Thursday morning, after a week without power, the lights finally came on inside Stuart Townsend’s parents’ home in storm-swept Inverness, Florida.

Townsend, of Rohnert Park, left town Sept. 1 with his best friend Pierre Sedagatania, to housesit while Townsend’s parents, Ben and Debora Townsend, took a vacation in Scotland.

Friday, after more than a week of waiting for, and then living through Hurricane Irma, the two 26-year-olds will finally be on their way back to Sonoma County.

At the time the two headed to Florida, they had no idea Irma was intensifying over the open ocean, with the state its bullseye.

“We knew coming out here that it was going to be hurricane season,” Townsend said. “It was news to us — about the fifth day — when they were like, ‘Oh, there’s a hurricane in the Atlantic.’”

The two started watching the news, monitoring Irma along with the rest of the country as it grew to a Category 5 hurricane, its target shifting from Florida’s eastern seaboard, to its Gulf Coast — seemingly headed for Inverness.

“We’re earthquake guys, not hurricane guys,” Townsend said. “I was kind of scared and nervous because they didn’t really have a precise track for it until the day before it made landfall.”

The mandatory evacuation order came Sept. 8, via text.

“It was like, well, we can risk it and stay here, or we can go up north,” he said.

The two chose the latter and headed later the same day for Fort Walton Beach, Florida, with Townsend’s parents’ three dogs. What should have been a five-hour trip took 10½ hours, the roads packed with Floridians fleeing Irma’s path. Two days later the storm made its way through Inverness.

By the time Irma hit Inverness last Sunday night, it had been downgraded to a tropical storm, leaving mild destruction — downed trees and power lines — in its wake. When the two returned Monday, Sept. 11, they found the Townsend home escaped major damage, but officials predicted power would be out for days if not weeks, and the home had no running water. Florida’s summertime heat and humidity made life without air-conditioning increasingly unbearable, and no running water meant the men couldn’t shower and were forced to go to the bathroom outside.

They were able to siphon some fuel from Townsend’s dad’s boat to get the generator going, but tried to limit its use: Cooking a quick breakfast in the morning or powering a living room lamp. Other than that, the two spent the week moving as little as possible, Townsend said, living off canned food and crackers.

“It looked crazy,” he said. “I guess it came right over the top of us here.”

You can reach Staff Writer Christi Warren at 707-521-5205 or On Twitter @SeaWarren.