Irma aftermath: Neighbors, community show true colors


By AARON WORMUSaaron_bio_pic
Exclusive to Palms West Monthly
Posted Sept. 29, 2017

Congratulations! If you’re reading this, you survived Hurricane Irma! Palm Beach County was lucky that the brunt of the storm missed us, but even though the eye of this monster storm was hundreds of miles away, it did wreak havoc in our area.

The morning after the storm, Monday, Sept. 11, I rode my bike to check out the damage. The storm surge in the Intracoastal gave the docks along Flagler Drive a beating. Two sailboats had broken off their moorings and wrecked on the sea wall.

Just north of Southern Boulevard, neighbors worked to move a Royal palm blocking the street. They dragged the palm to the side of the road so that traffic could continue to flow.

In the El Cid and Flamingo Park neighborhoods many large trees had fallen, some bringing power lines with them. Yards were trashed, but homes and lives were intact.

As I biked through neighborhood after neighborhood, it was heartwarming to see that even at 7 in the morning people were up and working together to clear roads, cut down trees and make sure everyone was accounted for.

Downtown was mostly unscathed. There were concerns that the many construction sites and cranes wouldn’t hold up to the winds, but sufficient preparation was made and there was no damage. Power was on throughout the storm. In fact, both Roxy’s Pub and O’Sheas Irish Pub stayed open late Saturday night.

I love my neighbors!

Saturday evening, when the wind was blowing but before the storm had really hit, we walked the three blocks down to Flagler Drive where we found many of our neighbors enjoying the brisk evening breeze. Dogs were out, kids were playing in the street and one neighbor appeared with a cooler of beer. Some newer neighbors came out and introduced themselves. Even though everyone was very aware that a massive storm was bearing down on us, it was a perfect evening as we enjoyed that moment of community.

After the storm, neighbors stopped by to check up on us. One of our trees fell and a neighbor with a chain saw showed up and in a few minutes the tree was taken care of.

Slowing down never hurt anyone

After the storm things moved a little slower than usual. Traffic lights were out, so getting through intersections forced me to come to a complete stop and look around. There was limited cell service, so I couldn’t tweet out that picture the minute I wanted to. There was no home internet, so I couldn’t respond instantly to emails. There was a curfew, so I couldn’t stay out until 2 am.

Being able to order anything we can imagine from Amazon Prime and having it delivered the next day had been temporarily taken away from us. But guess what? Being forced to have a little patience never hurt anyone.

We have a town center and it’s Clematis Street! 

One of the characteristics of a “strong town” is that there is a place where people instinctively know they can go where they will find other like-minded people. Many towns don’t have this type of place, but thankfully we do.

On Monday night, most of the city was out of power and suffering from cabin fever. It seems everyone came out to Clematis Street. They came to check on things and to get a break from being in the house since Friday.

Businesses on Clematis sprung into full gear. O’Shea’s and Roxy’s opened early, serving hungry and thirsty patrons. Grease, Dorrian’s and Rocco’s Tacos were open and stayed open until the city-wide curfew.

Credit where credit is due 

Before the storm, the City of West Palm Beach did a really good job of communicating the information that we needed to prepare for this emergency. Once the storm hit the city’s new Emergency Operations Center went online and coordinated with the county and state to make sure everyone had the resources we needed.

Even though the rollout of power back into the neighborhoods took a week to complete, the city water supply was never threatened, streets were cleared quickly and our basic services continued. After the storm the city communicated where the need for volunteers was and how we could help get everything back to normal.

A shout out to our police department who made sure that every officer and detective was on patrol or stationed at the emergency shelters. Their presence during this emergency was noticed and appreciated.

Finally, a big thank you to our local news stations and each weather team who tirelessly covered this storm.

If you lost cable and weren’t able to watch TV, here’s my bonus tip: Buy a powered UHF over-the-air antenna for your TV. They are $19 at Walmart, and will give you a crystal clear HD signal from local stations when your cable provider is down.

Pictured above: Abigail Wandoff, 16, left, and her sister Sophia Wandoff, 12, carry debris from the family dock on Flagler Drive after Hurricane Irma in West Palm Beach, Monday, Sept. 11. Photo by Greg Lovett/Palm Beach Post via AP

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