As we leave Maine in the middle of October, an early Nor’easter bounds up the coast. Somewhat unexpected but not totally unusual, rain and snow mix with a bone chilling northeast wind. It is a great day to be headed to the sun and fun of south Florida! And so our winter adventure begins.
Thing 1: My last blog emphasized all the fun of tramping down the Appalachian Mountains. Unbeknownst to us at the time, our adventure was just beginning. Hurricane season goes to the end of November but it is rare to get one that late in the season. Shortly after arriving on October 30 in Big Cypress, a development in the Caribbean was stirring. All signs pointed to it remaining as a tropical depression and head in to the Gulf. But computers couldn’t agree. And as the luck of 2020 would have it, this Thing meandered, gaining strength and finally headed straight for Cuba.
The track still had it south of Florida and turning west into the Gulf. As they say in Miami,”close, but no cigar”. In the mean time, we are scrambling to put together contingency plans just in case. A camper is no place to be in a hurricane! It devastated Cuba and was slow to turn. It’s coming here!
Sunset at Monument Lake in Big Cypress NP – everyday is a postcard
As Hurricane Eta (named after Greek letters there were so many hurricanes this year they ran out of names) put a bullseye on south Florida, the keys braced. It cut through the keys north of Key West and skirted the coast near Ochopee, Everglade City, and Naples. Out of ideas and still not sure what this hurricane was going to do we decided to sit it out. We did have a building nearby that was hurricane-proof. That was our backup plan.
What a night! First, my recommendation is to NOT sit out a hurricane in a camper. However, circumstances beyond our control had us do just that. So I strapped the tin can to anything nearby that was stuck to the ground or heavy. Our camper was facing into the wind which was a saving grace. 60 mph winds had us rock & rolling but we stayed upright and safe. Deb said never again as the storm blew westward and then south …back to Cuba! Poor Cuba.
Us? My sister was with us so we took her to the airport so she could fly to Bangor and we drove north to visit friends in Zephyrhills. We survived Thing 1 and decided to rest up “north” until it was decided what Eta was doing. Forecasters still weren’t sure what the Thing was going to do. It was hammering Cuba a second time and the computers still couldn’t determine if the storm was going to head back into the Gulf. For the time being, we were safe.
Thing 2: Eta wasn’t done! After two days, we left our friends north of Tampa and headed back down i75. And here comes Eta again …a beeline for Fort Meyers right up the coast towards Tampa! The only thing worse than riding out a hurricane in a camper is …you guessed it …driving in one. Rain was so heavy in St. Petersburg that I could barely see my wipers. Then a loud emergency alert rang out in the cab of our truck. “Tornado warning – Seek shelter immediately!” came the report over our phones. So what does one do when they aren’t sure what to do on a highway with nowhere to go? Keep driving.
The heavy winds and rain did cause a few accidents but no signs of tornado damage. We were spared. As we passed Ft. Meyers, Naples, and closed in on Ochopee, it was clear they got another 8 to 10” of rain; in an area already saturated with water. Palm shads were everywhere but other than flooding, the area was spared. The camper survived. Other than a lot of water, we did too.
Next year, let’s wait until AFTER hurricane season.
Coming soon, more tales from the Campah!