Frances, Jeanne, and Me [Diary of a Hurricane Survivor]

Over the span of one month, 30-year Florida resident and salon owner Faith Glionna was hit by four hurricanes, two of them hit straight on. Both Glionna’s home, in nearby Melbourne Beach, and the salon sustained significant damage, but that didn’t keep her from her clients for long.

<p>In the 45 MPH winds, I painted the plywood boarding up the salon using my OPI Red nail polish and my acrylic brush. I wrote, "Jeanne be kind. We're already hurting," then below wrote, "Painted with OPI Red polish, available after the storm!"</p>

Editor’s note: A 30-year resident of Florida’s central east coast, Faith Glionna, the owner of Cuticles in Indialantic, says she’s never seen her area so hard hit by hurricanes. Over the span of a month, there were four - two of them hit straight on. Both Glionna’s home, in nearby Melbourne Beach, and the salon sustained significant damage, but that didn’t keep her from her clients for long.

Friday, August 13: Charlie came through the west coast of Florida and across the state. We had minor damage at my house in Melbourne Beach and the salon was spared entirely. Then along came Frances.

Wednesday, September 1: A Category 4 hurricane and coming our way, Frances was the talk of the salon. Robin, our receptionist, called all the clients to tell them we would be closed the next day.

<p>After Frances, the ceilings of my home begain falling in and mold started to grow on all the walls.&nbsp;</p>

Thursday, September 2: We packed up the house. We moved the furniture away from the windows into the center of the rooms, put all the clothes in large bags, and anything else of importance to us went into a plastic bag or Rubbermaid container. We put all the furniture on the second floor in case of flooding.

At the salon, we took all the polish off the racks on the wall. Anything that could be ruined by flooding was either placed up high or wrapped in plastic. We unplugged all electric items and stuffed towels in the windows and doors. I placed all important papers in the clothes dryer where they would be safe. We took home the appointment books, insurance papers, and the client file box. We boarded the windows, locked the doors, and said goodbye.

The mandatory evacuation was set for 2 p.m., but it wasn’t until 8 p.m. that the five of us we were finally on the road: my husband David, myself, Biata (who had just turned 12 the day before), Ciara (who is 8), and the hamster, Teddy. We were on our way to Parkland, a suburb of Ft. Lauderdale, to a friend’s home. We had our life in our truck - clothes for at least 10 days, all our jewelry, and all the important papers and photographs. And I had my “nail box” full of all my tools to do nails if the salon wasn’t there.

Friday, September 3: We had fun in our evacuation, preparing my friend’s farm - including getting the barn ready for the horse and the chickens so they would be safe. We waited. As the feeder bands of the storm hit Parkland, we lost power and water.

Saturday, September 4: The full force of the storm was hitting in fort Pierce, which is south of Melbourne, but close enough to cause damage to our town.

<p>It's hard to see the wet buckled walls in the salon's interior.&nbsp;</p>

Sunday, September 5: The storm is almost past us. The kids are swimming in the pool in the rain and wind, and having fun. We listened to the radio and watched the tiny battery-operated TV to hear if we could come back home. I already knew from my father that the awning of the salon was gone and I was praying the roof hadn’t caved in.

Monday, September 6: In the morning, we headed out. There were trees and power lines down all the way home. As we pulled onto our street, we could see some roof damage. We thought that was the extent of the problem until we walked into the house. Our new addition - including our brand-new kitchen - was under water. The water was coming from the walls and ceiling, not the windows or doors.

In the master bedroom, water poured in like a giant shower head. We had to get out. The mold was already growing and we didn’t have power to dry it up.

<p>We enjoyed our two days in this makeshift salon on my mother's back porch.&nbsp;</p>

The salon was beat up and the awning was shredded. A mosaic sun on the building was torn off and a light fixture outside was broken, but the sign was still there. We had several inches of sand covering the parking lot and porch, but the towels in the doors and windows prevented all the “beach” from coming inside.

Tuesday, September 7: As the days passed, the ceilings at home began to fall in and the floors buckled even more. We feared the house was ruined beyond repair and we were right.

Wednesday, September 8: The days went on, the troops came in, family and friends came from all over the state to help pack up the house and bring ice, and food for us. Even our clients came and brought us supplies. During this time, we didn’t have power at the salon either, but it was dry inside!

Robin kept calling the clients daily, checking on them and keeping them and keeping them updated on our loss. Dee, my sister-in-law and nail tech, was fine and had power. That meant we have a place to say with air-conditioning at the end of the long, hot moving days.

Our nail tech Janet felt guilty, like many people who had power and no damage to their homes. She cooked us a big turkey dinner and made everything better with food. That always works!

Simone, our massage therapist, and Molly, our esthetician, got the salon in order. They cut down the awning and cleaned up inside, waiting for power so we could all get back to work.

The state of Florida had all kinds of power companies come in to help us. I want to thank the guys at Pike Electric. They took pity on me when I asked them to please hook us up. I couldn’t live in my home, and I needed to work. We were out of work for 12 days, losing money and praying our clients were OK and that we would still have business.

Tuesday, September 14: After we finally got power and got back to work, the water heater burned up and the air conditioning had to be fixed. But business as usual was starting to kick in. The kids were back in school and life was almost normal. We moved into my mom’s house and were getting settled. We got winds from Ivan, the next storm, but all was OK.

Thursday, September 23: I spoke too soon! Here comes Jeanne. She got stronger and stronger, turning into a Category 3 and headed for Melbourne. So once again, we packed up…

Saturday, September 25: We boarded up what was not already boarded and Dee and I decided we were going to work this morning. The evacuation was for 6 a.m. although the storm was not supposed to hit until 11 p.m. All our clients came but one. When the last client was done, my family headed to my sister-in-law’s house to ride it out.

Sunday, September 26: At 3a.m. we awoke to a loud bang and no electricity. The storm was blowing like crazy and the lake in her backyard had begun to rise. The transformers all around were sparking and popping like a fireworks display! At 4 p.m., we heard we could go home.

We found our house with more wood and roof ripped off and more water inside. We headed to the salon. The salon next to mine had major damage - the front façade of the building had caved in. But we were dry! More of the roof shingles had ripped off, but the inside looked OK. There were walls and some sand, but the towels helped keep the beach out and the floors were dry. Our street sign was blown 50 feet away.

Monday, September 27: As the week went on, the walls all buckled and we had problems with our electricity. The electricians and the appraiser have been out and we now have to wait.

Tuesday, September 28: We weren’t sure how long we would be without power, so we decided to set up shop at my mom’s house in her air-conditioned back porch.

I baked brownies and set up a few tables with an old door from the garage and a sofa table with a glass top from my house. Toni brought a few pedicures tubs. My younger daughter Ciara was excited to play waitress, taking the clients’ drink and snack orders. My older daughter Biata greeted the clients in between swimming in the pool and retrieving the roof tiles with her surfboard. Even though we were displaced, the clients loved it. They said it felt like the movie “Steel Magnolias.”

Thursday, October 7: In the aftermath, we were lucky. We are all healthy and have a roof over our heads and a salon to work in.

Ciara is writing a book to help other kids deal with loss and hurricanes and the girls have donated some of their toys to the Red Cross and Salvation Army. They are doing this year’s school science project on mold - with a sample from the mold growing on our walls in the house. It has been hard, yet overall I think I am handling this well. What has affected me the most is the kindness of others, the people who work endless hours passing out ice and water and food to all of us who needed it. The salon looks bad outside, but inside, it’s business as usual.

Friday, November 5: The sign was put back today. My clients continue to show their support by giving us gift certificates for groceries, dinners out, and to purchase new bedding when we move back in to our house. Check with me in a year to see if I am still this positive. After building a new house and moving back home, I might be a little crazier than I am now!         


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