It's The End Of The World As We Know It...
(Not really, but drama is fun)
Around 3:00pm, my friends Jeff and his girlfriend Chantale came over and I immediately recruited them to help me tape up the windows with masking and duct tape. I was on the fence about bothering with it, with some people telling me that it doesn't help, but it did seem like it would reduce shattering glass if I did get hit, and after seeing my neighbor do it, I decided to be "better safe than sorry."
After we ran out of tape covering all of the main windows, Chan entertained herself with fixing my badly browser-jacked computer (her idea of relaxation... my idea of fostering the urge to drop-kick my CPU into the street) and Jeff and I sat in the family room with some frosty cold ones and non-stop coverage on T.V.
Around that time the first major band of the storm passed through the area. Along with the rain and gusts of wind, the band also came with thunder. But this wasn't the normal thunder you'd hear that crashes out of the clouds and rolls away across the sky... this was a low, constant, continuous rumbling that made it difficult for us to determine if it was in fact thunder, a low flying 747, or the "freight-train" sound we kept hearing the news reporters warning us about in the event that a tornado had touched down. Several tornadoes had been spotted already in South Central Florida, where the storm was currently approaching, so we were keeping an ear peeled for it.
Around 6:00pm, we were sitting on the back porch around a patio table and chairs, the last of the furniture I left out for us to use, when a particularly loud and menacing thunder clap rolled down out of the clouds. All three of us thought the same thing... that sure sounded like a "freight-train"... so much in fact that we simultaneously jumped up out of our chairs and started to move inside. Determining it was a false alarm, I had decided to move my two cats into the walk-in closet of my bedroom, the "safe room" I had in mind for such an event due to its lack of windows... one less thing to worry about.
Then we mixed our first pitcher of sangria and started cooking dinner. Seasoned pork chops and the last of the Nebraska steaks my Uncle Bob sent me the previous Christmas, with brown rice and brussel sprouts. Not bad for an "Oh My God... We're All Gonna Die!!!" party (hereby formally referred to as the OMGWAGD party).
Around 8:00pm the storm's center was approaching Central Florida. At that point, we threw the last of the patio furniture into the pool where the wind couldn't grab it, mixed a pitcher of margaritas and camped around the TV to monitor the storm's approach.
Charley's radar shot
Around 9:00pm, the storm's center was passing through Kissimmee and bearing down on Orlando. The wind and rain were beginning to pick up considerably and the power started flickering on and off as limbs and trees were snapping power lines and popping transformers south of us.
Around 9:20pm as the storm was hitting downtown Orlando, we finally lost power in our neighborhood. Before the TV tube was even dark, Jeff immediately jumped up and made for the tiny front porch of my house, a little enclosed area between my front door and my screen door, to watch the storm outside. Chan and I quickly followed. Hey...we had been cut off in mid-TV viewing mode... video-us intteruptus... we had to watch something.
The porch was on the lee side of the storm, so the wind wasn't really reaching us. Through the darkness, silhouetted against the clouds, we could see what the wind was doing.... ripping through the street, bending trees down and whipping them back over and over again. Branches and limbs would occasionally rip out of the oak tree in my front yard and rivers of water were rushing down the flooded gutter lines being pushed by the wind.
In the darkened houses across the street, we saw that everybody else basically had the same idea, as flashlights poked out of the darkness. Chan used her mag-lite to start playing morse-code with anyone within eyeshot of the beam. Everybody in the neighborhood was pretty much on the same wavelength at that point.
Around quarter to ten, the storm was over Casselberry, and the sheer force of the wind had grown from large sustained gusts to an almost constant torrent. About twenty minutes later, at the height of the storm, we saw a flashlight beam shoot out from my neighbor's house to the right of us where there hadn't been one before... a new friend to play with! We became engrossed in trying to get his attention with our light when we suddenly noticed that the wind had quietly and abruptly stopped... and we instantly realized what was going on. Something that, oddly, hadn't occurred to us all evening. We never imagined we'd ever see this situation because in the back of our minds, we were relinquished to the idea that this kind of thing only happens on small, third-world tropical islands or really bad thriller movies.
We were in the eye of Hurricane Charley.