Florida folks with Schenectady ties survive Irma’s fury

Waiting for hurricane was stressful, transplants say
Crystal Moore of Latham drops off donations they collected at Skidmore College.
Crystal Moore of Latham drops off donations they collected at Skidmore College.

Lawrence Redmond waited for Hurricane Irma on Sunday.

Then, later in the day, Redmond waited out the wind and water from the massive tropical weather system.

“We went to a hurricane party,” Redmond said, of his afternoon visit to a friend’s place on Bronkie Bay on the Indian River in Melbourne, Florida. “It was still five hours off.”

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Nature’s power and fury hit the bay. Redmond, a Schenectady native who moved to Melbourne and Brevard County in 2014, said 10-foot-high waves crashed into the shore.

“When we went home, I had to take four different routes because there were trees blocking the roads and you couldn’t get on,” he said during a Monday morning telephone interview. “We had some flooding, not much.”

Irma finally showed up during Sunday evening in Brevard, located along the east Florida coast next to the Atlantic.

The weather has since calmed in Florida, and the state will soon receive help from National Grid for power repairs and from The Giving Circle, the Saratoga-based, volunteer-operated group that will soon truck down cleaning supplies, foods and personal hygiene products.

On Sunday, Redmond said, winds hit 105 miles per hour. He was watching the Dallas Cowboys-New York Giants football game when the power went out at 9:05 p.m. Millions throughout the state had no electricity during the day.

National Grid will help bring back Florida’s power. More than 300 company employees and 100 vehicles — including the power giant’s mobile command unit — will leave Tuesday to support Duke Energy and Tampa Electric in Florida. About 40 employees from eastern New York will be part of the convoy.

“As part  of the industry’s Mutual Assistance Network, we are proud to support our friends at Duke Energy and Tampa Electric,” said Dean Seavers, president of National Grid US, in a press statement. “With nearly six million Floridians without power [Monday] morning, we know the task ahead will not be easy.”

National Grid supplies energy for more than 20 million people in New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.


The Giving Circle, working with Fingerpaint Marketing and Trans-Border Global Freight Systems, has launched a supply drive called #WeGive2Trucks. The goal: fill two 53-foot-long tractor-trailers with products needed by Texas and Florida residents after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Donations are being accepted at the former Ryder Warehouse at 240 Excelsior Ave., Saratoga Springs. Canned foods, cleansers, bleach, soap, toothpaste, shampoo and drinking water are among needed items.

“We’re on a really good pace,” said Saratoga Springs’ Mark Bertrand, who founded the group after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. “I believe we’ll get these two trucks loaded. We’re also taking gift cards and good cash donations, so once we get very close, we’ll also be buying pallets of supplies to bring down so we can completely fill the truck.”

The drive began Sunday and was scheduled to end Tuesday. “We’ll be taking stuff in past the deadline,” Bertrand said, adding the Florida truck won’t begin its trip until state roads re-open.

The Texas truck will go to Houston. The Florida destination has not been determined.

A complete list of items needed is available at The Giving Circle’s website. Tuesday’s donation times are 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Melbourne’s Redmond, who once owned Total Lawn Maintenance Care in Schenectady, now works as a supervisor for Melbourne’s public transportation department. He said he’s been dispatching buses for evacuations during the past couple days, a job that continued Monday.

“People are calling to go to shelters because they have no roof, they have no water, they have no electricity,” said Redmond, 52. “They’re taking what they can. We’re not supposed to let them take animals, but they’d rather stay than not take their animals.”

Redmond lives in Greenwood Village, a gated condominium community of 256 homes located about eight miles inland from Melbourne Beach. He said only about one-third of Greenwood’s residents decided to stay through the weekend.

While Redmond could go to a hurricane party, he also knew about the weather dangers. A tornado touched down in nearby Palm Bay and wrecked six mobile homes. Trees were down in many places.

Still, Redmond believed he was ready. He had hurricane windows on his brick home.

“My biggest fear was losing cable, which I lost during Matthew,” Redmond said. “This time, I lost cable and power.”

Hurricane Matthew hit Florida in 2016 and was the first Category 5 Atlantic hurricane since 2007’s Hurricane Felix. “Matthew was nothing compared to this,” Redmond said.

Redmond’s friend Patricia Cappello, 55, of Vero Beach, who also was raised in Schenectady, said it was hard waiting for Irma. “It’s very stressful” she said. “I’ve lived here since 1980, so I’ve lived through a lot of hurricanes.

“With the constant media on,” Cappello added, “we’ve been in preparation since Thursday. Everybody’s been buying water and putting up shutters and just getting very anxious over it.

“By the time it finally came through [Sunday] night, it was very exhausting and it was stressful because it’s dark. You hear the wind, you hear things rolling around on the roof, you don’t really know what’s going on.”

Redmond said he left New York to avoid the snow and cold of winter. He’d rather deal with Florida’s seasonal wind and water. “I’ll still take a hurricane over the winter up there,” he said.

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124, [email protected] or @jeffwilkin1 on Twitter.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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