Very sorry I didn't check in earlier. Just saw this as I'm heading to bed but will try to recap:
The short and skinny is that no, we did not evacuate as we normally would, partly because of COVID concerns if in a hotel, but also because the storm was not predicted to be nearly as close nor as intense as it was.
Surge was originally predicted at 1 to 3, then 3 to 5 feet, either range a piece of cake where we are located, mid-island. (After we went to bed Tues. night 9/15 the surge prediction was upped to 4 to 6 ft, but we still probably wouldn't have left, even if we could have at that late hour with no place to go.)
It was quite a ride, one of the longest nights of my life, and I did seriously fret as to what might be going on with the surge and especially our vehicles beneath the house. Shutters were all closed so there was no way to see. The relentless, pounding deluge and howling winds were horrific. Suffice it to say I spent hours taking deep breaths and trying to think pretty thoughts to reduce the terrible stress.
We lost water (due to a main break right before the storm), power, Internet, landline phone, & cable TV. All have been restored as of today (9/22). Power actually came back on last Friday; Gulf Power's getting very good at this and deserves major kudos.
As for damages: our house had non-catastrophic roof issues, including a blown-off chimney cap and loss of some ridge vent shingles, plus a broken through-the-roof plumbing vent that occasioned a serious leak into the guest bedroom below, which we're still drying out. The chimney is tarped and arrangements being made for other repairs, though labor is scarce.
Apparently the surge did not reach our house, though our back yard was a swimming pool from the torrential, virtually biblical rains that went on for days, not just during the storm's arrival at 4:45 a.m. on Wed., 9/16. We probably got about 20 inches over the three days or so. In the morning we were amazed to find the garage was bone dry; my biggest fear had been that the cars would be inundated and ruined.
And because power was restored within two days and we'd had extra freezer packs in the fridge and freezer, we were actually able to save some, though not all, of our food items.
We were very, very fortunate this time (not like in Ivan, when we did evacuate but were displaced from our home for nine months due to both exterior and extensive interior damages, and with a 12 ft. storm surge that swept everything beneath the house, including a heavy work bench that took three men to move, into Santa Rosa Sound).
Biking around the island the past couple of days, we've found substantial damages to many other homes, even if far from as catastrophic as Ivan. Lots of shingles missing, siding peeled off, a few walls penetrated or missing, fences down.
We weren't able to bike along the Gulf side because that road was still sand-covered, but along the Sound side we found that many if not most homes had obviously been flooded from surge off the intra-coastal, at least below the first level where the homes were elevated on pilings (most are). The right-of-way was crammed with soaked carpeting, sheet rock, and other debris, plus many spare refrigerators.
All in all, a royal mess.
But I'm betting Joanie will agree that the most tragic result of the storm here, aside from a couple of needless deaths in our area, was the loss of the newly completed West span of the "Three Mile Bridge" over Pensacola Bay, that connects the Gulf Breeze peninsula and mainland Pensacola. (The East span was still under construction; the West span was being used for two-way traffic.) It's a long story, but basically the bridge contractor, Skanska, had opted to leave their equipment -- barges and cranes -- in place rather than go to the time and expense of moving them out of the area, since the last storm they did move the stuff for, things fizzled and nothing happened.
Big mistake, as it turns out.
Barges and other equipment tore loose during the Cat. 2 hurricane and ended up causing major damage all over they Bay, but especially to the bridge, where approximately 30 sections were damaged, and at least five of those catastrophically, to the point where they'll have to be completely re-cast. The repair time estimate is not yet available (divers couldn't even get to some areas for inspection), but the guesstimates run from several months to a year or more.
(I'm in the latter guessing category, and my personal suggestion is that they abandon the repair effort for now and just go ahead and finish the new East span, but nobody asked me. And I have no idea how likely it is that Skanska has available inventory of more barges, cranes and other equipment that would be needed for this effort.)
Meanwhile, since the only other route to the mainland is over a two-lane bridge miles down the highway in the opposite direction, which bridge and adjacent roadways are now already JAMMED with traffic during rush hours thanks to the loss of the Three Mile, this all has a HUGE impact on the area economy and people's lives. It's absolutely colossal.
Here is some drone footage that gives you an idea of just how bad the bridge damage is, even if you don't look at all of it:
OK, enough -- off to bed, grateful for A/C and water. Once more I apologize for not checking in earlier as I should have. I do very much appreciate your concern.
Needless to say, 2020 has not been a good year. (Understatement of the decade.)