Eddie Gonzalez looked out the window and was so scared by what he saw he grabbed a second belt, locked himself inside his bathroom and tied himself to a water pipe.
Hurricane Irma had peeled off his neighborhor’s roof like the top of a sardine can.
“It took it like a toy,” Gonzalez said Monday morning, standing across the street in Edgewater.
Gonzalez wasn’t the only one watching. A video posted on social media early Sunday afternoon and later confirmed as authentic by Miami's emergency management team showed what appeared to be a tornado ripping off the roof of a two-story, pale yellow home on Northeast 27th Street and Fifth Avenue. The roof almost stood up erect and then fell backward, crumpling onto the two homes immediately to the east and scattering shingles and tar sheeting everywhere.
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“This whole piece just came off completely. You can see this house is concrete. It came off completely,” Gonzalez, shirtless in the early morning heat, said during an interview. “[Irma] got real strong between one and two o'clock. [My apartment] was shaking.”
It took it like a toy
His pulse racing and one of his windows appearing as if “it would pop,” Gonzalez grabbed anything he could think to grab, including a battery-powered radio, and raced into his bathroom. He also grabbed a second belt.
“I tied my belt to where the water comes so if it breaks the roof at least I can hang onto that,” he said. “It got to my nerves. Even the pole here, the electricity pole, is down.”
While Gonzalez was locked in the bathroom, Miami’s Emergency Operations Center was trying to determine if the video — posted on Twitter with an inaccurate address — was authentic. They confirmed it was legitimate, and sent rescue crews to make sure no one was in the home.
It turned out to be empty. Elsewhere, Gonzalez’s neighbor who owns the house, Gerard Duhart, began receiving calls about the video.
“That was the worst thing ever,” he told the Miami Herald Monday. "Everybody kept calling me asking me, ‘Is this your place? Is this your place?’”
Duhart, who'd evacuated his home along with his wife and three kids ahead of Hurricane Irma, returned Monday to survey the damage. He could see the entire roof had peeled off, along with some of the concrete above one of his windows. It landed on top of the two homes immediately to the east, along with part of a utility pole.
“You never know what to expect. It’s a hurricane,” he said.
Duhart said he knew to evacuate the flood zone, having lived in Florida all his life. Gonzalez, on the other hand, has lived across the street for 18 years and didn't think Irma would pack much of a wallop. He's got different plans for the next hurricane.
“I've been through every storm and ain’t never had no problem. Next time I’m leaving,” he said. “Next time, I’m going to California.”