For the first time in her memory, Kai McCampbell-Hill was scared of an approaching hurricane.
Hurricane Irma’s arrival loomed over Floridians for several days and millions evacuated. But McCampbell-Hill, her husband, Bruce, 19-year-old son, Burk, their dog and cat, did not. The family stayed behind at their home on Montezuma Drive in Palma Sola where McCampbell-Hill has lived for 20 years.
Monday morning, a large tree had fallen, barely missing their home. She said some railing on the second story was slightly bent, but that was the worst of the damage. Bruce Hill was already outside around 11:30 a.m. on a ladder preparing to do what he could do to remove the tree.
“We heard, well we thought it was a transformer, it was a loud ‘boom.’ We came outside and saw the tree had come down,” McCampbell-Hill said.
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Next door, where McCampbell-Hill said new neighbors had just moved in about a month ago, a tree had landed with what used to be the tops of the branches on the roof. She said she believes the family that lives in the home evacuated before the hurricane hit, so no one was home when the tree came down.
It was unclear how much damage was done to the home.
But they weren’t the only ones dealing with houses and downed trees. Several trees were down Monday morning throughout the county blocking roads, pulling down power lines, some falling dangerously close to homes and cars.
Over on Sixth Street East, Lisa and David Vernold woke up to find half their house ripped from the ground. Roots from a ficus tree growing in their yard ran under an addition to the house, so when Hurricane Irma ripped up the tree by the roots, the addition to the house came with it.
“My neighbor called us at about 1 a.m. because we kept hearing things crackling. She said half our house was in the air, and our ficus tree — it was gone,” Lisa said.
She believed it when she got the call, but her husband wanted to run outside and check. She stopped him. When they walked outside Monday, they saw the totality of the damage. It was enough to bring Lisa to tears.
“Fire and rescue said they were probably going to condemn the house because it’s not good to live in anymore,” Lisa said.
However, the original house, Lisa said, didn’t suffer a bit of damage, even her pots and pans stayed in place. But the addition was destroyed.
“It withstood all the other hurricanes, but it came up during this one,” Lisa said.
Lisa explained her family offered to help her and her husband, and their eight Chihuahuas, find a new place to stay where they live in Tennessee. Fire and rescue officials told her the Red Cross may be able to help them find somewhere to stay locally in the mean time, she said.
Lisa and David had only lived together in the house for two years.
But it was the house where David grew up.
“It’s broken his heart but he said ‘the house is a house, but me and my wife are irreplaceable, we have each other and that’s all that matters now,’” Lisa said.
The tree that ripped up their home also fell on their neighbors’ laundry room and car, but no one next door was injured, according to Lisa.
She explained they would have left, but they waited too long. They, like many others, expected the storm to follow early forecasts that it would hit the east coast of the state.
McCampell-Hill also said they weren’t ready for this storm.
“I don’t think we prepared enough,” McCampbell-Hill said. “I think we kind of took it for granted where we’ve not had an issue before.”
Next a hurricane threatens to knock on Florida’s door, they’ll be ready, she said.