Transplanted Marylanders ride out Fla. hurricane

Whether it is worse than a snowstorm is matter of opinion

In The Wake Of Frances

September 07, 2004|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- David Soloweszyk had been a Baltimore guy his entire life. He grew up on Eager Street, later moved to Pimlico, and most recently lived in Randallstown.

Eight weeks ago, he and his wife, Tobie, 52, moved to Boynton Beach in Palm Beach County because Tobie said she couldn't stand another Baltimore snowstorm. But the Soloweszyks traded one natural disaster for another -- they ended up in the path of Hurricane Frances.

Since Saturday night, their new home has had no power, cell phone service or working phone lines. Their neighborhood is covered with toppled trees and shredded shrubs.

For people like the Soloweszyks who moved from Baltimore to Florida recently, Hurricane Frances was not the welcome they expected.

"I kept thinking, `What did I get myself into?'" said Soloweszyk, 57. "It's frustrating sitting around with no power. It's very humid here."

The inside of their beige concrete house gets pretty sticky in a Florida summer when there's no air conditioning or fans and the mercury hovers in the mid-80s. Thankfully, they say, there was little damage to the outside of their home.

Once the winds died down and the road became passable yesterday, the Soloweszyks packed a bag and went to stay with Tobie's sister in Fort Lauderdale. Her sister lives in a high-rise on the beach that was evacuated during the storm but did not sustain any damage.

They anticipate having their power back "anywhere from two days to two weeks," he said.

Without the cold

The Soloweszyks insist that they don't regret their move to Florida, and say that weathering a hurricane is not so different from enduring a snowstorm. But with a hurricane, they said, everything -- and everyone -- isn't frozen.

"We moved here with a snow box and changed it to a hurricane box," David Soloweszyk said. "It has a flashlight, a radio and batteries."

He said that as he put up his hurricane shutters last week, he got to know some neighbors he had never spoken with before:

"It's just like in Baltimore when you're shoveling snow."

Putting up hurricane shutters is second nature for Floridians, but it can be a trying experience for transplanted Northeasterners. The shutters are thick, heavy metal sheets that require power equipment to install.

Jerry Kaufman and his wife, Kathy, who moved from Ellicott City to Fort Lauderdale 10 months ago with their two teenagers, Adam and Lexie, were perplexed by the shutters.

"I had no idea how to put them up," Jerry Kaufman said. "I saw some neighborhood kids and asked them, `Do you know how to put these things up?'"

He ended up paying the neighborhood kids $60 to do part of the job on his two-story house. Kaufman, 55, and his son Adam, 17, borrowed tools from neighbors and put up the rest.

"You're on a ladder and you're 18 feet in the air banging at these things," Adam Kaufman said. "And I'm afraid of heights."

Waiting is the worst

In the end, their house was not damaged. But Kathy Kaufman, 48, said she was struck by the stress that Frances brought.

"We were anticipating it for a week. That's what brings the anxiety," she said. "And then you don't know whether the eye will pass, or whatever that means."

Another Baltimore-area couple, Janet and Noel Carter, moved from Columbia to Coral Springs in Broward County about a year ago to be near Janet Carter's mother, who has Alzheimer's disease.

"When a storm hits, part of you wonders why you moved," said Noel Carter, 60.

Janet Carter said she believes they will move back to the Baltimore area in the next few years:

"I'd rather be in 18 snowstorms than one hurricane. A hurricane is much worse. With a hurricane, you have no idea where it will hit. At the 11th hour, it can turn and hit you."

The Carters' ranch-style house sustained minor damage from Frances. Some shingles flew off the roof, and they lost a few screens from their porch.

Janet Carter had lived in South Florida before, so she generally knew what to expect from Frances:

"When you put the shutters up, you feel like a mole. Everything is dark and closed in. Then you walk around like a zombie waiting for it to be over."

Now, for Carter and the rest of Florida, the waiting continues. Hurricane Ivan is headed in the general direction of Florida.

"Oh, we're not taking our hurricane shutters down," Jerry Kaufman said. "We're learning that you can't fool around with these things."

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