The Mess Irma Left Behind...
Nearly a week after Hurricane Irma barreled through Florida, cities in the central part of the state were starting to bounce back, but the damage the storm wrought was in evidence everywhere we ventured.
As we walked to and from the Winter Garden farmer's market the Saturday morning after Irma came to visit in the wee hours the previous weekend, we were surprised to hear the sounds of generators in the downtown residential neighborhoods. There are many large, old trees in this older part of town, predominantly Live Oaks, and all had not fared so well. Nor had the power lines underneath them.
Although many parts of town had the power restored, and some never lost it (like our campground!), there were still many folks without electricity during this hot and muggy time. This house in particular took a bad hit from a large tree in the yard. Their front door (not pictured) was standing wide open, and a generator was running.
While most of the lovely old trees were still standing, there were brush piles up and down every single street.
As I write this two full Saturdays later, many of these streets are still lined with brush, as the city hasn't been able to pick up all the debris despite lots of work -- we've seen numerous trucks hauling yard waste all over town everywhere we've been. And some of the debris piles continue to grow as individuals clean up their yards, front and back.
After two days of driving back from our evacuation spot in Mississippi, we were anxious to get back out on the bike trail. Barry checked out the eastern portion of the West Orange Trail a day ahead of me and found much of it closed due to debris. Fortunately, we could still ride west towards Clermont and Groveland, as these trail segments had been cleared off and debris pushed to the side.
Here's some of the damage we saw in Groveland, which is pretty rural and has some huge trees. There were some massive specimens down near the bike path.
Part of the bike path was washed out but passable.
A couple of days later, we decided to venture east again to see if more of the West Orange Trail was now open. Fortunately, it was. The only blockage was where the Ocoee Golf Club's high chain-link fence had blown off onto the path. Just past the orange cones in the photo below, we had to ride onto the grass a bit to go around it, but by the following day, the fence had been neatly rolled up and moved off the path.
There is still plenty of debris on either side of the trail in the wooded sections, and unfortunately less shade than before with so many branches and some trees down, but the trail itself has been swept off of branches and leaves so is very rideable. I expect cleaning the sides of the trail is a low priority for city and county workers given that city streets are still equally piled with debris.
The massive tree below fell right in front of Chapin Station, one of the popular public parks and rest stops along the West Orange Trail. As of this writing, this has not been cleaned up. I think the building (and most importantly for cyclists, the rest rooms!) is probably open, but you have to approach from the parking lot side rather than trailside.
Here in western Orange County, the power is now back on everywhere, the generators have been put away, and most people's lives are pretty much back to normal. But seeing the impacts Hurricane Irma had on central Florida reminds us how other parts of the state, like the Keys and southwestern coastline, were even harder hit and are likely recovering at a slower pace. We were lucky here in central Florida by comparison.
Finally, our thoughts now are with Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, hit so hard by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and areas of Mexico affected by the terrible earthquakes. We are feeling very, very fortunate right now to be contending only with a bit less shade on the bike paths.
Leave a Reply.
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
Favorite Travel Blogs