As Hurricane Irma approached, everyone along the Southwest Florida coast was making their plans: some to evacuate to the North, some to hunker down in boarded-up homes, some to await the openings of emergency shelters. My plan, for my son Ian and me and our combined four cats plus my dog, was to ride out the storm in our Sarasota Magazine office, on the second floor of the U.S. Garage.
The garage is a venerable building dating from sometime in the 1930s, and has doubtless survived many hurricanes and storms. Once we packed up some food, water, bedding, pet supplies and the animals themselves (along with books and a Scrabble game), and checked into the empty building, we settled comfortably enough in our windowless conference room for the duration.
We were even able to follow the weather reports online, via ABC7’s live stream. So we could cheer in real time as Irma was downgraded, first from a Category 4 to 3, then from 3 to 2, and as threats of a storm surge along our coastline lessened. Although our power occasionally went off for a few seconds, it always came back on—a blessing we knew many here and throughout the state did not share.
Video: Our office hallway was eerily lit and silent, except for the sounds of Irma outside.
When we ventured out from the conference room to other parts of the office, we could also watch in awe as the rain lashed down and the trees right outside the windows whipped around in the howling wind. It was eerie to see the streets and sidewalks of downtown Sarasota completely deserted, and to feel that we were marooned from the rest of the city’s population, alone but still safe.
We slept fitfully Sunday night, but awoke to a downtown that, while still quiet and deserted, seemed relatively unscathed. And I couldn’t help but think, bunking in that conference room where so many staff get-togethers, birthday pizza parties, and editorial and business meetings had been held over the years, that our encounter with the force of nature, in the shape of Hurricane Irma, was one meeting that none of us could reschedule or avoid.