With all the turmoil of Hurricane Irma, we asked members of the Times-Union/Jacksonville.com Email Interactive Group what they had learned from the storm. And our readers learned a lot, judging from all the responses we received. We will run half the comments this week and the rest next Sunday. Here is the first batch of responses:


We learned, first of all, that projected paths and effects are basically educated guesses. On a more uplifting note, it was heartwarming to see my neighborhood and, indeed the whole city to pull together to prepare for the storm. After it had passed, these same people pitched in together to help all the people affected by Irma. The energy, effort and generosity shown made me proud to be part of this city and community.

Lee Erikson, Jacksonville

My husband and I debated on evacuating, but since we own a brick home and we have hurricane shutters, we decided the roads were more needed for those fleeing down south. So the two of us along with my sister and her grandson road the storm out. Having been raised in Midwest farm country where tornados are huge and back then with very little warning, I knew the dangers. I was unable to sleep, so my sister and I spent the entire night watching the news; we were blessed to have not lost power. The sounds of the world being turned inside out came whistling through the shutters. I heard loud banging sounds and prayed no trees would come crashing through the roof. We had all the trees removed over the past 27 years. Our neighbors, however, had large oak trees that we feared would become a part of our after-storm story. One fell, but thankfully it landed on the fence and missed all the houses it could have hit. I’ve learned at my age to be thankful for even the smallest of blessings. The next morning we discovered the banging was shingles flying off our roof — six bundles needed to be replaced. I’ve had sleepless nights since the storm. Watching the mass destruction to our city and surrounding cities, I was in shock. I also decided I will not ride out another storm hunkered down … I will evacuate.

Debra Clark, Jacksonville

There is an old Swedish saying. It translates like this: Grief shared is halved and joy shared is doubled. I think that our gratitude is beyond measure for all who served before, during and after Irma. After many days of the storm, we shared stress, lassitude, restlessness, boredom, heat and much more. This hurricane will be seared in our memories. Wind and water, wind and water all across Florida. It was bad, but it could have been much worse for our community. We lost trees, power, internet, telephones and air conditioning!! We experienced life as people in the developing world do every day. We were hot, bored, and hemmed in. But, we reached out to neighbors and gave thanks for the little things we normally overlooked, like candles and batteries, ice, water and food for the body and the soul. Time to reflect and pray, too. But, let us have an attitude of gratitude. How blessed are we to be in our loving, giving, accepting community. PRC has lived up to its tradition. How blessed are we to have an incredible staff of people who selflessly left their families and homes to care for us and for neighbors in need who came to ride out the storm with us. Many of our friends with special needs took refuge at the Pavilion. The sick were cared for, the hungry were fed, all were assisted and kept safe. Let us give thanks for all the employees, administrators and our community leaders who put us and our needs first. … Let us give thanks for our town officials, first responders, utility workers, public service providers, volunteers, meteorologists, media and news outlets and the nonprofit organizations that have served the neediest in our region and beyond. Let us remember and give thanks to the Lord in all circumstances.

Kathleen Nelson, Penney Farms

I learned the following: 1. The number of people that have trouble comprehending the concept that water flows downhill is amazing; 2. ‘Tis a far better thing to do in the buying of bread and water too early rather than too late … even if the bread may go past the expiration date; 3. I should probably contact an attorney to see if a certified letter to my neighbor with the leaning tree could make him responsible if it falls on my house in the next hurricane; 4. Thin aluminum picket fences let storm winds pass, but solid fences with shallow post holes blow down like cheap sails in the wind; 5. People who go camping are much better prepared than those who don’t; and 6. News people who dress for fly fishing or duck hunting are almost as humorous as those up to the bottom of their shoes in water.

Dean Bird, Arlington

What I have learned from Hurricane Irma is that the boredom can really eat at you when there is no electricity to take the place of imagination. Try these handy tips the next time the power goes out: 1) Teach your cat sign language. If a monkey can learn why not a cat? 2) Remove your shoes and walk about the house locating lost Lego pieces; 3) Sing at the top of your lungs. You will be mistaken for an emergency and relief may or may not arrive eventually; 4) Decorate white socks and put on a sock puppet show for your wife. She will be delighted. Trust me. When my wife returns, I’ll get her to vouch for it; 5) After freezing water in a plastic bag, remove the clump of ice and using an Exacto knife, carve a small swan. I’m sure many of you have even better tips.

Rich Klinzman, Middleburg

The weather reporting has to do much better in their reporting of danger. Florida thrives on tourists, by the thousands every day. There was total dismay when they heard over and over to evacuate Duval or St. Johns or other counties. We have lived here for over 25 years and if they said evacuate Hardee county, we have no idea where that is. Where is that? There are 67 counties in Florida. Give the weather men and women a little test. Ask them where are Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Washington, Gulf, Franklin counties? These are just a very small sample of counties that are water prone for floods. There must be a better way to pinpoint the geographic danger areas for visitors when there is a major storm. Maybe mentioning a city in those counties that they could find on a map would help. Most maps do not indicate counties.

Albert Rabassa, Jacksonville

I learned that anyone living in Putnam County, actually the entire area, must presume there will be no electrical power for weeks following storms. I must upgrade the generator and set in a supply of at least four 5-gallon containers of “real gas.” Anything else exposes me to the crazies who have no fuel yet need to go to work! PS: the new Maytag gas range (high bucks) bought, in part, to survive hurricane outages has a “safety feature” — no electrical (spark) power — no gas to percolate coffee!

Tim Houghtaling, San Mateo

Huntsville, Ala. is a nice town.

Charlie Baker, Neptune Beach

Gattlingburg is a great place to be during the storm!

George Kern, Middleburg

I was in Brigantine, N.J., right off of Atlantic City the whole time, thinking how lucky I wasn’t at my permanent residence in Fernandina Beach. We have a close friend who also summers in Brigantine, with another place in Naples. My wife and I went over to her place (within walking distance) “on the island” (Brigantine) thinking the back surge from the gulf would flood her out. She’s an artist and has loads of her work there along with a few of my paintings. We were all so relieved when she got the call that her place was OK. Today a friend here (FB) told us the horror story of living through the storm here on Amelia Island. Apparently, family members got cold feet in a hotel in Georgia — they had to get back. She said it was one of the most frightening experiences in her 65 years.

James Widerman, Fernandina Beach

We had neighbors next door who had a generator all set up. We offered gallons of gas to help run it, and cold beverages, if we could run a line from there to our fridge so we would not lose all of our food. They gladly accepted our offer. I knew my business would probably not have power, and the internet is the lifeblood of the business, so I booked a hotel room that had power and had high-speed internet working. From there I was able to work until power was turned back on. You have to book early, and not when the storm hits. The day I checked in, the hotel was sold out and it was receiving call after call asking for a room. Also the room rate had almost doubled when I asked what the last rooms were going for. Besides being able to work, we had hot water, air conditioning and cable tv.

Steve Crandall, Arlington

I learned that the state of Florida would probably still have only half a million people (1900 Census) had not Mr. Carrier invented air conditioning.

Linn Grayson, Switzerland