Irma Is Long Gone, But My Roof Damage Remains


Six months ago, Hurricane Irma hit Florida and, on the night of Sept. 11, set its sights upon my antiques mall. It sat overhead in the dark, spawning a tornado in the alley behind the store and proceeding to systematically rip off about 1,500 square feet of my 4,000-square-foot roof.

I know this because I was there, not because I am an intrepid hurricane chaser, but because I wrongly assumed there was some preventive action I could take.

More like mop-up.

While Mark slept peacefully on a horsehair sofa, I dashed around crazily in the dark, moving buckets, finding more buckets, and pressing antique cookware into service to keep every new leak from ruining the carpet.

When rain began coursing down through one of the store’s security sensors onto a mahogany and marble partners’ desk, I saved it by dumping the water out of its drawers and inching it out of harm’s way.

In the back room, acoustic ceiling tiles were splashing loudly into plastic bins rapidly filling with water and, in the attic, the historic plaster ceiling came down like wet pieces of chalk onto my soggy boxes of holiday inventory. I did what I could.

When the power came on four days later, my air conditioners and fans were running full tilt to prevent mildew, but I opened the store anyway. All my customers had cabin fever.

To the company’s credit, our insurance carrier promptly paid us for lost business and sent us a check to get the roof replaced.

We still have the check. What we do not have is a new roof.

For five months, I checked the weather forecast on my phone several times a day, terrified of any precipitation in the area. Mark and I tag-teamed the roofers, calling every other day to make sure we were still on track for a nebulous “mid-February” replacement. Sometimes we went over there in person.

“We’re 120 roofs behind,” we were told.

“We can’t get materials,” we were told.

“Other areas of the state are paying workers a premium to get their roofs fixed first,” we were told.

“We can’t find workers,” we were told.

“’Mid-February’,” we responded.

Then we called our insurance company back and told them we were getting concerned about mold. Evidently “mold” is the magic word with insurance companies.

Materials were delivered on Monday. Eight roofers arrived on Tuesday and have been working their little hearts out. I pity them. Its hot up there on the roof.

But I also pity myself. Interior patching and paint has happened slowly. My new security system isn’t half as good as the old one. All the holiday stuff had to be dried out and repacked — there are a lot of holidays on the calendar.

Oddly, it turns out that tarps on the sidewalk, an incessant thumping noise overhead and ladders everywhere are good for business.

Go figure.

By the way, that wall people keep talking about? I’m now a proponent. We need to keep those workers in the U.S.!