Our wild week surviving Wilma

Living in the middle of a natural disaster is an awesome, humbling event.

cancun wilma 298 ap (photo credit: )
cancun wilma 298 ap
(photo credit: )
HOLLYWOOD, Florida - We are slowly beginning to join the modern world again. Slowly being the optimum word. I am going to be really bummed if our power chooses now to surge again (which has been happening all Shabbat afternoon, as FPL - Florida Power & Light - works on all the grids and substations) and I lose this text. Yes, we survived Wilma. Last Sunday night it was starting to get windy, and by Monday at 6:30 a.m. it was starting to howl. We had a few pretty scary hours up until about 1 p.m. The shutters rattled and whooshes of wind went all around the house. We had always heard that you are safer in a part of the house without windows, so we pulled a mattress into the hallway and all hung out on it. At one point I got restless, so I folded laundry. Hey, routine is good. We couldn't see anything that was going on except through the little pane of glass in our front door. Through that we watched our neighbors front tree get whipped apart, another one fall and everything just whirl around. Water was blowing under the front door and seeping in all around the sides from the force of the wind. I had always heard that a real hurricane sounds like a freight train. Well, maybe it does for a Category 4 or 5. Our top winds were just up around 160 kph, and it didn't sound as much like a train as big waves crashing on a shore. Amazingly enough, by 2 p.m. we could already go outside to survey the damage. By 5 p.m. the sun came out. Freaky how nature works. We lost power at 8 a.m. on Monday, during the beginning of the rough bit of the storm, and only regained it Friday at 6:45 p.m. Oh what a magical time that was. Not only were our children running in the street screaming: "We've got the power!" but all of our neighbors, young and old were too. While we are happy, we feel a wee bit guilty that many of our friends do not have their electricity. Only about 30 percent of Broward County is "turned on." My dear hubby Charles keeps turning down the lights, as the bright ones make him squint after almost five days of dim lighting. And boy, when those lights came on, did I get to see how filthy my house was. Amazing how darkness hides a lot. We had phone service all the way through, although we can't always reach numbers or certain areas. My cellphone came back two days ago, but I can't always get a line out. Our cheap long distance line is still down. Damage-wise we came through relatively unscathed. Part of our back fence fell down. We've patched it up for the time being. Our front gutter fell down and we put that back up. A small "lipstick" tree fell down and it became a lovely neighborhood effort late on Monday to put it back up, and so far it looks like it is surviving. We had tons of "natural pruning" on our large tree up front and all around the house. Our ever troublesome roof seems to have survived. But if you drive around our neighborhood, there is tons of roof damage, trees down, car windows smashed and on and on. I always saw pictures on TV after natural disasters, but living in the middle of one is an awesome, humbling event. TV doesn't do the reality justice: street after street of trees bent in half, huge trees toppled with their root base (sometimes six meters across) exposed for all to see. House after house of shingles missing from roofs, storefronts blown off, cars driving around with duct tape and plastic over smashed windows that trees went through or cars stuck in front of houses because a large tree is holding them in place. Kind of looks like a shantytown. One of the other local Hollywood synagogues, Temple Solel, is uninhabitable for at least the next six months as part of the roof over its sanctuary was blown away. There was uncertainty if the building would have to be condemned, but the hope is that it is salvageable. Our shul, Temple Sinai of Hollywood, is taking in that congregation for the near future. They are Reform and we are Conservative, but we will all make do. (Some of their services are at different times anyway and we have extra large rooms that can be utilized.) Judith Rose, our friend and educational director at Temple Sinai is working with Temple Solel's preschool and religious school people to make space in our facility for them to use. We spent a full day cleaning all the debris from Sinai, making extra office space and moving classrooms around for our new guests. Most of the bricks we had saved from our house's original partial brick patio, for use in an eventual barbecue, are now on top of the Temple Sinai preschool roof - holding down all the tarps covering the roof damage inflicted by the hurricane. Simhat Torah was actually great. We were at Rabbi Konigsburg's house. No power, but with about 20 adults and 10 kids. Charles and I brought whiskey, rum and Cadbury chocolate. It was fun and completely casual. When this whole crisis ends and we get back to normal, we might have a repeat night - we only did a daytime service due to the curfew and darkness - so that all the kids who didn't/couldn't come can have fun. I hear through the grapevine that my place of work, the David Posnack JCC in Davie, is slowly coming back. There is partial power, no phones and roof damage in the smaller auditorium (they say you can see sky through the hole, so I guess that qualifies for bad damage). I have been told to report to work on Monday to be addressed by our boss and to be told when and how we will be able to return to a normal schedule. The Broward public school system is still not up and running. There are too many schools without power and too many intersections without lights, making it too dangerous for buses. The David Posnack Hebrew Day School, where my younger kids Arik and Sarina go, still doesn't have power (it's next to the JCC), and we don't know about the other Posnack middle school campus where my oldest, Meira, goes. I can't imagine they will start much before the public schools if the roads are still dangerous. Our friend Debbie Meline and her kids have been hanging out with us a lot this week. We ate most of our meals together as I was able to keep a good supply of ice on some of my food thanks to daily trips to our shul to retrieve ice from the caterer's ice maker. Turns out a large ice maker will keep most of its ice without power for several days. Thank God for them and Ziplock bags! At least I didn't have to wait on long, fruitless lines for our government to give us some melted cubes. Or wait and not have anyone show up to give anything out, as has been the drill around here. God "bless" FEMA. Forgive the sarcasm. During this whole long week, the kids spent a lot of time outside riding their bicycles and getting to know the neighbors. Some were lovely, some were friendly but a bit strange. At night, especially the first two nights when it was pitch black (really!), we looked at the stars and some of the neighbors shot off fireworks until the police told us to get inside as we were breaking curfew (can you believe it?). I don't think I'd had a curfew since high school. We also played some fun games inside. The kids made up a word game the other night and created bizarre poems that we put to music and then sang. No, we weren't drunk.