Irmageddon

Weak spelling skills, strong feelings about the storm.

As many of y’all already know from updates Adam was kind enough to post or my intermittent comments on Twitter, my family, pets and I successfully weathered the storm. There are many tales of heartbreak, loss, destruction and tragedy associated with Hurricane Irma. Ours is a tale of mild bad luck, poor planning and personal inconvenience, which makes us fortunate indeed. Details below the fold…

When the storm took a turn toward us late last week, there wasn’t much time to bug out, and we had a last-minute SNAFU when a sensor went wrong on our truck, rendering it incapable of going more than 10 MPH. Of course, no garages were open to fix it, and a remedy was beyond our paltry technical skills, so we had to rethink our plans and come up with a solution for the chickens and the truck. We found a garage outside the storm surge zone to house both.

Then, with the outer bands already lashing our area, we made a run for it with the dogs in my old car. The highways had been parking lots for days, with all the folks fleeing from South Florida. When we left home on Sunday mid-morning, traffic wasn’t bad because sensible people were already long gone.

You can’t read the sign above through the rain-streaked windshield, but it’s posted along evacuation routes in my area showing the height of the storm surge — the blue line is allegedly where the waves would be in a major hurricane, which the weather-folk were then saying was headed straight for us.

Luckily, since we could only take one vehicle, my car has a mob boss trunk (capable of transporting half a dozen bodies), so we could stow all our food, drinks and luggage. We piled pillows and linens in the back seat. I rode back there with the dogs. It was nice some of the time:

But then they got gassy, which was unfortunate for all of us, but especially me:

We arrived at our inland redoubt and waited in stormy conditions, which were inescapable in the peninsula at that point. We watched hurricane updates on TV until we lost power, and predictions were dire for our home. But instead of coming straight up Tampa Bay or passing it to the west as predicted, which would have created monster surge, the storm stayed east of the forecast track.

That was really good news for the Tampa Bay area. But it was bad news for where we were sitting in the middle of the state. On a weather app, I watched the now-eyeless orange blob approach our location. It reached us in the wee hours.

The wind was shrieking like 10,000 banshees. I could hear objects smashing into stuff outside. Aluminum carports detached and flew away in pieces. When I dared approach a window or peek out a door, I saw shingles flying and hunks of siding and branches tumbling down the street.

Incredibly, everyone else slept through it. I stayed up all night drinking café con leche, comforting the dogs, hoping the roof wouldn’t fly off, worrying about the chickens and my fish tank and waiting for dawn.

At first light, we could see a lot of downed trees, broken power lines and mostly minor structural damage to the houses around us. The one we were in had fairly substantial roof damage (no leaks, fortunately). Here’s a representative sample of the state of the neighborhood:

There were huge oak trees down everywhere. Most of the palms came through just fine. I could post half a dozen more pictures of downed trees, but you get the idea. It was a big fucking mess.

Luckily, no one was hurt in that immediate area. We started hearing from neighbors back home that our house was okay and the power was on. We were desperate to get back and make sure the house, chickens and fish were all okay.

I won’t bother with the details because it’s not that interesting, but it took us most of the day to find a place to fill up so we could return home.  There were long lines and short tempers, but we secured enough gas for ourselves and our fellow coastal refugees. The chickens were chauffeured home in a dog crate and re-cooped.

As it turns out, we didn’t even lose power here. My fish were just fine. Sections of our fence got knocked down, the banana trees were flattened, and wet bamboo leaves blanket just about every exterior surface. But besides that, you’d never know there was a storm at all.

So, we were lucky this time. Most of our relatives are still without power, but it could have been a lot worse.

And for many people, it was and is a lot worse. I’m especially sorry for the migrant workers in Southwest Florida who lost what little they had. And of course, there’s untold misery in the Caribbean. And in Texas.

When disasters happen, people help each other. But I have little faith we can get it together as a species to help the planet. Maybe Trump was our death knell as a civilization — ridiculous figures often are.

Anyhoo, with that cheery thought, open thread!

80 replies
  1. 1
    Baud says:

    Glad to hear you and all yours are safe and sound.

    ReplyReply
  2. 2
    BC in Illinois says:

    Good to hear you’re okay.

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  3. 3
    baquist says:

    Welcome back Ms Cracker. Glad to see you made it through, and the pets!
    I was always glad we didn’t have a dog when we lived in NOLA because we wouldn’t have been able to evacuate with them in the elderly Sentra. My clown loaches made it through Katrina and weeks afterwards then died when transferred to a clean transportation bucket. I hated myself for weeks.

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  4. 4

    Gratuitous booty shot, again! Good to know you are OK BC.

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  5. 5
    PhoenixRising says:

    Those who are considering buying a truck shortly all have the same question on our lips: What make/model/year? That has to be the most consequential part failure story I’ve heard in a while.

    Also, glad the chickens and boxers are all doing well!

    ReplyReply
  6. 6
    Schlemazel says:

    that is about the best outcome a person could hope for under the circumstances.

    has anyone heard from mustang bobby?

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  7. 7
    guachi says:

    I live in far eastern Georgia on the border with South Carolina. I still have no power. The winds were only 35 mph sustained and the rain, while lasting all day, was mostly light with occasional bouts of moderate intensity.

    Georgia Power really sucks.

    ReplyReply
  8. 8
    RoonieRoo says:

    Thank you for the update and glad that luck was on your side. As I type this my big yellow mutt is gassing up the room in solidarity to your crew.

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  9. 9
    catclub says:

    traffic wasn’t bad because sensible people were already long gone.

    But then they got gassy, which was unfortunate for all of us, but especially me:

    some some farts in a windstorm are worse than others.

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  10. 10
    Run, Lillian! says:

    So glad to hear you and your loved ones are safe. My family in Tampa feared the worst and prepared accordingly, but then got thru with little damage. The best relief there is. It is hard for us centrally located people to imagine preparing for a hurricane, we just bite our nails worrying about our coastal loved ones. Thanks for the update!

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  11. 11
    Brachiator says:

    Glad that you, your house and family are all OK.

    Also great to hear that you did not lose power. Still, area recovery has got to be an interesting challenge, but I hope everything gets back to normal (even if it’s Florida normal) as soon as possible.

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  12. 12
    Some Guy says:

    Glad you areOK. No power here. Butt no damage beyond debris everywhere.

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  13. 13
    bystander says:

    Glad to hear, Betty C.

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  14. 14
    catclub says:

    @PhoenixRising:

    Also, glad the chickens and boxers are all doing well!

    Did BettyC ever see the roosters wrapped as burritos? Hilarity ensues. and blood.

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  15. 15
    trollhattan says:

    Given the possibilities “shitty experience was shitty, but not too shitty” sounds perfectly acceptable. You’ll never get that week of trepidation, tedium and terror back but if that’s the cost then yay! Hope others’ stories are similar, that was one hellova storm.

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  16. 16
    Ceci n est pas mon nym says:

    Report from my sis, who is back home on the Florida east coast in the Cape Canaveral area, and didn’t get winds as high as Betty did I think: No infrastructure. No water, no gas, no electricity, no traffic lights, most gas stations closed. But they’re enjoying the camping out, no serious damage to the house. One casualty among the animals (does everybody in Florida keep animals?) as one chicken somehow got left out of the coop.

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  17. 17
    CaseyL says:

    Very happy to hear all is well with the Cracker household! My peeps in Dade and Broward county came through fine, also, though SFAIK their power is still out.

    Regarding the dogs and their SBD (or not-so-silent but still deadly) farts: I guess opening a window wasn’t an option? With the wind and rain and all…

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  18. 18
    errg says:

    Very glad to hear you’re safe…

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  19. 19
    ruemara says:

    Glad you’re ok, if a little olfactorily assaulted.

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  20. 20
    Annie says:

    I’m glad you’re OK. My cousin near Palatka has described a similar experience — incredible winds, lots of falling branches and flying debris. She doesn’t have electricity but also has no serious damage to her house, though she does have lots of fallen branches to clear away. Areas of my hometown of Jacksonville look like a lake but my relatives there are all OK.

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  21. 21
    randy khan says:

    Well, that’s all about as good as the news could be expected to be. I’m glad.

    But as you say, many others were affected much more, and it’s incumbent on us not to forget them or their needs.

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  22. 22
    Aleta says:

    Whew. (Surprised to be so cyber-attached to the chickens.)

    Palm trees sure are impressive at withstanding a high wind. A real shame when oaks go down. Those subtropic oaks seem primordial or something deep.

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  23. 23
    jacy says:

    So glad your home came through intact — and your fish. I was ridiculously worried about your fish for some reason. :) Happy your adventures were no worse and thinking good thoughts for all the people there.

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  24. 24
    Yutsano says:

    @CaseyL: Hell just a crack might have helped.

    Friend in Miami is back home, but because T-Mobile is being fantastically dumb network-wise in my area I have no further updates on that until I get home. Which will be later tonight.

    Betty, good that the storm didn’t hurt too much!

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  25. 25
    martian says:

    See. Mr. Cracker was right not to fix the fence!

    I hope Villago’s uncle and his wife made it through alright hunkering down in the Keys. It’s a sad situation down there.

    ReplyReply
  26. 26
    J R in WV says:

    Hilarious and heart warming story of the narrow escape from the killer storm!

    ReplyReply
  27. 27
    Doug! says:

    Glad you made it through the rain.

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  28. 28
    Betty Cracker says:

    @PhoenixRising: It’s a 2012 Ford F250 diesel. It requires exhaust fluid at infrequent intervals, and if you don’t add it, first it will restrict your top speed to 50 for X number of miles, then to about idle speed, according to the manual. We’ve never had that issue because we always put the exhaust fluid in when indicated, but last week, my husband said the sensor light came on and didn’t go off when he added the fluid. Then the day before we had to leave, it restricted us to idle speed with no other warning. Very bad timing, to say the fucking least!

    @Ceci n est pas mon nym: Poor chicken. If they haven’t found a carcass, it might still turn up, though. I did see the photos of roosters being evacuated from Key West in newspaper wrappers, but Ybor City near me is also overrun with feral chickens, and they seem to have weathered the storm just fine.

    I’m not sure what the top wind speeds were in Tampa or where I live, which is a bit south of there. But a lot of people are still without power. As of yesterday, the traffic lights were out and gas was almost impossible to find. Schools are still closed. Our town is pretty much back to normal.

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  29. 29
    eclare says:

    So glad the Cracker household is safe and good. Now to get to work on the rest of Florida, the Caribbean, and Texas…

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  30. 30
    JPL says:

    Betty, I’m glad that you made it unscathed. Even though you drove into the storm, it was right thing to do. If Irma had stayed on track, you would not be posting. Like others, I fear for the folks in the Keys, and especially those in
    the Caribbean. Most of the people who live on the islands depend on the tourism industry, and I just don’t know how long it will take to come back.

    ReplyReply
  31. 31
    Eljai says:

    I can only imagine how stressful it must have been to deal with your truck and chickens at the last minute. So glad everything worked out!

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  32. 32
    rikyrah says:

    So glad to read this post, B.C.😄

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  33. 33
    sharl says:

    Glad to read a report with a happy ending Betty. I like happy endings.

    ReplyReply
  34. 34
    Patricia Kayden says:

    Good to see you back up and posting, Betty.

    ReplyReply
  35. 35
    AliceBlue says:

    I’m relieved to hear that you and yours made it through Betty!

    My brother’s house in Lake Mary came through without a scratch or dent. Over in west central Georgia where I am, we had high winds and lots of rain–our pasture fences sustained some minor damage. We never lost power, which is amazing. Usually all it takes is 2 or 3 drops of rain.

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  36. 36
    Olivia says:

    So happy to hear you all survived quite well. Seriously, with all you were going through, you were so lucky the only thing passed was gas.
    It is just horrifying to see the damage throughout the Caribbean. I really worry about all the people living and working there who have lost everything including a way to make a living. We had a cruise scheduled for November with our family for our 50th anniversary and all the scheduled ports have been destroyed. My 10 and 13 year old grandsons came up with the idea that we should take tools along and still go to those places to see if we can volunteer to help fix things.

    ReplyReply
  37. 37
    Davebo says:

    CNN is reporting it may be 10 days before electricity is completely restored in Western FL.

    That’s actually pretty good. We were without power for 2 weeks after Ike.

    ReplyReply
  38. 38

    My Irma problems are these:

    1) running low on gas,
    2) currently no power at my house, with Tampa Electric aware of the problem but with 99 others as well.

    The lack of gas is troubling because it will interfere with getting to and from work, and I am required to work Wednesday night (2-3 of our staffers are also unavailable due to personal needs).

    If you can get Shell, RaceTrac, Speedway, BP, Mobil, and CITGO to send EVERY FREAKING GAS TANKER TO POLK COUNTY, please do it in the next two hours. Thanks.

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  39. 39
    Mike J says:

    When the next storm comes, please don’t think your escape this time means you’d be better off staying put.

    ReplyReply
  40. 40
    GregB says:

    Glad to hear House Cracker weathered the storm.

    ReplyReply
  41. 41
    cintibud says:

    Glad you’re OK Betty!

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  42. 42
    geg6 says:

    Good that you came through pretty unscathed (well, other than your olfactory nerves, that is). So far, all my FL friends have checked in and are okay. Some, especially those on the east coast and in the Tampa area, seem to have come through okay and with only minor property damages. My friends in Naples and Bradenton, though, have some pretty major problems to deal with. But they are alive and well and that’s all that really matters.

    An ex of mine from my early adulthood with whom I am still friendly is the only one on the east coast who is suffering at all. He lives in Stuart and, apparently, his building is the only building in his condo complex and for blocks on either side that does not have electricity. Pretty hot on a high floor with no a/c or fans. It’s got to be miserable trying to sleep and knowing everyone around is comfortable and you’re just sweating your ass off waiting in vain for FP&L to come and take care of one condo building in an area that either never lost most electricity or had it up and running by Sunday.

    ReplyReply
  43. 43
    Chat Noir says:

    Thanks for the update, BC. Glad you and yours are OK and made it through the storm. I’m in flyover country USA and I was glued to the Weather Channel most of the weekend.

    ReplyReply
  44. 44
    clay says:

    I’m in Jacksonville. We lost power Sunday night when a big tree in out front yard snapped off at the base. It fell at the exact angle required to miss our and our neighbors’ house, and instead fall in between them. But it did sever the power lines connecting us to the grid. (Later that night, our other big tree broke halfway up, but it fell in the street.)

    Due to the nature of the outage, I think we’ll be the last people in Jax to get power back, but we’re all safe.

    ReplyReply
  45. 45
    Kristine says:

    Glad you’re okay.

    ReplyReply
  46. 46
    sharl says:

    More good news,* assuming the prediction holds:

    Peace out #Jose. #Irma gave the jet stream a boost which in turn is expected to eventually shove Jose out to sea. pic.twitter.com/YWe1muq389— Eric Fisher (@ericfisher) September 12, 2017

    *ETA: Jose might go over Bermuda, but it is much weaker than it was, so if that’s true, hopefully wind and rain damage will be more limited relative to what could have been.

    ReplyReply
  47. 47
    Lapassionara says:

    Thanks,Betty, for the enthralling description of the Cracker household hurricane Irma saga.

    ReplyReply
  48. 48
    catclub says:

    @PaulWartenberg:

    My Irma problems are these:

    1) running low on gas,

    Get a Boxer.

    ReplyReply
  49. 49
    boatboy_srq says:

    Hooray safe and sound!

    Your experience sounds a lot like what Mum and I went through with Charley: we bailed on the house with the storm track headed right for us, and fled to a classmate’s place further inland on higher ground, in the fast-but-cramped speedster with dog and cat in crates. For us, though, the storm took that hard right, and instead of hitting either where we lived or where we camped out, it went straight for what was our designated evacuation area – and mashed THAT flat.

    I don’t know if you saw it, but there was a classic photo of the Punta Gorda yacht club post-Charley with only half of one wall still standing. Charlotte, Collier and Lee counties were still rebuilding years later.

    One reason I never gave HEB? a second chance was because of that season: by deploying FL resources to attend to that year’s storm woes he postponed a heckuva job one year, which bought his bro another term as pResident.

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  50. 50
    Keith G says:

    I am glad y’all missed the worst. I was thinking about you as this shifty storm bobbed and weaved.

    ReplyReply
  51. 51
    germy says:

    All 54 Hemingway cats are safe, and the house is intact, according to Hemingway House General Manager Jacque Sands #HurricaneIrma— Orlando Sentinel (@orlandosentinel) September 10, 2017

    ReplyReply
  52. 52
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Keith G: Good to see YOU. Been wondering how you made out in Harvey, and I hope everything is okay.

    ReplyReply
  53. 53
    trollhattan says:

    @germy:
    How in heaven’s name does anybody take a 54-cat role call? They’re cats!

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  54. 54
    Ceci n est pas mon nym says:

    @trollhattan: “You herd them into one room and tell them to stay, and when they’re all sitting still, let me know and I’ll count them”

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  55. 55
    boatboy_srq says:

    O/T: Edith Windsor has left us. RIP brave lady.

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  56. 56
    NotMax says:

    @trollhattan

    Put out 54 cans of tuna. If any are untouched, someone’s missing.

    :)

    ReplyReply
  57. 57
    Citizen_X says:

    Yay for Betty and family and animals and house!

    ReplyReply
  58. 58
    SFAW says:

    Glad to read that you are OK, Betty.

    But what I want to know is: what happened to those two parrots on the window ledge in (I think) Miami?

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  59. 59
    No One You Know says:

    @Olivia: There are several churches in my area that sponsor “fix it” missions (good works only, no preaching or teaching except by example, other than prayer before supper). This year it might not be abroad…

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  60. 60
    SFAW says:

    @Ceci n est pas mon nym:

    You herd them into one room

    I call bullshit.

    ReplyReply
  61. 61
    No One You Know says:

    @Citizen_X: @germy:

    HOORAY!!!

    ReplyReply
  62. 62
    No One You Know says:

    @SFAW: I bet Ceci has seen the cowboy cat-herding video.

    ReplyReply
  63. 63
    Aleta says:

    @guachi: “only” 35 mph sustained ? yikes. hope your power comes soon.

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  64. 64
    Ceci n est pas mon nym says:

    @No One You Know: That verb was chosen for a reason.

    In my mind, I heard my quoted text in the voice of Oliver Hardy. Or for an only slightly less antique reference, perhaps Bud Abbott.

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  65. 65
    Aleta says:

    @PaulWartenberg: @Some Guy: @clay: @Yutsano:
    Hope it’s not too long before you get power, gas, refrigeration. Would like to hear later how it’s going, if you’re inclined.

    ReplyReply
  66. 66
    Ceci n est pas mon nym says:

    Uhoh, nym change time again? FYWP is throwing my posts silently into the trash again. No feedback, just *poof*.

    ETA: Huh. It’s only when I try to reply to No One You Know at #62 that it gets *poof*ed. When I changed the addressee, it posted fine.

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  67. 67
    Ceci n est pas mon nym says:

    @SFAW: There was a reason I chose that verb.

    In my mind, I heard my quoted text in the voice of Oliver Hardy, spoken to Stan Laurel.

    Moe to Larry and Curly would also work.

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  68. 68
    lurker dean says:

    @Betty Cracker: i thought you were pulling our legs with “exhaust fluid,” like when someone has a car issue and you tell them they need “blinker fluid.” imagine my surprise finding that it’s a real thing!?! i’ve heard of mercedes diesels requiring urea, but never heard it called “exhaust fluid.” anyway, glad to here the crackers made it through irma with only a little boxer-gas induced discomfort :)

    ReplyReply
  69. 69
    WaterGirl says:

    Like everyone else, I am so relieved that you and yours made it through safely, and your house, too!

    But damn, this sounds very scary:

    The wind was shrieking like 10,000 banshees. I could hear objects smashing into stuff outside. Aluminum carports detached and flew away in pieces. When I dared approach a window or peek out a door, I saw shingles flying and hunks of siding and branches tumbling down the street.

    I can only imagine the frustration associated with the truck only being able to go 10 MHP when you needed to run for your lives and the anxiety-producing nature of the whole experience. Since the tiki bar made it through, Dr. WaterGirl prescribes copious amounts of “relaxing” at the tiki bar.

    ReplyReply
  70. 70
    Peter H Desmond says:

    thanks goodness you’re okay!

    ReplyReply
  71. 71
    Bonnee says:

    I must live somewhere very near Betty Cracker because we are always registering voters and such at the same time. One day I’ll just stand up in some meeting or other and holler “where is Betty Cracker!” (Not) we were very lucky. I did evacuate because I live where two bays and the Gulf converge- RUN from water. I now have power and though very tired from helping extremely elderly and also disabled people load and unload at my hotel, not to mention loading and unloading myself and my dog, I’m in good shape and seeing what I can do to alleviate others in not such good shape. Price we pay and I’m not moving.

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  72. 72
    SFAW says:

    @No One You Know:

    I bet Ceci has seen the cowboy cat-herding video.

    Jeez, I hope so. It’s a classic.

    ReplyReply
  73. 73
    debbie says:

    Wait, what about the important stuff: Is the tiki hut intact? Did the chickens get wrapped by burritos? Did they enjoy that?

    ReplyReply
  74. 74
    VeniceRiley says:

    Glad you’re aok Betty. I have friends in your area and the worst is they have no power. They have an electric car, and I saw idle musing whether they can get juiced up at the car dealership, if they have power, or are even open

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  75. 75
    mike shupp says:

    So you and yours all got through Irma okay. That was your day … and it’s made mine as well, So pleased!

    ReplyReply
  76. 76
    catabirdman says:

    Betty, you’re awesome. I’m so glad you and yours made it through in relatively good condition. Looking forward to many more of your great posts!

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  77. 77
    Raoul says:

    A number of friends – close and not so much – live in various parts of Florida. It’s looking like they all came through OK, soggy and mostly without power, but without substantial damage.

    So I’m relieved on a personal, how this affects my kin network sort of way. (Same, actually for family and friends in Houston. Boy do I have friends in low places!) But it’s going to be a slog to recover. And I am not hopeful for the intermediate timeframe for any real work on greenhouse gas reductions, maybe some progress on adaptation/mitigation, but people want to live where it’s warm, sunny and the jobs are.

    And I am (selfishly) waiting for news from the middle Keys, booked over a month ago. We have Thanksgiving plans there, and hold some hope of keeping our reservation at a small, family-run ‘resort’ on Tavernier. Our family is holding a booking for 18% of the place (aka 3 rooms!), and we’d like to help them have some cash flow — if the island is ready for visitors by then.

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  78. 78
    Tehanu says:

    Relieved to hear you & pets all OK. Hope the cleanup isn’t too awful. And what a great title for the post!

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  79. 79
    Chris T. says:

    @Betty Cracker and @lurker dean: Yes, indeed, that’s the urea injection system, meant to reduce diesel emissions. The fluid is a mix of urea (which is just what it sounds like … well, technically “urine” is slightly different) and water. In an emergency, you could try peeing in the DEF tank, but it wouldn’t be pretty. :-) (Seriously, don’t do that)

    Here is a page on urea vs urine (there’s also “uric acid” which is part of why bird poop eats through the paint on your car). The short version is that pee contains urea, but also other stuff.

    Here’s Car and Driver on “diesel exhaust fluid”.

    (In this case it sounds like a malfunctioning level sensor, or something like that. I’m not a fan of urea injection—it would be better to burn the diesel cleanly, in a microturbine, if only microturbines were as cheap as diesel engines [they’re about 100x more expensive at the moment].)

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  80. 80
    MaryRC says:

    Very glad to hear that the Crackers are all OK.

    ReplyReply

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