Unshaken by the storm

Junior Jack Chitty shows resilience, patience through Hurricane Irma


photo by Madeleine Chitty

Junior Jack Chitty relaxes in the flood at his dad’s house caused by Hurricane Irma. The flooding did not reach the house or cause any damage.

Junior Jack Chitty read the text from his neighbor: power lines were coiled up, sparkling at his mom’s house in Chuluota. He and his sister, sophomore Madeleine Chitty, knew that the county issued a curfew a few hours ago and knew that the worst of Hurricane Irma was coming, but despite the dangers of the storm, they decided to take the five-minute ride to help.

“I was kind of nervous because I was unsure if our house could catch on fire, [since] it’s super old,” Chitty said.

He had heard the transformer pop at his dad’s house and explode before he even knew that the lines were down at his mom’s.

 When they pulled up, the house was empty, they couldn’t see the lines or even anything at all. They remained in the car as they drove up to inspect the house and in less than five minutes, one police car and one fire truck arrived.

The officers came in and moved around flapping wires, and other things hanging on the trees and laying in the road.

His mom was staying at a neighbor’s house so he knew she was safe.

Hurricane Irma left and the power was out at his mom’s until Monday, Sept. 18, leaving him without air conditioning, lights, running water from the well, or Wi-Fi for about of eight days.

The five children stayed at his dad’s house during the storm for safety since there were not as many trees. They stayed for the rest of the week and got power back five days after the storm.

“We live on a well, so it was hard without power,” Madeleine said. “We had to use buckets to flush our toilets and drink bottled water.”

To solve the air conditioning and service issues, Chitty drove around during the week to Winne Dixie and 7-Eleven.

As a substitute for no running water, he pulled from multiple resources.

“I still had to run for practice, so we used the company showers at my dad’s office, and I went over to my friend’s to shower twice,” Chitty said.

He had a small generator to keep his fridges going, to avoid food from spoiling.

“Luckily we had water saved up,” Chitty said. “And if we needed food, a lot of places opened up after the storm. We even grilled a few times.”

Once the curfew ended Monday morning, Chitty, his four siblings, and his dad all came over to his mom’s to help with the cleanup efforts.

The backyard was flooded, there were tree limbs and leaves all around the yard, and many trees had fallen: one blocked the path to the pool house and another tree appeared to have been hit by a tornado because it was split directly down the middle. The cleanup effort took four days.

“Our neighbor at my mom’s house was a tremendous help,” Chitty said. “He used his backhoe to move the trees too large for us to carry and unblocked the road to pool house that was covered in power lines and brush, which would’ve been too dangerous for us to do by hand.”

His neighbor’s boat dock was also flooded after the storm. Chitty plans to help to put down new planks because many went missing or came unscrewed.

The damage at his dad’s house was not as extensive because of fewer trees in the area. It took a few hours of work, using chainsaws to cut the trees and branches. Chitty’s dad called a tree company to get some trees off the power lines. Although the backyard was flooded, the water did not reach the house. There were also power lines in the road and a large tree blocking off the road nearby the house.

Life came back to normal afterwards, despite the hardships of Hurricane Irma he and his family put it in perspective.

“A lot of people had it a lot worse than us, especially in South Florida,” Chitty said. “So even though I was uncomfortable, we were really hot in the house, and we didn’t have a lot to do, I was still thankful because we didn’t get hurt and our house didn’t get [damaged]. I tried not to be upset because I knew we would be alright.”

ThingLink by Ahilyn Aguilar