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 will run half the comments this week and the rest next Sunday. Here is the first batch of responses:


It is surprising how insurance companies have no sense of urgency about getting damage fixed and, if your vehicle got smashed, they say a separate claim needs to be started in addition to property damage claim. I’m still waiting for that to start. And, that friendly agent who gladly signed you up is not willing to call any of the adjusters to hasten their estimates so we can try to get our lives and property back in order. The huge 250-foot tree that destroyed screened room, patio, awnings and canopies … oh, and one of our cars (partially) … is still there with no schedule to begin removal. Luckily, we did not evacuate just to be safe. The horror stories of those who did are disturbing. After all is said and done, it was great to see people, out of concern for others, acting to help with damage repair, clean up and comforting to make their lives a little less haggard. Let’s hope nature has taught us the lesson of caring for all other human beings.

Art Costa, Mandarin

A tour of storm damage in the heavily wooded Orange Park area revealed that about 95 percent of the downed trees were laurel oaks (often mis-identified as the less common water oak, which has similar properties). There was almost no damage to the much stronger live oaks and few other species came down. Laurel oaks, especially large, old ones are much more susceptible to storm damage than most other large trees and homeowners should be aware of this. They are prone to breaking off in any part of the trunk, have weak root systems and easily shed branches in strong wind. They are very heavy and can do a lot of damage. Even worse, they are subject to internal rot in the roots, trunk and branches, which often remains invisible until the tree breaks off or comes down. They are prone to rot in the roots and hollowing in the stump that can result in the tree falling down even in the absence of wind. I had one large tree and several large limbs come down that way and have seen others fall with no wind. Homeowners take heed.

William Van Duyn, Orange Park

I learned from Matthew that the forecast changed a lot. It scared us, so we evacuated to Gainesville where we were surrounded by large trees and awoke to find ourselves deep in debris. When we tried to go home to Atlantic Beach, we were told the police had closed the bridges and were not letting people back in. This time we stayed, mainly because the forecast kept changing, even more than Matthew, but mainly because we did not want the authorities preventing us from returning. It seems un-American and unconstitutional.

James H. Lee Jr., Atlantic Beach

I learned that you spell Irma with an I and not an E.

Bill Goss, Fleming Island

I’m 78 years old and have my own house; my daughter and her nearly 16-year-old son live 6 miles away. We are getting to be veterans! She and I went through Andrew in ‘92. I was in N. Miami, she was in Davie. We learned lots and wish that all of Florida had CBS-built houses. But we did have window coverage for our houses, bought in 2004 or so after we’d moved up here. Got our practice with Matthew, and our church helped me put up mine. So our main “problem” was the two days without electricty. We had our water; and ice for the coolers, etc., etc. I’m grateful to the Lord for his answers to prayer … The loss of houses and contents, etc., are very difficult for those who had that outcome. Our church has helped wherever they could/can. Just not looking for a diploma in hurricane procedure!!!

Salli Cartledge, Middleburg

What I learned from Hurricane Irma: 1. If Northeast Florida is hit with a class 3 or above hurricane Clay County is in trouble. I was without power for five days just because of Irma. I would hate to think of what will happen when, not if, a real storm comes; 2.Living off of a generator gets expensive really quickly; 3. The people who had to be rescued along and near Black Creek in Middleburg should have to pay for their own rescues, to include any cost incurred in their rescue as well as hazardous duty pay to those who risked their lives to save those too ignorant or too stupid to leave when warned. Folks, Black Creek floods with a spring shower, what did you expect during a hurricane? Wise up; 4. The electrical companies’ workers, and especially the linemen, should be included on any list of storm-related “heroes.” These people worked through some awful and dangerous conditions. They deserve much more praise than they have received; 5. The most important thing that I learned was that there are some amazingly kind people in my South Deer Avenue, Middleburg neighborhood. I have never had so many offers to lend a hand in our recovery from the storm. Fortunately, we were relatively unscathed and were able to direct our “white knights’ ” efforts toward situations where their assistance was more beneficial. Thank you and God bless to those unnown good Samaritans.

John Nau, Jacksonville

I live in Charter Point on the river. I learned it is time to think about moving.

Judith Solano, Jacksonville

Have always respected what these storms can do ever since Dora in 1964. My wife and I survived its 100 mph winds with just the loss of a huge pine tree that fell between us and the neighbor and missed both houses. Be sure to stock up on supplies and make sure you have done all you can to protect your home and family. If ordered to leave, do so. A few days of inconvenience is better than losing your life. If you happen to lose your home, it can be rebuilt. You can’t be if you perish. I also always watch TV47 Weather with Mike Buresh. The best around. I never watch the clowns on the Weather Channel standing out in the storm in the strong winds like idiots. I think they just do this to show off and gain ratings. Just show us where the storm is and tell us how bad it is. Thank you Mike Buresh and your team of experts.

James Schriver, Westside

Everything you worry about can be replaced. Your life cannot … get out, get out now. Good words to live by.

Keith M. Myers, Jacksonville

That having those batteries and that hurricane box are very important BEFORE hand. I was very blessed with no damage and only out of power for eight hours. Almost embarrassed to say that as many were and are still devastated.WOKV did a powerful job keeping us informed as, of course, there was no cable. I do think that people should be mindful of what the governor said about taking enough for your family and to think of others. This is probably my 10th hurricane as I grew up north and each one was different. Watching the flooding was heart wrenching.

Bonnie C. Rainnie, Jacksonville

Hurricane Irma came with good and bad. You just never know how blessed you are until you see someone else’s devastation. While we tried our very best to prepare for the worst, I believe that our times spent with family every time something like this happens is the silver lining. We started out in Deerwood with our daughter, granddaughter and future son-in law and ended up at the Hampton Inn making coffee by running the car and making one cup at a time. While we did suffer a few days without electricity and a couple small leaks it always amazes me to see how much stronger we come back. We learn to appreciate what we have and who we have. (Our granddaughter even prayed to God last night at bedtime and said she hoped he survived the hurricane.) P.S., on another note … our daughter was married on Amelia Island the evening of Sept. 16. With everything that happened (hairdresser could not get there because of bridge out on Heckscher, no flowers, restaurant change due to the storm, best friend’s flights changed, aunt from Indiana canceled), it was a beautiful evening and everyone truly appreciated that this evening had a storybook ending. (The people at BarZin restaurant were amazing.)

Mary Ann Heinz, Southside

The hurricane helped to restore my faith in the goodness of humanity. It is so easy to get caught up in the negativity that marks so much of our common life today. Unfortunately, it often takes a crisis or catastrophe to remind us that we all need to work together and, when we do, everyone benefits.

Jo Ann Ford, St. Nicholas