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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2004-10-15

Hurricane Coverage: Remember to Take Care of the Family First and Get Some Rain-X.
By Gary Bogdon

Photo by Gary Bogdon

Photo by Gary Bogdon

As power goes out for the third time this hurricane season in Orlando, the Wilkes family watch a movie on a portable DVD player by candlelight before bed.
After living in Florida for nearly 20 years, in both Miami and Orlando, I had become used to hurricane season each year. The 2004 hurricane season changed all of that. Orlando, and all of Central Florida felt the effects of 3 hurricanes this fall, as Hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Jeanne ravaged the state.

While working on staff at The Miami Herald and The Orlando Sentinel, I had covered all of the major hurricanes over the past two decades including Andrew, Gilbert, Hugo, Floyd, Fran, and others. The routine was the same each year, when a hurricane would approach.

Get all of your gear together, (I also never left home without some 'Rain-X for the windshields) pack for several days, pickup a rental SUV, and head to where everyone else is trying to flee. It was kind of like the scenes from the movie 'Twister' where the scientists are all in pickup trucks storm - chasing.

During the storm, we (journalists) would take cover in the nearest shelter, safe hotel, or sometimes even a municipal building would be our makeshift hotel/headquarters for the evening. I once spent the night on the floor of the county commission chambers room in Vero Beach, and another time in the newsroom of the Myrtle Beach, SC newspaper. But your adrenaline is racing, so sleep is not a priority.

After the storm would pass, we would come out of our 'bunkers' assess the damage and begin to make pictures, either by ground or by air. It's all very exciting, and the pictures and stories that come out of them can sometimes be very compelling and memorable. This year changed all of that for me.

I was on assignment in Foxboro, Mass shooting a Patriots NFL game on the Friday night that Hurricane Charley decided to put it's eye on Orlando. My wife and two small children were at home, all together in our bedroom when the storm, packing sustained winds of 95 mph tore across the city. I was very nervous about being away from my family during the storm.

But when I had left the day before, the TV meteorologists were thinking Tampa was going to be in the Target zone. In fact they had evacuated all of the coastal area of Tampa, and most of them traveling to be 'safe' in Orlando area hotels. When the storm decided to hang a right at Punta Gorda, FL everything changed.

I kept calling my wife on the cell, during timeouts, halftime, and at the end of the game. She and my kids were scared, the wind was really howling and torrential rains were falling. By Saturday morning, the storm had passed, and the damage assessment could begin. Although Orlando did not suffer anywhere near the damage that the Punta Gorda area received, our problems were huge. Trees and power lines down everywhere in the downtown area of Orlando caused major problems. Our neighborhood was out of power for 6 days. The first day is ok, it's kind of like camping out with the kids.

Photo by Gary Bogdon

Photo by Gary Bogdon

A church in downtown Orlando displays a message about hurricane and faith.
But by the 6th day of no AC, you're are very irritable and stressed. I feel fortunate that I had no major structural damage to my home. I did lose two 40 ft. trees in my backyard, my air conditioning compressor was blown out from the lightning and power surges, and lots of shingles off my roof, causing several leaks. But those can all be replaced, and no one in my family was injured. I thank GOD for that.

The stress to your family as a hurricane approaches the state can be very real. It's on the television and in the front pages of the newspaper for days before it actually hits. So when it looked like a reality that Hurricane Frances was coming to Orlando (our second of the season) I did not want my family to be here. I was going to fly them out on Friday before the storm (that hit on Sunday) and had been on the phone with airlines forever and finally got the flights and schedule worked out.

That was until Orlando International Airport decided as a precaution to shut down the airport on Friday at noon. Our flights were scheduled to leave at 1:20 pm, so now they were canceled. Back on the phones, and come up with a new plan. I ended up getting an assignment for that weekend in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, LA for Sports Illustrated. So since there were no flights going out for my family, I decided to pack everyone (including our little miniature schnauzer 'Rudy') into the minivan and drive to New Orleans away from the storm.

After doing some internet research I found the Loew's Hotel in New Orleans was 'pet friendly', so that's where we were going. My family and I, and thousands of other Floridians were evacuating north, up I-75. It was quite a trip, but having my family with me, when the storm came into Orlando was worth everything. We lost power for 3 days during that storm. We also lost a few more shingles from the roof.

So back to Home Depot for more sealant and supplies. Have you ever been to a Home Depot in Florida just before a hurricane is coming.. It's very special. People have a look in their eye, a little bit scared, a little bit angry. Reminds me of a scene with Dwight Yoakum and Billy Bob Thornton in the movie "Sling Blade".

There is no way a third hurricane could hit Orlando in the same season. It's never happened. But it was coming, and this one was Hurricane Jeanne, and she looked angry. You can only run from your house so many times during a hurricane, but being inland helps a little. No one could believe that we were going to get it again. Back to Home Depot, then fill your cars with gas at every opportunity, buy as much ice as they allow you to take at the store, and board up the windows, for the third time. With my kids in sleeping bags on the floor of my bedroom sound asleep, Hurricane Jeanne's winds came in about 2 am.

They blew all night, and all morning on Sunday. But it felt good being all together, and weathering it out at home rather than on road in a hotel. My ten year old boy told me the night before the third hurricane, "I'm glad your here daddy, I feel much safer". By mid day on Sunday, we could go out and assess the damage again. Again, more shingles off the roof, (that area of the house used to be protected from the wind by trees that are no longer there).

Now I'm working the phones with insurance adjusters, roofing contractors, and gutter manufacturers. As the old saying goes, something good comes out of a bad situation. All of the neighbors on my street have become much closer, and helping each other get through these situations. I'm so thankful that no one I know or love was hurt or injured.

Photo by Gary Bogdon

Photo by Gary Bogdon

Satellite Beach, FL- Standing on the what remains of a boardwalk on Satellite Beach, residents look at the damage and beach erosion from Hurricane Jeanne.
This past weekend I went to our neighborhood Publix (grocery store) on Friday night to pick up a few items. I asked the clerk, 'doesn't it feel great not to have to be preparing for another hurricane this weekend?' She smiled in agreement. I grabbed an extra bag of ice, just in case.

TOP TEN THINGS TO DO BEFORE A HURRICANE HITS:
1) Take care of your family, and have a plan
2) Secure your home, cars (board up the windows if you need to
3) Your roof or car can be replaced. A life cannot. Be safe and don't do anything stupid.
4) Charge everything you've got up fully, (cell phones, battery charges, etc.) power may be out for days
5) Fill your cars with gas early and often. Stock you freezer with ice, and easy food supplies
6) Stay in touch with all of your neighbors, before, during, and after the storm. Helping each other through it.
7) Don't sit in front of the TV all day before the storm as it approaches. Your stress level will go through the roof.
8) Remain calm, the storm will pass. You will be ok.
9) Consider buying a generator
10) Put a ton of Rain-X on all of your windshields of your vehicles


(Gary "Razor" Bogdon is a freelance photographer based in Orlando, FLA. In addition to his talents as a photographer, he also boasts being able to do great impressions of his heroes Ben Van Hook and Bill Luster. He can be found every Thursday afternoon mowing his lawn.)

Related Links:
Gary Bogdon's member page

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