Fla. residents with Greenfield ties talk about choice to wait out Irma

  • Boats are partially submerged in the wake of Hurricane Irma, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Key Largo, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) Wilfredo Lee

  • Cars with water up over the doors are parked in a downtown neighborhood after Hurricane Irma brought floodwaters to in Jacksonville, Fla. Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, (AP Photo/John Raoux) John Raoux

Recorder Staff
Monday, September 11, 2017

Of the many who are in Hurricane Irma’s path in Florida, former Greenfield residents Jennifer (Simpter) Bashy and Beth Reynolds, have been riding out the storm.

Reynolds, who lived in Greenfield for five years and now lives in St. Petersburg, decided to stay in her home with her dog, Ozzie.

She did an extensive amount of hurricane preparation ahead of the storm, including making “go bags” for her and her dog that included his shot records, food and a crate as well as a week’s worth of clothing and food for herself. She lives about 7 feet above sea level, so when she saw that flooding would be minimal in her area, she decided to stay, but did call ahead to register at a shelter two miles from her home just in case.

She said she hasn’t been outside much since the worst of it, but she saw minimal damage in her area, with some limbs down, but no major trees or serious flooding.

Reynolds said that as a Florida native, she learned to take hurricane prep seriously. She recently invested in high-density wind windows in her 1920s home. Most of the home had already been hurricane proofed, but last week she made sure everything in her house and yard were secure.

“You sort of make plan A, B and C because you don’t want to be without shelter,” Reynolds said.

She said that by the time Irma hit St. Petersburg, it had sliced through the land enough that it was downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane, something for which she and her neighbors were grateful.

She said she took several days to prepare everything, and many employers in the area were accommodating. Most of the schools closed on Thursday or Friday to give families time to prepare.

But at a certain point, once you’ve done everything to prepare, there’s nothing to do but wait for it hit.

“You have this anxiety, you just sit and wait, and there’s nothing you can do but wait,” Reynolds said.

She said she was relieved that it was less severe in her area, but knows this means it was more severe somewhere else.

“I have friends all over the state, so you don’t wish it on anyone else but you don’t want it on you either, ” she said.

Reynolds said many of her old Greenfield friends reached out when they saw that she was in the path of the storm.

“I’m so grateful for all of my friends in Franklin County who were checking on me and saying, ‘Come to Massachusetts, we will take care of you!’” she said. “I really should have come because it was the weekend of the fair.”

Greenfield High alum

Bashy, who is a graduate of Greenfield High School, has lived in West Palm Beach for about eight years. She said Friday was nice and sunny, a sort of calm before the storm.

She said she tied down all exterior items, gathered documents and has cooked and prepped food. She said former owners “hurricane-proofed” her home, so everything should stay and the only concern is a piece of ornamental glass in the door.

She and her husband missed their opportunity to leave on Wednesday, and now there are no more flights out of the airport and the 2½-hour drive to Orlando would have taken about 15 hours with traffic.

Reached on Sunday, Bashy said about half of her neighbors left and the other half stayed in their homes. She said many felt the same way she and her husband did: not wanting to be stranded in a hotel or on the highway not knowing if their home was OK.

Although Irma’s course changed, thus taking West Palm Beach out of the direct path of the center of the storm, there was plenty to be worried about.

There were 14 different tornado warnings from Saturday to Sunday and winds over 50 miles per hour, not to mention pouring rain throughout the weekend. Bashy said they lost power several times throughout the weekend.

“The general anxiety level is high all around, but we are laughing when we can,” she said.

Reach Miranda Davis
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