Shivering on the 49th Parallel
Thursday, September 23, 2004

Around 0900 we were seeing the worst that the storm had to offer. Earlier on I looked to our east and saw water flooded out a grassy field in The Shores. I jokingly said "Who knew that The Ranch would be oceanfront property?" Little did I realize how true that statement would become.

By 0900 the storm surge had come ashore from North Sound (at least 1/4 mile away, if not 1/2 a mile) and had steadily creeped west until it was starting to roll down the street in front of The Ranch (Shorelink Terrace). It kept coming, and coming and getting deeper and deeper. There was a good 6 inches of water in our street when we started to see waves forming on the surface from the wind. The wind was pushing the storm surge west and more of North Sound was coming ashore in The Shores. Eventually our yard flooded, and then the water broached the concrete pad that the house is built on. At that point, water started to flow under the door downstairs where all of Joanne's dogs were, as well as into the apartment downstairs. Within minutes it went from inches to ankle to knee deep, then nearly waist-high water. Joanne scrambled to get all the dogs up onto the workbench in the downstairs area and Sloane and Nick abandoned their apartment and ran up the stairs (against 165mph wind) to up here where we all were.

About the same time, (0930) we heard the sound of breaking glass coming from the other side of the house, and the door to Zac & Steph's bedroom blew into the hallway. The wrong way, taking the door frame with it and pulling the hinges right off the wall. In the 30 or so seconds it took us to get down the hallway, through the door and flip the box spring up against the window, the bedroom was trashed. While three men braced themselves against the mattress trying to hold it against the broken window, 4 or 5 other people quickly ran about the room scooping up computers and Zac's guitars and putting them into the Master Bedroom En Suite (where all 4 birds were riding out the storm) We placed the two mattresses against the bathroom door frame to try and protect that room from wind & rain, and then with some clever engineering, we managed to block the two dressers against each other and wedge the blown-off door against the dressers and the opposite wall. With that in place, it only took one person to sit on top of the dressers and brace the top half of the mattress.

There was about a 6 inch opening at the top where the mattress didn't block, and water & rain were being driven through that opening at 165mph. The room looked like it had been doused with a firehose. The water was collecting up against the ceiling and then dripping down onto everything when the water got too heavy to hang from the ceiling. At this point, we opened a couple windows on the opposite side of the house to try and vent some of the pressure out that was coming in through the open window. By now we were all soaking wet, somewhat sticky as a lot of the water was saltwater spray, and rain was coming in through the open windows in the living room where we were all sitting. Water was still rising downstairs where Jo and the dogs were, and we were getting ready to mount a rescue mission to go smash out a window and get them out.

Right about the same time that we got the mattresses into place, and Nick & Sloane came upstairs to escape the flooding, Dusty and I were holding one of the box springs into place and heard a horrible thumping sound coming from outside. Someone said that my car had floated up at the back and had moved. I assumed two things at this point: one that if the car's back end was floating, then the door seals had held and the interior was dry (not knowing at this point that I left the GD window open) and two that the noise we heard was my car banging into one of the pillars of the house. Coinciding with each thump was the floor shaking. We didnt know what was going on, but we didn't like it. I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye and turned and focused on it. The banging sound had been discovered. The wind was lifting up the entire side of the roof, holding it while gusting and then it was slamming back down onto the house. The deck was also starting to come up as well. Dusty and I thought we should abandon the room and go to the other side of the house.

We didn't though, and Matty took the next shift holding the mattress in place. John and I started coming up with a plan to move the food & water close to the stairwell that comes up through the center of the house to the kitchen, as neither of us thought the roof was going to hold and short of going downstairs into the flooded apt, it was going to be the safest place in the house to be. A portion of the roof & deck was starting to lift up in front of the living room now as well.

This was now about 1030 or 1100,and we still had another hour of BUILDING winds before it started to slack off. The last radio report that we heard was that the eye of Hurricane Ivan was 35 miles southwest of Smith's Cove (south of Georgetown) and moving WNW at 7mph. We were definately "in the shit" now.

Looking out the west-facing windows was nothing but white. Like a blizzard. Lakeshore Villas townhomes which are less than 100 yards away were invisible to us. The trees just across the street were invisible through the opaque, almost solid wall of water that was being whipped up off the top of the floodwaters and mixed with the torrential rains from the eyewall of the hurricane.
As the eye passed by south of the island, the winds started to shift a little and rather than coming slightly northeast, started to shift to east and then slightly southeast. That took the strain off the side of the roof that was coming loose, but as it shifted to more South and finally later on in the day to the Southwest, it put the big picture windows in the living room where everyone was into the path of the wind and debris.

The roof held on, no other windows were broken, the floodwaters subsided almost as fast as they came in and around 1900 or 2000 that night, the fatigue and relief kicked in and everyone started dropping off to sleep anywhere they could find a somewhat dry spot to lay down in. Just as everyone was starting to sleep, we heard a loud crunching thumping noise followed by the sound of water. Almost in a panic, we grabbed flashlights and went down the hall to the Master bedroom where the window was broken. The wet sheetrock in the ceiling, with the weight of the soaked-through insulation had let go and the half of the ceiling fell in. We put some buckets underneath where it was dripping to catch the water to use for sanitary purposes, and went back to sleep with the now seemingly innocuous Tropical Storm Force winds lashing at the windows.

Thursday, September 23, 2004 7:57:41 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Hurricane#
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