks again to ETS (and Doug Ritter) for helping educate on preparedness and survival. I've sure learned a lot and am now able to share some of that knowledge with family and friends.