WNY native writes vivid description of ‘horrifying’ night during Hurricane Irma

LAKE MARY, FLORIDA — (WIVB) News Four talked to WNY native Michelle Valiquette Wilson on Friday before Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida. Michelle worked as a news producer here at Channel 4 for some time. She and her husband, Eric, moved to Florida several years ago where they are raising their son, Aidan.

Michelle told us on Friday that the highways were clogged and gasoline was scarce, so she and Eric decided to ride out the storm in their home, which was built to withstand a hurricane.

Tonight, on Monday night, we contacted Michelle to see how they had weathered the storm.  Here is what she wrote  — a very descriptive account of a terrible night:

“Thank you for checking in. What a difference a day makes. We are so much better today than yesterday.

We are doing well.  We have some downed trees and limbs but no significant damage thank goodness.

Last night was horrifying.  It started raining, then got windy and then our phones would go off with tornado warnings.  Probably every 15 minutes or so there was another warning.  It was dark, windy and the sounds we heard from outside reminded me of that Stephen King novel The Mist. It was eerie.

The storm hit us harder than expected. It crossed over us around 2:00-3:00am.  The sky had a weird glow of green, then red. Aidan even commented that the sky was red.  Aidan was terrified, it broke my heart. We got him his favorite stuffed animal and then we slept together in the center of the house.  We were on the couch together and I slept half on the couch and half on the coffee table holding onto him tightly for two hours while the winds whipped outside.  We turned on Christmas music to try to drown out the noise from outside.

We didn’t sleep at all. We just watched the lights outside and listened to the winds and the music and tried to remain calm. The winds would gust and it would shake the doors and windows and we could hear debris hitting the windows, doors and outside of the house. With each wind gust we held our breath until it was over not knowing what to expect. I was just waiting for the door blow in or windows to explode.   It seemed to go on forever.

After about two hours when the center of the storm had passed (around 4am) we moved into our bedroom and slept for a couple hours.  Then people started calling to check up on us. That’s when we first went outside to survey the damage. At first I was afraid to open the door or look out the window.  The winds were still blowing hard (around 30-50 miles per hour) when we woke up.

It was something I never really experienced before.  It is like the blizzards we experience in Buffalo, but there’s something ominous about the sky and the winds. Plus the added threat of tornadoes was very unnerving.

We feel very fortunate that we didn’t have any significant damage.  Just like in Buffalo people were out today picking up the pieces, cleaning up, helping neighbors and clearing the roads.

We are all emotionally and physically exhausted. I feel like I haven’t slept in days.

I hope it’s nothing we have to experience again and we didn’t even get the worst of it.  The people along the coast have significant flooding and damage.  Orlando was hit harder than expected. More than 7 million people are without power.  This storm hit the entire state. It’s unprecedented.

Schools are still closed until Thursday, possibly later. Many schools were used as shelters and people in these shelters still don’t have power or have a flooded home. Some schools sustained some damage. Aidan’s school has damage and it just breaks my heart.

But we are all OK and feel so grateful to be alive.”

Michelle has many relatives here in Western New York who have been checking on her and are relieved that she and her family are safe. I share that relief and offer my thanks to Michelle for sharing her experience.




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