When the fiercest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic is bearing down on you, a salvaged armchair under a wood-and-tin awning might seem a poor choice of shelter. But that's where Don E. ("I'd rather keep my last name out of it") was parked when Wilma hit South Florida at 6:30 a.m. last October 24. For Don and a buddy, it was the start of the workday at Jimbo's Place, a ramshackle beer and bait shop down by the water on Miami's Virginia Key. "Once we got out here, it was kind of too late to do anything but ride it out," Don says with a small laugh.
Jimbo's looks like nothing so much as an abandoned shack. But whether through good luck or unexpectedly sound construction, it survived Wilma's fury. Mercifully, the winds had ebbed from 185 miles an hour (300 kilometers an hour) at sea to 120 miles an hour (200 kilometers an hour) by the time the storm hit, but Wilma still left almost all of South Florida without power. For the next two weeks a generator and donated bags of ice kept Jimbo's open—the only establishment on the key where visitors could be assured of a cold beer and a friendly welcome.