Although the Northeast escaped Hurricane Irma’s tear through the South, for Lehigh senior tight end Drew Paulsen, senior defensive lineman Harrison Johnson and sophomore quarterback Tyler Monaco, Irma’s path hit a little too close to home.
The football players’ families didn’t evacuate their homes but still felt the storm’s wrath.
“While there was not as much damage as we expected, we still saw a lot of the after-effects of the storm,” Tampa Bay native Paulsen said.
The eye of the storm missed Tampa Bay but left destruction in its wake.
Paulsen said trees fell in his neighborhood, and one came down on his friend’s house. He said the hurricane drained all of the water out of the bay leaving it empty, which wasn’t something residents expected to happen.
Paulsen’s mom Pam described the scene as “creepy.” She owns a boat trailer company and while many felt the brunt of the storm, she actually profited from it. Paulsen said the amount of boat trailer orders Paulsen received tripled because customers were worried about losing their boats to the storm.
Pam’s company, Loadmaster Aluminum Trailers, took Tampa Bay residents’ boats up north to Georgia and South Carolina where they were stored until after Irma passed. Paulsen said a lot of these boat owners lucked out because no one knew the bay would run dry.
Another Florida native, Johnson, is from Winter Haven. He said his grandmother and a lot of his friends had to stay in shelters as a result of the hurricane. His grandmother was evacuated for a few days before she was able to return home.
“(My friends) said it was uncomfortable having to stay with a bunch of people in one small area, but they handled it pretty well,” Johnson said. “A couple of people lost power, and my mom said the scariest part of the storm was the wind.”
Johnson said his mom thought the windows were going to fall off the family’s home because of the powerful wind gusts. Trees fell everywhere but on his house.
Johnson said grocery stores faced a shortage of food. In a picture his mom sent him from Walmart, the only food left in the shelves were vegan options.
He said while the hurricane brought its fair share of damage, its destruction doesn’t compare to past storms.
“During Hurricane Charley, we lost power for a month, the gas station down the road caught on fire and a tree went through our front gate,” Johnson said. “We get a really bad one every five to 10 years. We didn’t even board our windows for Hurricane Irma.”
Davie native Monaco said his family boarded its house up and could hear banging the entire storm.
“They thought the house was going to fall down,” Monaco said.
Monaco said Miami flooded and all of downtown was under water for about four or five days. He said sand was spread all over the city.
The same food shortage Johnson felt was also seen in the Florida Keys. Monaco said his friends in the keys had it bad because the only road was damaged, and there wasn’t enough food and gas to go around.
“People had to take boats to bring residents supplies, and the families that have houses there were told not to check on them because there wasn’t enough food for everyone there,” Monaco said. “My friends were stuck there for a long time. It was really nasty there.”
Monaco reiterated Johnson’s statement that although the storm affected his family, it wasn’t the worse it’s seen. Monaco said during the last hurricane, a tree went through his family’s roof, so they had to sleep outside for a while because there was no power or air conditioning for two weeks.
“We didn’t get hit as hard as past storms,” Monaco said. “When you live in the eye of the hurricane, it is never good thing.”