After one of the most worrisome and uncomfortable weeks in my life I'm glad to report that Tortuga Audio and our friends and families made it through hurricane Irma will minimal damage and inconvenience. Others did not fare as well. There but for fortune....
I've posted below an account of the hurricane that I sent out via our newsletter yesterday.
Cape Coral, Florida | September 12, 2017 | We Survived Hurricane Irma
As some of you already know Tortuga Audio is located in southwest Florida in Cape Coral across the river from Fort Myers only a few miles from the Gulf of Mexico. We are surrounded here by rivers and canals connected directly to the Gulf. When hurricanes are forecast to hit anywhere near south Florida everything else stops and hurricane preparation begins. And then Irma shifted its projected path to the west coast of Florida with Cape Coral in the center of the path with landfall possible right here. Yikes!
More so than high winds the concern here shifted to potentially extreme storm surge given that our shop is located less than 100 yards from the nearest saltwater canal. At that point I shifted gear towards putting our equipment and supplies on high shelves in hopes of mitigating damage from any flooding. Last but not least we did our best to secure our costly brand new pick and place PCB production machine that had arrived only days earlier after numerous delays. Then it was time to go.
Even though I had a very secure local place to ride out the hurricane the very real threat of extreme storm surge (15+ feet) meant that most vehicles here would be flooded and rendered inoperable. The potential loss of mobility after a major hurricane sounded like a really awful idea so I changed plans and with less than 12 hours before the winds hit I drove across the state to a robust hotel on the east coast of Florida 18 miles inland from the coast near Fort Lauderdale. And then the hurricane hit.
I rode out hurricane Irma on the 9th floor of a hotel that was the only tall building within miles. This gave me a perfect view of the wind and rain and the bending trees. Over the next few hours the wind rose and was soon howling. I could already see trees down and debris sliding down the street. At times I could feel the building shake. We were getting repeated tornado warnings. And then the power went out.
To the relief of everyone, the hotel had a reliable backup generator which kicked in without a hitch and kept basic services running including one elevator and the kitchen. Unfortunately the generator didn't power the air conditioning and so the AC would remain out for the next 36 hours. One large 10 story hotel completely full with one working elevator, temps in the 80's and essentially 100% humidity. And then the utility trucks arrived.
When destructive storms hit a given area in the US an ad hoc army of experienced electrical utility service technicians head right into the storms and get positioned to be be deployed as soon as the winds die down. At some point we had more than 100 utility workers camped out in the lobby of the hotel along with a large fleet of utility service trucks parked outside. They came from all over the US from as far away as Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Perhaps the most remarkable and pleasantly surprising part of riding out the hurricane in that hotel was how incredibly decent, kind and patient everyone was. A bar and hot food certainly didn't hurt. And then Irma made landfall on the west coast.
By then the local cell services were down, we had no TV and we found ourselves in a temporary information blackout. A rare and humbling experience in today's hyper connected world. By late Sunday night the worst of hurricane Irma had passed north of us and the wind was backing down somewhat. Around 11 PM the power came back on and soon thereafter marginal cell service became available. I quickly connected with family in Denver, San Francisco and New Jersey to get the news.
To my relief Irma had made landfall around 40 miles south of Cape Coral followed by a slight jog to the right and as the eye wall approached our area the eye broke down and Irma's maximum wind speeds came down from their most destructive highs.
By 6 AM Monday morning I was up and headed back across Florida to Cape Coral to face whatever damage Irma had done. As I passed through the Naples area where Irma had made landfall substantial debris from trees limited travel on the highway to one lane only. The closer I got to the coast there were more trees blown over and more signs broken. Most of the traffic lights were out. Everything was still closed. First responder vehicles with flashing lights were present everywhere. After three hours on the road I arrived back home in Cape Coral.
Some trees were twisted and partially blocked the road. Palm fronds were everywhere. Bushes were flattened. The front of the building was plastered with green bits of plant matter. And then I opened the front door.
The AC was still on and the air was comfortable. I flipped on all the remaining breakers and everything powered up. No windows broken. No structural damage. No water damage. Roof intact. Cable TV was on and working. Internet booted up. With almost 2/3rds of the state without power, this was a remarkable find.
Storm surge had indeed happened but had not reached high enough to flood. Still, water in the canals around Cape Coral was up above retaining walls, above many docks and was lapping the lawns of many homes.
It's hard to convey the sense of relief I felt and how very grateful I was for having dodged this deadly and destructive bullet. Friends and family were finally able to exhale as was I.
It will take a few days for Tortuga Audio to unpack and get rolling again but roll again we will. In the meantime I ask for the continued patience by those of you waiting on the processing and delivery of outstanding orders.
We have some interesting things in the works and will be communicating more about all that soon. Also, we recently had a review published and will let you know about that very soon as well.
Glad to be back safe and sound and moving forward.