Surviving Hurricane Irma
Former resident shares his story
Former Marshalltonian Mike Troutner and his daughter Priscilla, 21, have lived through one of the most powerful storms in recorded history — Hurricane Irma. After enduring the height of the hurricane’s furry, and finding their places of residence in Florida without power or water, the pair flew to Iowa and stayed with relatives in the Marshalltown area until the coast was clear. This is their story.
“I grew up in Marshalltown, and after I graduated from high school, I joined the Army, and then moved around a lot for my work,” Mike said. “I’ve lived in Naples, Fla., for about two years.”
Mike, who works as a substitute teacher and is also in the solar panel business, said he didn’t give Hurricane Irma much thought while it was swirling in the Atlantic Ocean, hundreds of miles away from the Florida peninsula.
“There hadn’t been a hurricane in Naples since 2005, so people were pretty laid back, then Irma became a Category 5 beast,” he said. “We saw what Irma did to Barbuda, so we came up with a plan, but we were kind of waiting until somewhat the last minute [before evacuating].”
After Priscilla’s classes were canceled at Florida SouthWestern State College in Fort Myers, the father/daughter pair first hurricane-proofed their residences, stacking belongings up high and tying things down at Priscilla’s dorm room and at Mike’s condo.
On Sept. 10 the duo decided to pack up some personal effects into Priscilla’s car. They took shelter at a nearby parking garage, where they stayed for two days on a parking ramp.
“I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie and wanted to be somewhere we could check [the hurricane out],” Mike said. “A few other people stayed in the parking garage too, but most people just dropped off their cars for safe keeping.”
Priscilla slept in her car while Mike slept outside on an air mattress, situated between two parked cars. He noted his neighborhood in Naples had not been in a mandatory evacuation zone.
“The power of the hurricane was unbelievable,” Mike said. “We had three good hours of super strong winds and the final hour was the most intense.”
He said he was able to keep their cell phones charged through a combination of powering them through the car’s engine and with solar panels.
On Sept. 12, the duo decided to return to their dwellings to access the damage. Mike’s lanai sustained damage and he was without electricity and did not own a generator. In addition, his car was flooded and wouldn’t start. Because Priscilla’s car was low on gas, Mike decided to siphon gasoline from his car to hers, while she walked to a local gas station.
“I stood in line at a gas station for three hours, in a line that was 100-cars long,” Priscilla said.
Having obtained enough fuel, the two hit the road that Wednesday — destination airport.
“All my brothers, Andy, Shawn and Tracy, and my mom Mary Troutner, live in the Marshalltown area, so we decided to come to Iowa and stay for about a week, since school was canceled anyway,” Mike said.
As of the printing of this article, there have been 13 named storms, seven hurricanes, and four major (Category 3 or stronger) hurricanes that have formed this year in the Atlantic basin. Hurricane Irma has been classified as the longest-lasting top-intensity cyclone ever documented.
“What we were afraid of was the storm surge and the flooding,” Mike noted.
Priscilla’s college courses resume next week, and their power has been restored. Father and daughter have returned to Florida.
You can view footage of their hurricane experience at: https://www.youtube.com/user/Miketrt
Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at 641-753-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org