Beercation 2017 – Preparation (Subtitled “Hey Irma… We’re still standing!!”)

I don’t know about the rest of you but the last few months for me have been extremely busy. We in Florida had a rather worrisome lady friend, named Irma, give us one helluva visit in September! She may not have been as dangerous as we thought she was going to be, but she was plenty dangerous enough for me.

Her arrival in the wee early morning hours on September 11th, and her subsequent departure later in the day, left the utility company I work for enough to keep us busy for 8 straight days of 17 hour shifts. By the time it was over we were exhausted, but we had services back up to 100% of our customers in that time frame. A lot of other places in Florida weren’t as fortunate.

This also put a little bit of a time constraint I had on prepping a new RV trailer I purchased the week before, Labor Day weekend. When I got the trailer home I took Tucker and his new little buddy Harley (I was babysitting Rowdy’s dog while she and the Cooler were out of town.) out to see the new toy and they were plenty excited.

Later that day I began making plans for a vacation to Asheville, NC. I booked a KOA camp site, looked up a list of breweries and pubs that I haven’t been to yet and highlighted those that were pet friendly as Tucker is accompanying me, then began an itinerary that included some time at Grandfather Mountain, hiking, and just some relaxing.

Then upon returning to work on the Tuesday after Labor Day we were entered into full blown Storm Prep. Any plans I were working on were forgotten in the milieu that accompanied the approaching doom. You may think I am exaggerating, but at the time Irma was tracking on a course that would bring her right up the middle of the state, the worst possible scenario. The devastation from that trajectory would do so much harm that the recovery could take months.

At work we prepped as best we could, contacting Vendors to get as much material in ahead of time that we could, seeing what was lined up to come in and what was available after Harvey had torn up Texas. I have to give some credit here because the Vendors that we use for supplying our material needs really stepped up and made sure we were a priority for them. After that is was a matter of battening down the hatches and securing the facilities. By the end of business that Friday, except for a couple of last minute deliveries we had set-up for that Saturday and Sunday, we were about as ready as we could be for this storm.
I attended a little pre-storm beer session with my fellow Beer Bacchanalians that early Friday evening and, in between answering phone calls and emails from work on my cell phone, managed to enjoy a couple of last brews before the storm hit.

All of Saturday was spent on phone calls and emails coordinating schedules for after the storm restoration and determining who would be hunkered down at work during the storm. I spent so much time on this that I wasn’t able to get the outside of the house prepped for the storm until late Sunday morning. I was picking up deck chairs and making sure the new RV was secure while it was raining cats and dogs.

Around 10 PM my power blinked out once for about 5 minutes. I took that as a hint that it was fixing to get bad, so when the power came back on I turned everything off and went to bed to await Irma’s imminent arrival. I actually spent the next couple of hours texting back and forth with my sisters who both also live in Florida. Tucker had fits all during the evening as the sounds of the storm made him restless.

Around 1 AM I woke up to the sound of the wind howling like a banshee around the house and through the trees that surround my neighborhood. I began hearing the sound of the house creaking loudly coming from the corner that my bedroom was in. The sound of the wind and the creaking was enough to make me rethink my location so I got up and laid down a couple of sleeping bags in the hallway between my office and the guest room. That was centrally located and probably provided the best protection in case of a tree falling or the roof lifting off. Tucker followed me and while we tried to get some rest we both had little of it that night.

At 430 AM my alarm went off and while I was already awake I knew I need to grab my flashlight and begin getting ready for the early morning storm briefing. At that point Irma had passed over us but we were still experiencing tropical force winds and would until about Noon that day. I checked out the house and saw some damage to the privacy fence but near damage to the main structure so I changed clothes and went in to work.

That alone was a difficult task. Not only were trees and limbs down all over town and well as power out to most of the traffic lights, but the entrance to my neighborhood was under about three feet of water. I know that because when I drove though it, as it came up to the bottom door of my pick-up truck. Some of my neighbors were stuck there with the lower cars they had.

So we all went in at Noon and worked til 10 PM that night. Then went home and came back at 5 AM in the morning and again worked until 10 PM. This routine repeated for the next 6 days.

By Friday morning, all of us had been at this for at this for at least 61 hours, some longer because of the preparations for the storm. As I looked around the room all I saw were tired faces. Tired… but determined.

Sunday morning while we’re dragging ourselves in to try and finish restoration to the last 1.5%  of the community, while most of the folks in the area are already back to their Sunday routines of church, family gatherings and NFL football. That routine is what the last 1.5% wants to get back to… and so do we. But we’re not done yet.

As the day wears on the effect of the fatigue we are feeling becomes very evident when one of my staff members is injured. Luckily, the injury is just a simple contusion,  but it could have been worse and would have been easier to prevent if we weren’t all exhausted. After getting him a medical check out at the Health Center we sent him home with a lesson learned for all of us.

By Sunday night we have all but 380 customers back and we plan to start working on those at first light. That is less than 0.4% of our customers. Well over 60,000 restored within a 7 day period. By Tuesday morning we had restored all customers back to service.

Nothing enhances flavor quite like the deprivation of it. Going home for the first time in daylight that day I was finally able to do a better evaluation of my home and how it survived the storm. I talked to some of my neighbors to see how they fared. And I noticed that someone had cleaned up some of the debris in my yard and piled it for pick-up. The neighbors know I work for the utility company and knew I was at work while they could start making repairs on the damage they went through. Not only did the company I work for pull together to get everyone back up and running, but the community as a whole pulled together to help each other out.

The next weekend I began working on replacing a portion of the privacy fence. I also restarted prepping the RV for a trip I was planning in October. That was the first time I had been able to enjoy a beer since before the storm hit. I don’t know if it was deprivation or just a really good beer but nothing has tasted so good in a long time.

The following Monday the 25th I was joined by Rowdy and the Cooler for a Taps and Tapas dinner at Blackadder Brewing. An excellent 4 course meal accompanied by 5 excellent beers.

The following Saturday brought more rain back into the area but Rowdy and I decided to attend the Bacon and Brew fest in Deland Florida. They had some excellent Bacon available but the beer ran out in less than two hours. As you can see from the picture below we weren’t happy about that.

We did however decide to visit one of the breweries in town, Persimmon Brewing, which had some very good beers. And Rowdy’s Mom joined us and we went to Yola Mac and Grilled Cheese for some food. Excellent food bit the service was only so-so.

I finally finished the section of fence by this last Tuesday night and continued prepping for the vacation to Asheville NC, this Saturday. Tucker and I are both ready for a road trip and I have picked out some pet friendly places in Asheville to visit.

Today I am attending the Gator Homecoming Parade with my fellow Beer Bacchanalians and Gainesville House of Beer. Then I will finish up my preparations from the trip and leave for Ashville in the morning.

Tucker and I will report in on our visitations and provide some much needed information for this blog. It’s been too long without some wordage!

Papabear

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