Kentuckians’ loved ones affected by Irma

Hurricane Irma brought down a lot of trees and limbs in Neptune City Beach, a small beach community near Jacksonville, Fl. Photo provided by Steve Ramsey, Neptune City Beach Director of Finance and grandfather of Kernel news editor Bailey Vandiver.

Kernel Staff

Over the last several weeks, journalists have risked their dryness, their equipment and even their lives to report Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

With our office in landlocked Kentucky, we at the Kernel were far from the frontline– or the coastlines.

But several of us do have family members in Florida who are experiencing Irma not on the news but firsthand.

We share some of their stories here.

Save the Date

My grandmother told my cousin that he was her evacuation plan from Hurricane Irma.

She and my grandfather live in Jacksonville; they moved there when I was little. My grandma, Susan Ramsey, was transferred from her job in Madisonville, and my grandpa, Steve Ramsey, is the Director of Finance for Neptune City Beach, a small beach community with just over 7,000 people as of 2016.

Because my grandpa works for the city government, he’s normally not allowed to evacuate during hurricanes and tropical storms. But thankfully, my cousin, Cody, was getting married in Kentucky on the very weekend that Irma was on track to hit Florida. So, my grandparents had a valid excuse and an already scheduled flight out of Florida on Thursday, when Irma was nearing the Florida Keys.

Then, the problem became getting back home.

Their original flight back was on Monday, then it was rescheduled to Tuesday. They were finally able to fly back on Friday.

For several days, my grandparents couldn’t get much information about their home. My grandma knew her office had been closed, and their neighborhood website said a fallen tree blocked the neighborhood entrance.

At first my grandpa didn’t know much about Neptune City Beach, which my grandma said had him worried. When I told him at the wedding that I was thankful he was safe, he said he felt guilty for not being with his coworkers back in Florida.

Neptune City Beach is still waiting for reimbursement for half a million dollars from Hurricane Matthew last year, my grandpa said, and now Irma damages will require an estimated $350,000 worth of clean-up.

But Neptune City Beach was well-prepared for this hurricane, he said. It’s sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway, and bridges were closed until city officials said evacuated residents could return.

My grandpa said it’s tough for residents to wait to find out how much damage their homes received.

Finally, my uncle Jonathan, who also lives in Jacksonville, checked on my grandparents’ house and reported that it was okay. A tree had fallen on their fence, with debris and limbs in the yard.

“We are blessed,” my grandma wrote in a Facebook post.

She’s right: they were able to leave the state, being stranded meant more time with family, and their yard has minimal damage while Jacksonville got what Mayor Lenny Curry called the city’s worst flood in a century.

And the only water damage they got this weekend was tearstains when my cousin read his vows to his new wife.

–Bailey Vandiver

Weathering Another Storm

I was in Florida with my grandparents when Hurricane Charley caused over $16.3 billion in damage in 2004, but according to my grandparents, Charley was nothing compared to Hurricane Irma.

My grandparents, Jim and Vicky Zentko, live in Winter Haven, Florida, and decided to stay there as Irma was approaching. They loaded up on food and gas like everyone else before the storm hit.

My grandparents lost power at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 10. The winds at that point were 25 mph and the major part of the storm was still 11 hours away.

My grandparents tried to go to bed at 11 p.m., but couldn’t sleep due to the Irma’s power. They thought they would catch the eastern edge of the storm, but a late change in direction sent the eye of Irma right over their house.

The worst part of the storm hit between midnight and 1 a.m. early Monday morning. My grandma said the rain and the wind were so powerful that it sounded like gravel being thrown at the window. The noise from the wind was nothing like my grandmother had ever heard before; she compared it to a freight train about to ram into their house.

After the eye of Irma had passed over my grandparents’ house, they were able to fall asleep.

In the morning, they assessed the damage. The lanai that surrounded their backyard pool got beat up, but it’s repairable. They said they lost one shingle on the roof but otherwise didn’t suffer major damage. However, a mobile home park across the street suffered a decent amount of damage.

A total of 10 inches of rain fell on their area, but their house is on high ground and didn’t have any flooding problems.

The power didn’t come back on for my grandparents until 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 13. They had a generator that kept their freezer working, but the perishable items in their fridge had to be thrown out. They had to make trips to the gas station to keep the generator running, and on one trip, they said the line had to be around 100 cars.

My grandparents have been through four hurricanes in Florida, but Irma was by far the worst. 

–Chris Leach