Peak Hurricane Season (August - October 2000)
Despite what everyone in the area likes to think, hurricanes do hit Tampa Bay.

Month of August, 2000: Hot and Stormy

With the boat repaired, it would have seemed a good time to take the boat out on a longer trip, but the weather was very unfavorable, with powerful afternoon thunderstorms blowing in more days than not. To make matters worse, the days had become unbearably hot, and we were reluctant to leave the comfort of our air-conditioning for any extended length of time. And, finally, there was the nagging threat of hurricanes...

Saturday, September 16 and Sunday, September 17, 2000: Hurricane Gordon

NOAA determined on the evening of Friday, September 15 that Tropical Storm Gordon, which had been milling around on the Yucatan Peninsula, was now heading north and would likely strengthen into a hurricane and hit Florida. NOAA issued a voluntary evacuation, but we (and most everybody else) decided to stay.

Theresa and I got up the next morning, on Saturday, and began preparing for the coming storm. I went over to the boat, took the bimini off, put everything movable down below, and lashed the loose spars so they wouldn't bang around. I also added a couple of extra docking lines to the usual six. At home, we brought everything in from our decks, filled some water jugs, and checked our flashlights.

NOAA kept changing their forecast through the day, with varying predictions for wind velocity and storm surge. By Saturday afternoon, NOAA was predicting that Gordon would pass just west of Tampa Bay the following day, and that it could generate as much as 8 feet of storm surge. This would easily put several feet of water into our basement, so Theresa and I decided to haul over half a ton of boxes up from the basement to the second floor. We went to bed Saturday night hoping that our preparations would be sufficient.

The following morning, the wind had started to pick up, and the Weather Channel map showed that Gordon was crawling relentlessly closer. By noon, Gordon had made its closest approach to Tampa Bay, and the wind was howling at over 60mph. We could see the water rising in our canal, and we hoped that the tide would turn before the worst of the storm surge arrived. It was too dangerous to go outside, so all we could do was wait, watching the storm's progress on TV and the rising water behind our house.

By late afternoon, Gordon had moved on north toward the Florida panhandle, and the rain had largely stopped. Gordon was an odd storm because the south-west corner of the storm was completely devoid of rain, owing to a strong cross-wind that had disrupted the normal shape of the storm. This gave us our first opportunity to go outside and survey the damage.

After confirming that there was no damage to our house, I drove over to the marina to check on our boat. The wind was still blowing at almost 40mph, and the water was incredibly high, reaching almost to the deck of the pier. All the boats were bobbing around madly, some of them pounding brutally against the dock and pilings. When I reached our boat, I discovered that she had rubbed against the starboard piling, tearing a hole through the toerail, and mauling a small area of the fiberglass. Evidently, the dockhands had tied some additional lines on the port side to keep her off of the piling, but the damage had already been done. Later, the dockmaster told me that there were huge swells coming through the basin from the east Saturday night, and that these waves had knocked my boat and many others over so far that they rubbed in ways that they never would when sitting upright normally. I was kind of glad I hadn't been out on the docks Saturday night to see that.

Fortunately, the storm surge was nothing like NOAA had predicted, perhaps owing to the fact that Gordon passed us sooner than expected, so the biggest storm surge came at low tide rather than high tide. Areas north of us were much harder hit. As the storm moved on north, Theresa and I went out a few more times just to experience the awesome conditions. There were waves breaking over the docks in our canal. There were dolphin feeding on the fish milling frantically in the mouth of the channel. Debris was blowing around everywhere. I took some photographs, and if they come out, I'll post them.

As a learning experience, there are three important facts about Gordon that bear remembering:

  1. Gordon was only a Category I hurricane, and a lopsided one at that.
  2. Gordon only came within 70 miles of our area.
  3. Gordon made its closest approach to our area at low tide.
If Gordon had been more powerful, come closer, or arrived at high tide, we would undoubtedly have experienced significantly greater damage both to our home and to our boat. I have a new-found appreciation for the awesome power of these storms.

Month of October, 2000: Repair Efforts

The day after Hurricane Gordon passed, I reported the damage to our insurance company, and I contacted the boatyard to arrange repairs. The yard sent someone out to look at our boat, and he estimated the repairs at less than $1500, well under our deductible. This meant that the cost of repairs would be coming out of my pocket, so I ordered a new toerail myself directly from Beneteau so the yard wouldn't mark up the price. Because the rail was over 22 feet long, Beneteau had to ship it via common carrier, and it took forever to arrive. By that time, the yard was badly backed up with other repair work, so nothing got done. Meanwhile, Theresa and I took a much-needed vacation in Cancun with our friends, the Dirty Monkey Gang.

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Changes last made on: Sat, Oct 27, 2001
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