Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Weather

Riding out Irma in a mobile home: 'Pretty scary there for awhile, I can't lie to you'

LEALMAN — As his mobile home shook and debris slammed against the walls outside, Robert Franks felt pangs of fear.

The 28-year-old Lealman resident had decided to stay with is fiancee in a single-wide home in the Casa del Sol park on 58th Avenue to help some elderly neighbors who weren't evacuating. The neighbors ended up evacuating at the last minute, but Franks and his fiancee didn't have that option, he said.

When Irma's winds began rocking Franks' home, he wondered if the walls would hold.

"It was pretty scary there for a while, I can't lie to you," the Florida native recalled Monday morning as he took a break from picking up downed limbs scattered around the park and wheeling them away in a red shopping cart.

Compared to what forecasters had predicted, though, "it was a lot better than I thought it was going to be, for sure." Some trim flew off the trailer and plaster on the inside walls cracked from the shaking, but the home is intact.

Much of the Tampa Bay area breathed easier after a weakened Irma blew through here, but mobile home dwellers tended to feel a special kind of relief. They're the first to be ordered to evacuate, after all, because the walls around them are most vulnerable to high winds and falling trees. But tours of mobile home parks in mid Pinellas showed remarkably few signs of damage, perhaps the clearest sign of how Irma's shift to the east spared the area.

"I'm relieved," said Patsy Miner, who lives in a double-wide abode in the Lowe's City Mobile Home Community on 28th Street N. "I thank the Lord."

Miner and her husband, Jim, both 78, left Saturday for a nearby Comfort Inn. The Massachusetts transplants have lived in Florida for 17 years and had fled their tidy beige home for other storms, but Irma scared them the most.

Before they left, Patsy sprinkled some holy water on all the windows and doors. They returned Monday morning to find the storm had shorn several slats of siding off the home. That was it.

"It worked," she said of the liquid blessing.

Before they left, the Miners urged an octogenarian neighbor to do the same. She refused.

"She said, 'If it's my time to go, I'm ready to go,' " Miner said. "I said, 'We don't want you to go. We love you. We want you to stay.' "

Apparently, it wasn't the neighbor's time. Her immaculate red and white mobile home appeared to be untouched. No one answered the door when a reporter knocked.

Down the street, Patrick and Elaine Mullen evacuated to their son's house in the Edgemoor neighborhood and returned Monday morning to find a section of the aluminum roof over their home's sun room peeled back like a sardine can, their attached laundry room in pieces and their carport flattened.

"We were worried about the winds and that's what happened," said Elaine Mullen, 63, as metal flashing flapped in a still-stiff wind.

Her prized Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix concert posters were untouched. So was Patrick Mullen's collection of Tampa Bay Rays bobbleheads and other memorabilia perched in glass cases in an adjacent office.

"We're just glad to be safe," said Patrick Mullen, 75.

Timothy Price and his family were safe, too, because they decided Timothy's single-wide mobile home was no place to ride out the storm.

They were right.

Price, his brother Chad and Chad's 11-year-old son, Brandon, left the home at the Sun Cove Apartments and Mobile Homes on 28th Street before Irma arrived. They headed across the street, to a building at County Recycling, where Price, 41, works as a welder mending trucks and bins.

"My boss was nice enough to let me go there," Price said.

At some point, a massive, sickly looking oak tree toppled onto the home, crushing half of it like a soda can. Chad Price's bed had disappeared under the flattened metal.

Now the family felt a mix of anxiety and relief, glad to be alive but unsure where they will now call home.

"We can replace things," Timothy said, "but we can't replace family."

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