Some left, some didn’t. All nervously watched the storm’s approach.
Palm Beach residents can heave a sigh of relief that Hurricane Dorian, at one point a Category 5 storm that devastated the Bahamas, left their town unscathed when it veered north.
“We got very, very, very lucky,” Leslie Slatkin said on Wednesday. “Watching the Bahamas, it’s just heartbreaking.”
She rode the storm out at her condo a short walk from the beach. She closed her shutters on Sunday night as a precaution, but “it never felt all that threatening or scary,” she said.
She wasn’t the only one who defied the evacuation order that went into effect at 1 p.m. Sunday, when the county was under a hurricane watch and tropical storm warning.
Longtime resident and real estate broker Linda Olsson, who owns a 1926 home on Pendelton Avenue, weathered the storm in place with Valentine, her Shih Tzu.
She spent much of Friday preparing her home for the storm and helped several clients do the same.
“One must be prepared for the worst and hope for the best,” she said. “We are on a barrier island, and there’s always a risk of water and storm surge. But I’ve been lucky in life with weather and parking spaces.”
A few streets to the south on Brazilian Avenue, longtime resident Jeff Cloninger had a full house — three dogs, out-of-town guests and his three children, including 25-year-old Katherine Cloninger, who was visiting from Birmingham, Alabama.
On Friday, her boyfriend, Matthew Ellis, surprised her with a proposal of marriage during a family dinner at The Beach Club on the North End.
“He had hoped to propose behind The Breakers at a spot that was special to both of them,” said Cloninger, who is a real estate broker.
But the resort was in the middle of hurricane preparations, so the plans changed.
Ellis excused himself and Katherine during dinner and proposed on the seawall, Cloninger said.
Many Palm Beachers nervously monitored the storm’s approach from afar.
Novelist Frank Strausser and his family fled Palm Beach for Austin, Texas, as Hurricane Dorian set its sights on Florida’s east coast.
He kept track of Dorian via the television news’ nonstop coverage.
“It’s hard not to look,” he said. “It’s kind of like a crime scene or car crash. You can’t keep your eyes from looking and hoping and worrying at the same time.”
Sue Patterson and her family were in Westchester, New York. Like many residents, she and her husband, novelist James Patterson, spend the steamy summer months in cooler retreats.
She was shocked at the strength of Dorian as it pummeled the Bahamas after making landfall early Sunday afternoon.
Although forecasters said it was unlikely that Palm Beach would be hit by such strong winds, she worried how the town would fare if it were.
“I don’t think anything could take 185 mph winds. Who could tell?” she said.
Back in Palm Beach, stores and restaurants were closed, parking lots deserted and traffic sporadic on Sunday.
Windows on many buildings on the main thoroughfares were covered in plywood or aluminum shutters.
Patrick Poupart, who owns the Top Cycle Palm Beach bike shop on North County Road, was finishing up securing his shop’s windows with plywood.
On one of the boards was a hand-lettered message in French: “Vas te Faire voir Ailleurs Dorian. “Bonne chance a tous.”
Poupart translated: “Go somewhere else, Dorian. Good luck to everyone.”
He planned to get sandbags to protect the shop’s front door because nearby storm drains sometimes clog and send water over the sidewalks, he said.
Flooding and storm surge are the main reasons low-lying areas such as Palm Beach are evacuated when a hurricane threatens.
Municipal beaches and parks were closed.
But that didn’t stop some beachgoers from testing the surf, which seemed surprisingly calm considering what was churning a couple of hundred miles away.
Among those at Midtown Beach was Brian Hiltebeitel, who had driven over from his apartment in downtown West Palm Beach.
“We just came to get a little sun,” he said.
His beach time was interrupted by a Palm Beach police officer, who pulled his vehicle alongside the beachfront sidewalk and spoke through a loud speaker.
“There’s a mandatory evacuation as of 1 p.m.,” the officer said. “Please get in your car and head across one of the bridges.”
On Royal Poinciana Way, resident Anne Rowe was standing on the street, taking a photo of her shuttered apartment above the Couture and More boutique. She said she was preparing to evacuate to her brother’s house in a gated community across the bridge.
But she wanted a photo to document the apartment and, perhaps, to preserve a memory — just in case.