The Morning After (Hurricane Sally)
Orange Beach, Alabama
September 16, 2020
We bought a 16th floor penthouse in Orange Beach a couple of years ago as a possible retirement home. We went to bed here last night with the wind roaring like a lion. Hurricane Sally was expected to make landfall sometime today most likely west of us, though the exact predicted location kept shifting eastward. At this point I don’t know where it touched down, or even if it has.
It’s about 9:30 AM as I write. Our condo has water standing in virtually every room with the possible exception of one guest bedroom and bath. The sliding door in the living room that faces directly onto the balcony is shattered, and the balcony tiles have flipped up and broken.
Last night before we went to bed we had water standing in the kitchen and dining room, but limited at that point to water from the ice maker (which we had disconnected). This morning the water is coming in through or around all doors, windows, etc. We have the balcony doors open to help dry out the floors and a stiff wind is blowing my papers, pens, throw pillows, and other stuff about.
Norm has spent a lot of time with a mop, but we really need a wet vacuum to suck up the remaining water. We weren’t here when Ivan struck, but know it was worse. Looking down toward the various pools, I see the mushroom waterfall from the kiddie pool lying dismembered inside the pool. The other pools look okay, except dirty and full of debris. The one nearest us now hosts fallen palm trees.
The door to the stairwell kept slamming open and shut last night, sounding like a shotgun. We moved our car to one remaining elevated spot in the parking lot. Most of the cars in the lot are okay, but a few have broken windows.
The Gulf is churning with foam like a giant mug of beer. One electrical outlet cover lies on the floor near the balcony doors. The power and water went out in the early morning, probably between 2 and 4 AM.
Yesterday the fire alarm kept going off every couple of hours, as the flooding would set it off with a corresponding recorded announcement. After the first one, which we obeyed—taking the stairs down 16 flights (15 actually, as there is no 13th floor), waiting for the firemen to check things out, then hiking back up fifteen flights—we ignored the rest. The property manager made an appearance at the first one. Both she and the news media indicated that if we hadn’t voluntarily evacuated by that point, our best course was to remain inside our unit—which we did.
In the middle of the night, I got up to use the toilet, and the commode seemed to be floating in a circle. In fact the entire room was floating, swimming, swaying in the intensity of the air currents.
Two Mornings After
September 17, 2020
We’ve had no power or water for two days. Yesterday we made our way toward Gulf Shores, but a police barricade blocked one side of the road. We had not brought our hurricane stickers for the car. Norm got out to talk to the policeman, who said we might not be allowed into Gulf Shores. We turned around.
Along the way we saw lots of broken, leaning, or sagging power lines. All traffic lights and power were out everywhere we looked. A later email suggested it was likely to be at least two weeks before power would be restored.
Water was flooding one side of the road in places, and some bridges were closed. We could not access news by tv or computer and were worried our cell phones would soon die (as we could not charge them, except in the car). Though tempted to leave, we could not obtain good information about road closures and routes out of Orange Beach. With no elevators, we dreaded hauling luggage; so, once we returned to our condo, we stayed put through another night. Fifteen flights of stairs make me question our decision to buy a condo this high.
Three Mornings After
September 18, 2020
On the way out of Orange Beach, we saw at least three large boats perched on the side of the road. One charter boat had crossed the highway and perched like a massive bird on the opposite side. Possibly the boats had lodged in the road, and someone had moved them to the side to allow traffic to pass. Many gas stations are closed, and we’re having trouble finding a restroom that’s open.