Mainers in Florida glad Irma wasn't worse

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Mainers in Florida were coming out of their homes Monday to assess the damage from Hurricane Irma, which dumped nearly two feet of rain in places.

John Snowe said he rode through flooded streets around his home in Fort Pierce.

To get to his parents’ house two streets away, the Auburn native said he rode his bicycle through 8 to 10 inches of water.  

“You don’t know what is in that water,” he said. 
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Sam Bennett, who grew up in Auburn and now lives in Tierra Verde in the Tampa Bay area, where Irma was forecast to hit the hardest, said if Irma hadn’t moved east, it would have been a much different story. 

“We feel very lucky in this area,” said Bennett, who rode out the storm in Sarasota, which he said was also spared serious damage.

“There’s a lot of tree debris, but no broken windows or roof damage,” Bennett said.

Mike Renaud of Bethel, now living in Brooksville, got good news Monday morning.

“Our house had no damage and no flooding,” he said. “And our power is back on. Heading back home (Tuesday) morning. Eight-hour drive (to) home sweet home.”

The eye wall of the hurricane went over Orlando, but it was a Category 1 or 2 by the time it hit, said Chad Daggett of Bangor, who was visiting Florida.

“It put some trees down and knocked over some trash cans, but no real significant damage that I can see,” he said. “These buildings are tough, though.”

Rumford native Rick White in Sebastian on the east coast had already begun his cleanup and said the worst part was the heat.

“Without power, the A/C is out and if we take the boards down we’ll get a direct hit from the sun, heating up the house,” he said. “Hopefully, life will start to return to somewhat normal. Most stores are still closed, as well.”

White, a coach and physical education teacher at Sebastian Charter Junior High, said classes at Sebastian Charter are canceled until Wednesday so they can assess the damage and see when power can be restored.

For those who left their homes for safer ground, Bennett said, Florida officials are telling people not to rush back home.

Tyler Hodsdon, a Bethel native living in the Tampa Bay area, said that because of the strong winds inland, many people were still without power.

According to news reports, over 6 million people were without power in Florida on Monday, and more will lose it as Irma moves north.

A slow trickle of returning residents will also cut down on clogged roadways.

“If everyone goes back home at once, they’re just going to be revisiting what they left: a parking lot on the interstate. Plus, there’s no power, so no A/C,” Bennett said.

Still, even without lights, Mainers in Florida can still see a bright side.

“My banana patch is destroyed, but they will grow back,” Snowe said.  “I lost a hibiscus bush. We are fortunate.”

emarquis@sunmediagroup.net

A downed tree in Orlando, Fla., in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
Sebastian Charter Junior High is expected to be closed until at least Wednesday because of Hurricane Irma.

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