Friday October 21, 2005 - Wilma Day 1


Hurricane Well, it's here. Someone in our hall was able to get through to someone via cell phone and heard that Wilma slowed down to only 2 kts.
Plans Get some good pictures and conserve water and food.
Expectations Hopefully only one day.

The morning started with a very wet room. There was about 1/4 inch of water over the entire floor of the room. We expected this to happen and had moved all our luggage to higher ground, but that was not good enough. The water was spraying in through the edges of the door and through the air conditioner. We were luckier than some though, at least we did not have to bail out our balcony in the middle of the storm. And to think, I actually wanted the bed by the window when we first arrived. We were feeling brave (or stupid, you pick) and decided to venture out to get some pictures of the storm.

The first trip out started at about 7:30 AM. Jeff and I ventured out cautiously. Winds are out of the north. A wild guess puts the wind speed at 100 kts in the open. Our hallway is pretty calm, it is mostly enclosed and faces east to the street. When we get to the stairway down to the courtyard we start to see some damage. One palm tree is down and it took a lamp post with it. Other than that the courtyard is in good shape. We then decide to proceed a little further. We sneak around the edge of the courtyard over to the dive shop area to see what is happening to the water front rooms. The shoreline is much closer than it was yesterday. The waves are really coming up into the rooms at this point. Next we head to the side of the restaraunt. Here we see the first of the real damage. The barbeque pit is down. Everything else looks to be intact. Out here we are getting a much better sense of the force of the wind. We can barely peek around the corners without getting knocked around by it. We have now been out for about 30 minutes. It is time to get back inside and dry off before the next adventure, plus we have wonderful ham and cheese sandwitches waiting for us in the room.

The storm has really picked up force in the last few hours. This adventure started out with a strange site. The crew from Scuba Club was out doing repairs on Al and Marie's balcony drain (I think it's Edgar in the red shirt and I don't know who is in the white shirt). Several of the spots we visited on the last trip out are now inacessible due to the wind and waves. We listen to someone who says he has a great spot for taking pictures, right on the south west corner of the restaraunt. He is an idiot. We almost get washed away by a big wave that comes up to our thighs (yes that picture is right, the water is splashing higher than our heads). After that little adventure I head into the bar area where the plywood is still protecting the windows and it is much calmer. It is a little wet in here. Jeff ventures up a staircase and gets trapped for a few minutes by the waves. When we meet back up we decide that is enough fun for this round and head back indoors. Venturing down our hallway we find that everyone has water in their rooms, but room 14 at the end of the hall takes the prize. Their balcony has about 2 feet of pooled water on it. It is now about 10 AM and the storm is still building with winds from the north.

A little after noon I noticed that our door was moving in strange ways and we were getting a bit more wind in the room than before. The lock holding the middle of the door closed has come loose. It is still held closed by the latch at the top but the bottom is now bowing in quite a bit and letting in much more water and wind. With 2 engineers in the room we can't let the opportunity to tinker pass us up. In just a few minutes we have a cart from the hallway jamed between the refrigerator and the door to keep the bottom closed. This is The Door version 2.0. It could be worse though. At least we are inside and not out in the storm working.

As the afternoon wears on we are getting pretty tired. The novelty of being in a hurricane is wearing off and the reality is starting to set in. Expectations are now that we will be here at least until Sunday and maybe later depending on the amount of damage. Then at about 3:30 PM we got the eye of the storm grazing us. For about 20 minutes the winds really died down. People came storming out of their rooms to see what had been going on. Of course during this time the waves were still coming in very strongly. Our estimates are that the waves were about 12-15 feet high at this time.

After the eye we were feeling pretty rejuvinated which was good because after it passed the winds switched from the north to the west. They were now hitting us full force. Our wild guess is that the winds were at about 100-120 kts after the eye passed. After a few hours of the winds from the west the top latch of our door started to give. This led to a rapid improvement in Door technology. The short lived Door version 3.0 and 4.0 were soon replaced by the impenetrable Door version 5.0. That settled we sit down for a nice dinner of wafer cookies and Starburst. It gets dark at about 7 PM and we hit the soggy bed. The storm is brutal. It's still building and we are now taking the full force head on. At about 8 PM we hear a loud crash. Checking out in the hall we see our neighbors Larry and Darlene looking for a new place to stay because they now have a 100+ kts wind blowing through their room. We gain some new roommates for the night.

Little to our knowledge at this time Sue, Meg, Mike, and Shirley are stuck in their bathroom with waves crashing through their room all the way into the bathroom where they then bail out the water before the next wave comes in. And I thought it sucked having to lay on a wet mattress all night. The wind is really howling. When a gust hits the building you can feel the pressure change in your ears. We have had hurricane force winds now for about 20 hours and the storm is still building in strength.