Hi everyone — I am writing with a glimpse into our experience with the recent hurricane. First things first, I want to note that we are totally fine; my parents, who also live in Savannah, are totally fine. We are extremely fortunate to be able to say that; this was a killer storm.
Second, I acknowledge that loss of property sits on a different level entirely from what, for instance, the people of Haiti suffered as a result of Matthew. Moreover, our stress is less than that of many people in North Carolina and other places where flooding has been devastating to whole towns. But the stress Savannah has faced, while ‘small’ in the grand scheme of things, is nonetheless real — and I wish I could say I don’t know anyone who has suffered major property damage here. While our house is fine, my parents house was hit by a tree. And they are by no means alone.
(Hurricane prep: We moved as many of our plants inside as possible.)
Let’s start with the SB. This was not our first hurricane per se; Manny was living and working in NYC when Sandy hit. But this was our first storm of this magnitude as homeowners. Savannah has, historically, avoided a lot of the storms that have ravaged the Carolinas and Florida; but this storm didn’t spare us. And it was scary.
And disruptive. The college I work for has been closed for twelve days now; tomorrow will be my first day back since Tuesday, October 4. In fact, this post has been in limbo for a while. Hurricane Matthew hit Savannah in the early hours last Saturday — October 8. We were without power for four days. (Our power was out from the evening of Friday, October 7 through Tuesday, October 11.) Our internet just came back this past Friday, October 14.
(The front of our home the morning after.)
Rising water and high winds were the principle concerns of most people going into the storm, I think. Our home is on some of the highest ground in the city, so flooding was not on my mind; what worried me were the huge old trees all around. I was very concerned we’d end up with a tree on our home.
Long story short: We had part of a tree come down in front of our home, but it missed our sunroom roof — miraculously. And trust me, I don’t use that word lightly. In some of the pictures above, you can see the tree in question and its proximity to us. The upper part of the trunk that broke and fell practically hovered over our home — the fact that it missed us literally feels like a miracle. We think the vines wrapped around the tree ‘caught’ the broken portion and caused it to swing out away from us. You can see the downed-tree and the vines below:
I remember hearing it fall at around 2 in the morning on Saturday night. But it was so dark outside we couldn’t really see what had happened until the next morning.
Our backyard and shed were also spared the brunt of the possible damage. Below is an image of a limb from the top of the huge live oak that shades our backyard — it fell (conveniently) in the open space between our gardens and back porch / house. So, again, we were super lucky. It didn’t even smoosh our raised vegetable beds.
That’s not to say our veggies were happy the next day… but things were salvageable.
All in all, it took us about three days to clean up our yard, and we still haven’t gotten our hands on a chainsaw to cut up the portion of the tree in front of our house. It’s going to take the city a while to clean up — especially the residential neighborhoods. If you’re planning a trip to Savannah to see the historic downtown, you’ll be totally fine and have a great visit. But expect to see downed trees and debris for some time.
Here is an image of our neighborhood the morning after:
There were dozens of trees down in our hood, but nowhere was as hard-hit as our park. The ground was completely saturated by the rain we had received in the days leading up to the hurricane. Here you can see some of the localized flooding there:
We also have a large cabin and pavilion that were badly damaged:
You can see the tree here that fell on the pavilion, flattening it. The park will probably be closed for at least six months — many have been saying a year. It’s filled with tall pines and it seems the pines fared far worse than the live oaks, in general, during the storm — presumably because the oaks have crazy root systems that helped anchor them despite the ground saturation.
The islands outside of the city of Savannah itself were far, far worse off. It was impossible to access Skidaway, Wilmington, or Tybee, for instance, on the Saturday following the storm (some for much longer). My parents live on Skidaway in a community that was effectively closed through the weekend.
Let me back up. The morning after the storm, with residual gale force winds sweeping around our home and the power out, we were awoken by a call on my cell phone. Or Manny was. I don’t know that either of us had slept well since the storm hit late the previous night. (That being said, Tilly slept great, believe it or not; she wasn’t freaked out in the least.) Manny got up, though, to answer the phone. I heard him greet my mom. I was groggy but could tell immediately that something was wrong. Nothing gets you out of bed faster than hearing *that* tone of voice people use when greeting bad news.
My mom described a rattling crash that occurred in the middle of the night. It shook their house — which, thankfully, is a sturdy brick colonial. But it was so dark outside, neither she nor Steve could totally tell what had happened until the next day.
She thought she could make out part of a tree outside of her bathroom window in the dark. Meanwhile, water started pouring into the house.
Eventually they learned that a tree from their neighbor’s yard had become uprooted. It fell on their roof, destroying part of the upper story. The water damage affects both the upper and lower floors. My poor parents will be displaced for months while the repair work is completed.
And still — we can only be grateful. Friends of theirs had something like four trees fall on their house about a mile away. I saw the house last Sunday after the storm and it looked like it had been chopped up into pieces (I’m not going to post pictures of that one). The home-owners had evacuated, so they weren’t in the house at the time, thankfully, but it’s unclear whether it can be repaired or if it will have to be rebuilt. Speculation is that a tornado must have hit that part of the island during the storm. The trees there look like they were snapped off in the middle.
I can’t comment on Wilmington or Tybee or the other islands because I only know what I’ve seen on the news. I can only say that Skidaway last weekend was like a disaster area. It’s so eery to see trees on homes of people you know. It’s weird too to talk about trees felled by the hundreds. In an email sent to customers last weekend, Georgia power estimated that at least 1800 trees came down in the area.
I made a video of my parents’ home last Sunday. You’ll see two things:  I do not have a career as a documentary film maker ahead of me (the video is pretty low quality… you have my apologies if you decide to watch it! I think it even goes sideways about a minute in, though I did try to fix that…); and  it was a SUPER nice day. Seriously, the week of weather following the hurricane was pretty much perfect — clear, sunny, and mild. It seemed so ironic — but it was a blessing as it allowed for people with trees on their homes to arrange for removal and tarping before more rain damage could occur.
Anyway, here is the little video:
A special shout out to the city and its emergency crews. Public employees have been working so incredibly hard and there has been so much good will in the city, in general. While the news has not been universally rosy by any means, there is a lot to be thankful for here. Everyday since Manny and I moved down from New York, I have felt grateful to be in such a beautiful, colorful, interesting place — and the storm has not changed that.