Mourning family prepares for Hurricane Dorian in Vero Beach

The Johnson family is preparing their home for Hurricane Dorian while making funeral arrangements for one of their own on Friday, August 30, 2019.

The Johnson family is preparing their home for Hurricane Dorian while making funeral arrangements for one of their own on Friday, August 30, 2019.

In Vero Beach, Colin Johnson hammered wooden boards to the windows of his father’s home with an extra burden weighing on him.

As the sun slipped behind a passing cloud, he shared that he unexpectedly lost his father Larry, 84, on Thursday. Colin Johnson, 51, had planned to board up the windows with his dad. He found him dead when he went to the house on Thursday. His father suffered from a heart condition.

“A family in mourning,” said Shelley Johnson, Colin’s sister. “And then to have to go through this.”

The Johnson family was set to ride out the storm together in the pale yellow ranch home about a mile west of U.S. 1, not far from Florida’s Atlantic Coast. Instead, they’re preparing the house for Hurricane Dorian and packing up to drive their motor home to Pennsylvania, where Larry lived for many years, for the services.


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Colin Johnson, 51, drills plywood as he prepares to board up a window of his father’s home.

MATIAS J. OCNER

mocner@miamiherald.com

“We’re nervous,” said Tracy Johnson, Colin’s wife. Tears welled in her eyes as she watched him push a board into place. She wiped her face as she talked about taking their three cats and three dogs with them. Her five chickens are staying — a kind neighbor will crate them up and keep them in their house.

Colin Johnson, in jean shorts, white sneakers and a soaked tank top, stopped drilling and hammering to reflect. His father deed almost exactly a year after he lost his mother. He had to cancel the day’s food order for his restaurant, Chronic Tacos, expecting a closure in a few days. Dorian’s forecast track continued to pose a threat to Vero Beach.

He was in the eye of his own storm, caught between traumas with a few hours left to finished boarding up the house, collect his father’s personal effects and prepare for a long drive Saturday.


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Colin Johnson, 51, measures a window at his father’s Vero Beach home. Johnson’s father, Larry, died unexpectedly Thursday.

MATIAS J. OCNER

mocner@miamiherald.com

In it all, he managed to find some peace.

“I feel a little relieved that we’re leaving,” he said. “We don’t know what the strength of the storm will be when it comes.”

As he hauled a board from the garage, Johnson’s face fell for a moment, the corners of his mouth curling down under his graying mustache as he held his emotion in.

Then the rain fell.

Joey Flechas covers government and public affairs in the city of Miami for the Herald, ranging from votes at City Hall to neighborhood news. He won a Sunshine State award for revealing a Miami Beach political candidate’s ties to an illegal campaign donation. He attended the University of Florida.





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