Wednesday, November 30, 2005

FEMA Was Here

FEMA stopped by on 11/21/05.

In the person of its contractor representative, Dave.

Dave was an interesting guy. He's visiting from a small town in Oklahoma, where he's the fire chief and paramedic. As it turns out, his wife was a fellow bankbuster. She was on 200 Oklahoma takeovers in the late 80's. He even knew who FSLIC was.

He didn't know what MRSA was. Seemed odd for a paramedic not to know that.

Altogether, though, we got on just fine.

He's a big advocate of colloidal silver. (I showed him my jar of Silvadene.) --And, he says, --Check out ALC, from grapeseed oil, which he thinks may have the same antibiotic action as the silver. Also, bee pollen can be really good for superallergics.

Actually, I've heard that some recent studies back the bee pollen thing up. By a different name, perhaps.

Dave said he had a cow once whose throat glands got swollen like two cantaloupes. The vet said they'd have to go in and drain them surgically. Instead, Dave gave her colloidal silver water for 5 days, and in that short time she was right as rain.

He told me he mixed up 5 gallons of it for Y2K, because who knew what was going to happen?

He'd already told me to have my driver's license, Citizens' windstorm insurance declaration page, and receipts for air purifiers ready if I wanted to speed up the process. Yo. Couldn't find the dec page. A mortgage statement did the trick; it was only to prove ownership.

I'd been looking for air purifiers - not to mention funds to buy them - for some time. I had to have them paid for and on hand by the time he arrived a few hours after the appointment setter called. Oh, lucky. None at Sam's still, but Walmart finally had them again. Bank account be damned.

Now, just so you know, I'm not a person who looks at this FEMA stuff as, --I'm Entitled! Give Me Bucks!

But broke and sick and hurricane-hit as I am, if there's a legitimate government avenue of help in place for me, I'll probably explore it. Having one's life in tatters and not doing all you can to rebuild it is not civically responsible. IMO.

And I really did want to see FEMA in action, just once in my life. I wanted that experience.

Food? Yeah, eventually I lost a bunch. He said, Call Red Cross. FEMA gives the food money to them. Didn't I go to the Emergency Food Stamp lines, where 25,000 people a day applied for around $170-$500, depending on family size? --No. Dade had a Disabled People drive-through lane, only a few hours long too. But Broward didn't. I can't walk well, much less stand. So no go. --Tell the Red Cross about that.

Camp stove? Propane? Charcoal and lighter fluid? Bleach?

No dice.

Immunocompromised people who are carriers of two dangerous germs need bleach, especially when there's lots of contaminants growing and no hot water to bathe in and no dishwasher to sterilize your plates and things.

No dice.

We went over the hurricane damage, outside to inside, room by room. He entered these things in his computer. FEMA also does direct reimbursements for certain emergency type items: generators, air purifiers, like that.

On Day 8, our 1000-watt inverter blew out. We had to replace it, which cost $210 at Home Depot for a 2500-watt one - the smallest available. We thought it would be reimbursed, since generators are on that FEMA list, as long as you purchase them when the electricity is actually out.

But it's not reimbursable, because technically it's not an actual generator. Even if he wanted to try, the computer wouldn't accept it. (Of course, it would have if he'd just called it a generator. Which, rumor has it, most other FEMA reps do.)

The air purifiers would be reimbursed. Like generators, they'd be reimbursed using an Area Average rather than actual cost. The generator average - which I wouldn't get - was around $700-$800. He didn't say what the air purifier one was.

The trees that fell on the house damaged the roof but didn't actually puncture it. No immediate leaks, no problem. No FEMA help. Dave did advise getting the damage fixed ASAP because it was clearly damaged and would leak down the line, no doubt.

Of course, every roofer in the SE is extremely occupied just now. And most everyone else with a similar roof case got it OK'd for a FEMA reimbursement. Hmmm.

When my windows busted, I lost furniture to water damage. Not flood, but the wind-driven rain that blew into the office and dining room. That furniture is piled up on my swale now. Wet upholstery in Florida molds up almost instantly. Superallergics shouldn't keep moldy furniture in their house, any more than regular healthy humans should.

The ruined electronics were items I didn't think FEMA was interested in any more than my downed fences - this isn't insurance, it's assistance for needs. Furniture is something FEMA regards as Stuff a Person Needs.

But none of it counted. Here's why:

My front office/guest bedroom was not occupied as a bedroom on Hurricane Day, since I had no guests. That means it Doesn't Count. Also, the rollaway bed that got wet? FEMA felt I should have simply pulled it away from the window and then dried it out.

Personally, I was more interested in dodging flying glass and ironing boards at the time, and then boarding that window to save the house. Once breached, the whole building can go. That would have cost FEMA a lot more. Besides, the rain soaked the couch instantly, when the window broke. It's a hurricane. It blows the rain in really fast. That's what a hurricane does.

I pulled other stuff away - like the far more important TV in front of the window (my recovery-news source), sitting on a little cabinet that holds thousands of dollars' worth of my meds - those 72 hours of meds you're supposed to have on hand. But the couch was already a goner the minute the window broke.

And dry it? With what? No electricity means no fans. I wasn't going to waste my clean rags on that either, not when they were needed for even worse things. You hoard your clean rags. Especially when FPL says you'll stay without power for a month. See, there's really no good way to wash those rags once they get dirty.

Too bad. Wilma was considered a Wind Hurricane not a Rain Hurricane.

Okay. What about the 5 pieces of furniture in the dining room?

Nope. See, it was living room furniture, being used to make the room sort of a library as we rehab and shuffle rooms around. It has to be dining room furniture in the dining room or It Doesn't Count.

What if it's a library not a dining room? Naw. Libraries aren't Needed. Bedrooms and dining rooms are. Utility rooms only if the roof actually caves in.

I mulled all this over and asked, Is this stuff because of those people in Dade last year, putting garden hoses through the window to wreck their furniture and make a fraudulent claim? When they didn't even get hurricane winds?



There's always a reason for government illogic, if you know how to think like them.


The glass cuts on Hurricane Day? No dice. I didn't go to the ER because the news folks said they were all closed for lack of electricity. I performed my own Glass Removal Auto-Surgery and fixed 'em up with Silvadene and lots of bandaids.

No reimbursement there, because I didn't go to the ER.

What about the debris log I dropped on the foot that needed stitches? I did go to the ER then. $50 copay alone, right there.

No dice. See, it wasn't ON Hurricane Day.

At this point, I gave Dave a Look.

He made sure to explain that he didn't make the rules. They were FEMA's rules whether Dave agreed with them or not. Sometimes this makes people mad, he says, and he has to listen to them abuse him for not letting them game the system. Those welfare people are the worst ones. Plus their homes are stinking messes and it gets to him after a while.

Then he tells them, Hey, I'm here to help you. I'm a contractor, not a government employee, I don't work for FEMA. If you want a government FEMA person to come here and do this, fine. I'll put you on the list. That will take about a year.

I can see that the thought of being mistaken for a federal government employee is quite painful to him.

He measured the house. He said broken windows don't count for much but at least I'd get a little something for them.

Keep all those bandaid receipts, though, just in case. You never know, maybe they'll want to consider them.

FEMA will contact me in 7-10 days.

That was nine days ago.

I gave him a cinnamon roll.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

No Security Threat

Walter has been officially declared No Security Threat.

This, by no lesser authority than:

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

via its minions at:

Transportation Security Administration

The letter even has a little eagle logo. It's not embossed or anything, and it's not even on cheap stationery. Just cheap copy paper.

But it sure looks fine by us.

This is pursuant to Walter's applying for a hazardous materials endorsement (HME) - what regular humans generally call "hazmat." It means he's cleared as a trucker to carry hazardous materials loads now. Like most alphabet soup after one's name-license-what have you, this means he can make more money.

Back to this letter.

After the letterhead and date and Walter's name and address and bar code, it says:

Re: TSA Determination of No Security Threat...

Dear [Walter]:

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has reviewed your application to obtain or renew your hazardous materials endorsement (HME) pursuant to Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) ss 1572.15(d)(1). TSA will notify the state that you may obtain or renew your HME.


Office of Transportation Vetting and Credentialing

Now isn't that a charming example of bureaucratese?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Sunsets for Livey

I love sunsets.

And clouds.

And taking pictures.

And Florida.

My life has some hard things in it. But I'm one of the happiest people I know. One of the luckiest, too.

I can walk right outside my house and see something like this. If I want, I can go get the camera, and lose myself in capturing it forever. And then in picking out a few of the very best and putting them on my blog.
 Posted by Picasa
 Posted by Picasa
 Posted by Picasa
 Posted by Picasa
 Posted by Picasa
 Posted by Picasa
 Posted by Picasa
Posted by Picasa
 Posted by Picasa
Posted by Picasa
 Posted by Picasa
Posted by Picasa
 Posted by Picasa


Posted by Picasa He's always good when he's asleep.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Hurricane Wilma Eats The House

Actually, Wilma had a bigger appetite for vegetation and fences. Great good fortune for us, there.

The pix below are of my humble abode. It's just an ordinary Florida bungalow with little curb appeal. That's one reason I put a lot of effort into the landscaping. It looked truly terrible when we bought it. Naturally, we bought it that way on purpose. It looks much nicer inside than out. The equity looks good too.

You will see a fair amount of ordinary deferred maintenance - I need to paint and such. It's not because I'm lazy or I don't care. I trust, therefore, that you'll kindly overlook it. On the same grounds, I hope you'll also overlook the lack of sophistication in presentation here.

You who've seen the house recently - pre-Wilma, I mean - rest assured. The queen palm is already spiking new fronds, and the orchid tree has lots of new branches and leaves. The front yard dragon tree is sprouting new branches, too. The big dragon and dracaena marginata branches that got lopped off by the queen palm will all be replanted and make new trees.

And amazingly, when they all came down on the roof, they made no through-and-through punctures. Of course it'll need work - but so far, no leaks.

It isn't what it was. But if you compare how much growth has already taken place in barely over a month, you'll see why I say it'll come back before you know it. And remember: not a single one of these basic plants actually died. The pictures I took today are there to prove it to you. I'll walk you by all your old favorites. They're doing just fine and all say Hello! to you.

* * * * *

Below are three different sets of pictures showing k's house and yard. The first set was taken a couple days to one week before Wilma. We knew she was coming for a long time, so we had lots of prep and picture time.

A couple of days before she struck, we had one of our occasional little flash floods. These aren't the monsters you Westerners are used to, but they do mess up my pine bark nugget mulch. It tends to float down the street, and sometimes up the neighbors' driveways. Then I have to go run down with my wheelbarrow and rake it all back up and wheel it back home. (Surely none of the neighbors' pine bark nuggets get relocated to my yard that way.)

The city in general, and myself on my own property, have greatly improved local flooding issues, and we're also on high land for this area. Still, when we get 6"- 12" of rain in a couple of hours, it overloads us. We had another one with Gamma.

The "ff" pictures are from the pre-Wilma rains, and are actually a result of Wilma herself. The flooding rains came from one of her outermost rain bands.

The second set of pix was taken today, November 27, 2005. The front yard is still a bit messy, the back yard hugely so.

The third set of photos was taken just after the hurricane. Most are from the afternoon. Wilma ended as a hurricane around 2pm or so on landfall day. Since my digital camera was a hurricane fatality, I took these with my old Nikon, and had them transferred to CD yesterday.

Some of the hurricane photos were taken a day or two after the storm. Bear with me, I wasn't as careful with dates as I like to be. If the background looks like the hurricane hasn't quite left yet, it's still Monday, October 24, 2005, in the afternoon. If the sky is blue and the dead leaves aren't very green, it's after that.

The title codes are:
w1 is 10/24/05, Wilma Day One (Landfall)
w2 (or higher) are the days post-landfall
pw is pre-Wilma
ff is flash flood - meaning I took pics to show the flood mess.

Front yard, pw

Posted by Picasa

Front yard looking NE, pw

Posted by Picasa

Front yard looking NE, pw

Posted by Picasa

k's drive w/pine bark, ff pw

Posted by Picasa

Driveways w/pine bark, ff pw

Posted by Picasa

Neighbor's driveway w/pine bark, ff pw

Posted by Picasa

Pony Tail Palm, pw

Posted by Picasa

Walter's Side Yard facing NW, pw

Posted by Picasa

Walter's Side Garden, pw

Posted by Picasa

Across the street, ff pw

Posted by Picasa

Orchid tree damaged by Katrina

Posted by Picasa