Florida storm veterans sit tight until the worst is over

For veterans of the state’s mighty hurricanes, there is no safer place to be than home

Craig and Deborah Mayor are riding out Hurricane Irma in their Fort Lauderdale home despite warnings to leave
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What do you do if you live within sight of an angry Atlantic Ocean, with Hurricane bearing down a mandatory evacuation order imposed by local authorities?

You stay put.

At least if you are Craig and Deborah Mayor, veterans of countless storms since they moved into their Fort Lauderdale home 22 years ago.

“We are going to have damage,” said Mr Mayor looking at the white caps frothing on the Atlantic Ocean no more than 100 metres from his home, “it’s just a question of how much damage.”

He and his wife are the only people in his street who have ignored the mandatory order to evacuate. Perhaps another 10 families have stayed in neighbouring streets.

For veterans of Florida’s mighty hurricanes, there is no safer place to be than home. Particularly when your cinder-block home – built in the 1950s when buildings were made to last - has been sandbagged, shuttered and stocked with enough food and water to last for weeks.

So while thousands of people around the city have moved into the sanctuary of schools and public buildings designated as shelters, Mr Mayor and his wife Deborah will settle down with board games tonight as Hurricane Irma blasts its way ashore.

But Mr Mayor, an antique dealer, admitted that the warnings about Irma and her 250 kph winds suggested this would be a bad one.

“It makes me think twice,” he said. “We don’t take this lightly.

The preparations have taken all week. Steel shutters line the downstairs windows.

The garden has been scoured for anything that could become a missile. Potted plants have been moved inside. The weather vane has been taken off the roof. A barbecue has been tethered to the terrace. And the water in the koi pond has been lowered to take account of potential flooding.

The couple, whose children are grown up, have stockpiled enough petrol to keep their generator running until power can be reconnected. And there is not a receptacle in the house that has not been filled with water.

Even though the Mayor’s home is within sight of the churning sea, at an elevation of three and a half metres it is safe from all but the very worst storm surge.

“Where we are sitting now is the highest part of Broward County,” said Mr Mayor over a breakfast of freshly baked dark Boston bread and fresh coffee.

His wife – who spent three hours putting up the steel shutters and removed the weather vane – has also made sure the larder is well stocked. A roast turkey, chicken soup and two types fresh bread will get them through the first days.


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“It’s the Italian in me,” she said. “Don’t worry, just cook.”

Their ice maker has been running non-stop to help keep food chilled once the power goes.

It is a system that has worked before. They had no electricity for six weeks in 2005 thanks to Hurricane Wilma. Neighbours clubbed together, sharing the Mayors’ generator and dining around a picnic table in the street.

“Whatever was the next thing to go off, that’s what we ate,” she said.

But they added that staying at home was not right for everyone. They have spent years installing toughened glass and doors that can withstand high winds.

“Some people stay to protect their things,” said Mr Mayor. “We are staying because we feel safe here.”