Hurricane Wilma started as a tropical storm in the Atlantic on October 15, 2005. She headed for the Yucatan Peninsula and then abruptly headed for the lower Florida Peninsula. She entered Florida just north of Ft Myers and did a straight shot across Florida. She veered North approaching Palm Beach as a minor tropical storm. However, she straddled the east coast of Florida as she went North. That means that her eastern side was over the warm waters of the Atlantic--that helped to speed her up; and she was a Force 3 hurricane when she hit Vero Beach on October 24, 2005. She took the roof off the two-story building at 23 Royal Palm Boulevard, then the home of Needle Nicely. Prior to 2005, I thought Needle Nicely was safe because I had purchased hurricane shutters (the only shop in our building to do so--the one on my right put up plywood; the one on the left had no inventory, so didn't care). But the summer of 2005, the flat roof of the building started leaking, copiously. Florida's rainy season is July and August. That year thunderstorms occurred about 6:30 to 7:30 each evening. That meant that I would be cooking dinner when the storm arrived. I would turn off the stove and my husband and I would go to the store to try and save inventory from leaks streaming from the upper floor. The first alert happened because the store next to me had an alarm system that was activated by the water rushing in from above and somehow called the fire department. The manager of that shop called me and my husband and I dashed over, thinking fire, only to be met by gushes of water streaming down the walls of the shop.
Anyway, because of the constant leaking, I prepared my inventory for what I thought would be tropical storm Wilma. I put all the models in black trash bags. I put the rugs, Christmas stockings, and Christmas ornaments in plastic bins and taped black trash bags to the sides of the canvas racks so water would run off and not hit the canvases. I also double-checked that there were no loose canvas threads hanging down that might "wick" up the water that might come in. The roof went off on Monday. They put several tarps on the building, but a prolonged rain storm came and water poured in. After a few phone calls, my employees ran in and helped me take the canvases to a storage unit. We also stripped the fibers hanging on racks into black garbage bags and took them to the storage unit. The only things left in the shop to sell were a rack of sale canvases, DMC in cabinets, and Paternayan yarn in a sheltered case. On Wednesday, we did $1600 in sales from those items while standing on squishy carpeting. I think people thought I was going to be out of business. All of my employees brought in boxes from local grocery and liquor stores. I ultimately lost only $1500 worth of inventory, but much more in fixtures. On Tuesday afternoon I left the shop to check out another location since my landlord didn't think there was a problem that needed immediate action. There were lots of empty locations because of Frances and Jeanne in 2004, but many didn't have sufficient parking. Since we are what is called "destination" shops, location is less necessary for needlepoint shops than for other businesses. Stitchers will hunt us down.
I met with my current landlord on Thursday morning. After we talked a while and I selected the space I wanted, he handed me the keys and we agreed that we would work on a lease after I moved in. Amazingly, no money changed hands. I went to the electric company to get the power turned on--even though I was a current customer, I had to pay a $500 deposit. They did rush the turn-on and the shop had electricity on Friday. The move of everything still in the shop (including our damaged cabinets) happened on Saturday from 9am to 5pm. I paid the movers at ten minutes of 5 and tried to lock the door. I had to call my husband to come help me get the door to lock. (A locksmith had to make two trips to correct the problems with the lock--my theory is that the sun shone on it in the afternoon and the components expanded and wouldn't move.) Talk about exhaustion!
The next week involved retrieving everything from the storage unit, getting our name and hours on the front door and window, and trying to get telephone service. I left an old rotary dial phone* in the old shop and the phone company forwarded calls to my cell phone. It took two days for the phone company to get the phone working and it is a quagmire of wires along the walls in both the front and back rooms. When I recently had wi-fi installed, the AT&T technician muttered to himself all afternoon.
Regrettably, in the last 11 years, I have learned more than I ever wanted to know about hurricanes. I now know that if there are lots of thunderstorms in Florida forming a front, the hurricanes can't get "into" Florida and will bounce up the Eastern seaboard as Sandy did to arrive in the New Jersey/New York area. I tell people that I am sitting with my feet against the Eastern coast of Florida, trying to repel any storms. Perhaps a slight exaggeration. I cannot watch the television coverage of storms when they make landfall. I was at a needlepoint market when Katrina hit New Orleans and I just could not watch, because I knew what they were experiencing and it was excruciating. Vero went through that to a lesser degree in Frances and Jeanne and the next year with Wilma. Frances was the worst on everyone's nerves because she moved at an excruciating 6 miles per hour and she was large. It took forever (I think a day) for her to move over Vero Beach.
They say that it takes ten years to recover from a major catastrophe, and it seems to be true. Of course, Vero's hurricanes also happened at the height of the real estate collapse so it was a double or triple whammy. This past 6 months, real estate is selling and new people are appearing in town.
To commemorate the 10th anniversary of our "moving experience", Needle Nicely will be having a 25% off storewide sale. All previously marked sale items will be an additional 10% off. The dates of the sale are October 26 through 30, 10 am to 5pm.
NOTE: for Needle Nicely it was a blessing that Vero had had Frances and Jeanne the previous year because there were many empty businesses. The location I found had had its roof removed during one of the previous year's hurricanes. My landlord bought the shopping center in the spring of 2005 after the previous owners had let it be foreclosed by "the bank".
*NOTE: Rotary phones work when the electricity is off. They can still be purchased at places like KMart. The one I left in Needle Nicely was the baby blue one I had owned for over 35 years. Ah, the pain of separation!