hurricane irma mystery raymond gray sanibel island

Hurricane Irma and Island Times Three

Yesterday I posted an image of my upcoming mystery novel, Island Times Three, on Pinterest. I’ve yet to complete the edits, as I am trying to get Elanora and the Salt Marsh Mystery ready for print. But after I posted the image, my thoughts turned to the time I spent researching the history of Sanibel Island in 2017. I had bought several books about the island and had yet to find time to read even one. I knew some of the well-known history, as my family had visited the island several times on vacation prior to moving to Florida. But I needed to know everything. Island Times Three would begin in Manhattan and move to Sanibel Island, and I had a general idea for the story, but my development had ended there. I had to find time to read the books!

But something else began to occupy my time. Since August 26, the National Hurricane Center had been monitoring a tropical depression that originated off Cape Verde, and by the time it hit the Leeward Island on September 5, spaghetti plots showed that Hurricane Irma could make landfall in Miami. But after it devastated Puerto Rico and was heading toward Cuba, new plots showed that it would move northwest, and because of a subtropical ridge, it would move away from Cuba and shift to the north.

By the 7th of September, my husband secured our generators to the lanai wall. The windows were covered with hurricane shutters and leftover fencing. The outdoor furniture was pulled inside, and we tied the old Bayliner boat between two slash pine trees and filled it with water to keep it grounded. We drove one car into the garage and nudged the other car so that the bumper was pushing slightly on the garage door from the outside to prevent the wind from caving it in. Also, my husband parked his truck in the yard in front of the porch to deflect any flying debris.

The local news reported that Irma would probably move towards Sanibel Island and then up the coast, but at the last moment, it made landfall at Marco Island. I had been glued to the internet, watching for any signs that it would move more inland, but it was not to be. By late afternoon on September 10, we lost power under 130mph winds. We could see that the large live oak tree (through the slits in the fencing) in the back yard was tilting, and if the eye had not crossed over us when it did, we would have probably lost it and our fencing and lanai. When the wind picked up again it was blowing in the opposite direction, but it seemed like it had weakened at that point.

We lost our electricity for one week, and for one week I read nothing but the books about Sanibel Island. I savored every moment, knowing that I would have lots to do once the power returned.

Our experience with Irma was trivial compared to so many others, and I was (and still am) grateful that we only had to contend with structural damage.

A few weeks later, I visited the Sanibel Island library and secured several DVDs filled with historical narratives from long-time residents of the island. During one of my visits there, I was able to talk with the author of one of the books I had read, and she patiently answered my questions.

I finally felt ready to write the book.

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