ZEPHYRHILLS SHUFFLEBOARD CLUB
5209 8th Street
Zephyrhills, Florida 33541
Early last week (9/5) or so, all of us that live in Florida were warned of monster hurricane Irma that would reach our shores. Key West and Miami were predicted to take the initial hit and then the storm would turn north and move up the east coast. Those of us that live in Zephyrhills figured we would probably only experience hurricane cat 1 force winds. By Saturday things began to change and the storm was now predicted to move NW and hit the Tampa Bay area as a possible cat 3 with us being in the NE quadrant. Certainly not a good situation for us in Z’Hills. Most of our summer ZSC members were now beginning to not only worry about our Club, but the future of their homes as well.
On Saturday morning before morning play, we had a meeting of all present and discussed what we should do in regards to our newly installed vinyl windows. We figured there were only two options, leave them open (stacked) or closed. President Henry had previously been briefed by board members Ed Sterling and myself. Henry thought maybe they should be left open. After everyone at the meeting had an opportunity to voice their opinions, the unamious consensus was we should leave them closed to prevent debris and rain from entering the building. Some believed that with winds possibly over 100+ MPH and the building wide open, there could be a chance of losing the roof and/or the lights swinging or coming down on the courts. None of us are experts, but all were extremely concerned. At the end of play, we closed and locked all the windows and moved the head end benches to the center of the courts in the gutters. Now it was time to prepare our homes and pray.
On Sunday, mandatory evacuations were being ordered for all mobile home parks in Zephyrhills and the police were out enforcing the mandate. All businesses, restaurants drug stores and gas stations were closed and boarded up. High wind bands were beginning to be experienced here even though the eye of the storm wasn’t due until Monday at 1am.
Steve Barnett and Jane Powell decided to evacuate their mobile home in South Port Springs and stay with us. We have a block house in the Silver Oaks Community that hopefully would stand up to the predicted very strong winds. Steve brought his generator in case we lost power so we could keep our refrigerator running, charge cell phones and have a few lights.
Sunday afternoon, we still had power so Steve and I ventured out to see how the windows at the club were withstanding very brisk winds. As we came to 301 we observed absolutely no traffic in either direction…none! We decided to see if the 7-11 was open by Publix (no chance) and found the complete parking lot of the Publix/Staples complex was totally void of cars except one Z’Hills police officer. We then drove over to Lowes and Walmart. Same thing, no cars anywhere. It was like we were the last people on earth…very strange sensation. We then proceeded to the Club and everything looked good. The storm reports now indicated some north easterly movement and appeared we would be on the NW side of the storm early Monday morning. Very good news indeed.
Sunday evening conditions were rapidly deteroriating. In addition to the extremely higher winds we had a confirmed tornado heading right for Forest Lake Estates and Zephyrhills, but fortunately it dissapated just before the airport. Knowing Monday would be a very long day for us, we retired about 10 pm and unfortunately the power went off at 10:15. After being glued to the TV for days, we now were without trusted storm updates and worst of all, no A/C. I have to admit, listening to the howling winds pounding the windows was a little unnerving. The center of the storm arrived about 1am.
In the morning we assessed damage and were relieved to find that we had none. Steve and I went and checked on his place and were happy to find no damage there either. Next stop…the club. On the way we observed many fallen trees and limbs in the roads. We had to detour around a huge Oak tree that came down and blocked Chancey Rd. Flooding was common especially at 54 and Allen rd. Even though winds were still at tropical storm strength, when we arrived at ZSC we could see that all the windows were still intact. The parking lot and surrounding grounds were completely littered with large and small tree branches and many palm fronds. The chain link fence around the building may have prevented debris from smashing into the windows.
Both of us were amazed the club was completely damage free.
I’m happy we had our Saturday morning meeting and heeded our member’s advice to close the place up. It’s difficult not to be impressed with how resilient and tough these vinyl windows are.
One can only imagine what the outcome may have been if Irma had taken a more westerly route and pounded Zephyrhills as a Cat 3 or above.
Today is Tuesday and as I write this, I’m still without power. Some gas stations are beginning to open but with extremely long lines and police monitoring. Besides myself, club members John Houghtaling, George Darwin, Ron Ferry, Art Vogel, Faye Burns, Ken Barkley and RL Lay showed up this morning and pitched in to pick up all the debris around the grounds. A very large pile was left at the 7th St. / 4th Ave. corner.
Things are very slowly starting to return to normal. Unbelievably though, I have yet to see any utility line trucks anywhere in Zephyrhills and much of the city and stop lights are without power. About an hour ago I was informed to expect to be out for possibly a week. I also had a few Silver Oaks residents including State Representative Danny Burgess and his wife stop by with free gas for the generator, cold bottled water and two hot meals made by residents that have power. Very nice! I know that Forest Lake Estates, Sundance, Hillsde and many, many other MHP’s are without power and some without water.
While touring around, Steve and I remarked that Zephyrhills has well over 100 mobile home parks and some date back to the early 1900’s. For some strange reason, this town seems to escape these major storms with little damage. Guess we picked a good location for retirement.
I’m writing this mainly for our northern members who haven’t experienced a hurricane in Florida so they may have a little perspective of our experience. This is my second hurricane in Zephyrhills. I was here in 2004 for Charlie, Jean, Francis. It’s very nerve racking to say the least. Some will ask, why stay then? Actually, for me it could be more dangerous trying to evacuate on bumper to bumper I-75 or I-95 unless you are willing to travel with extra cans of gas and with the possibility of staying overnight in your car. I heard from people that it took more than 12 hours to reach Atlanta. In my case, I can’t sit in a car that long anymore. At any rate, it’s been 13 years since the last hurricane touched down here and I hope we never have to experience another. The problem is, we’re only half way through the hurricane season and they seem to be organizing more frequently this year.
It’s now Wednesday afternoon and our power was just restored by a line crew from Ohio. I know that Forest Lake Estates got power back this morning also. I was told Zephyrhills has many lines crews here so all should get their power today.
I need to mention how I observed people coming together in times like this. Today, apparently word got out on social media that many in my neighborhood were without generators. People we don’t even know that had power, were bringing in generators, full gas containers and donating food and water, many from outside of the Silver Oaks community. Some of the wives used our house to prepare lunches for about 20 families and deliver them. This evening everyone was invited to the Silverado golf clubhouse in my community, for dinner. John Houghtaling told me today that he observed similar acts of kindness in Betmar.
Zephyrhills is truly a great place to live.
MY RECOLLECTION OF HURRICANE IRMA