Hurricane Ivan Hits Pensacola — a report from Scotland

Look at this morning’s Pensacola News Journal for a clear idea of the reality of Ivan’s devastation to Pensacola and surrounding areas. The unthinkable has happened.

Buck and I flew out of Pensacola Airport on Monday morning confident that Ivan would weaken, turn and dissipate, bringing some wind and rain, maybe scattered power outages for a few hours. We were wrong.

I remember standing in the driveway Monday morning as we were about to leave for the airport. Buck was setting the alarm and turning off the water at the valve outside. I thought about the approaching storm and its uncertainties and wondered, just for a moment, if Longleaf would look the same when we returned from Scotland.

It won’t.

The only person we have been able to reach so far is our friend and builder, Ted Parker. He lives a little further out from the city than we do, and while his home was damaged and he – along with everyone else – is without power, his telephone is working. Ted drove out to our place to assess the damage, and we called at midnight last night (Isle of Arran time, 6:00 p.m. in Pensacola) for a report.

Ted had to park his truck at the gate and walk the third of a mile in to reach the house. In addition to being a builder, Ted is a wood hauler. Has been for many years, and he knows how to cruise timber.

Ted says one third of the standing old pine has been either blown down outright, or twisted off and ripped apart.

But there are two miracles:

1) Trees are down all along the corridor from the gate to the house. Power poles and lines run along the left side of the dirt and gravel road to the house. Ted says the trees on both sides fell in such a way that not a single power line was touched, except for one closer to the house where a small branch is resting on one. There’s no power, of course, anywhere in the area, but with the tree devastation, it would be unreasonable to think that the power lines which are so close to the trees could have survived when the trees did not. But they did.

2) Our home has no damage, not even a roof shingle missing. The screened porch door is gone. That’s it. Even the red aluminum storage building we had installed to hold some of our North Carolina things – mainly tools and boxes of irreplaceable old photographs – was untouched, even though a big old oak tree between it and the house is leaning. We had visions of the storage building scattered over one hundred acres. Our pick-up truck and car were also untouched. The van is out in the open in long-term parking at the Pensacola Airport, so it’s fate is so far unknown.

We believe the force of the wind spent itself on the trees sufficiently to blunt its impact on the house and outbuilding. Sounds logical, but given the surrounding destruction, we are filled with wonder, and immensely grateful.

We last spoke with our kids just as the leading bands of the storm were hitting. They are in new-construction, up to code homes, well inland. Same for Maggie’s kennel. In fact, the kennel, Magic Touch, is the most bunker-like of all. Nonetheless, the twisted feeling in my gut won’t subside until we are able to make voice contact with all.

I’ll update as soon as there is any more news to report.


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