She lived through Hurricane Donna. Years later, she'd hunker down to face Irma

These are aerial views of Tampa following Hurricane Irma

VALRICO, Fla. -- Dorothy Swafford is no stranger to big hurricanes.

The Florida native lived through one of the most famous storms in the state's history.

"I remember sleeping with my head in my mother's lap while she kept watch all night in case we had to run for our lives," Swafford said.

She's talking about Hurricane Donna - which made landfall on the same day as Irma 57 years ago. It remains the only storm to bring hurricane force winds to Florida, the Mid-Atlantic and New England.

At the time, Swafford lived with her mother in Lakeland.

"I just remember in the night the sound of the wind as of a train coming through," Swafford said."The next morning when we went out, it was so clear, and sunny and beautiful. There were only a few small branches in the street. So small that I as a small child could pick them up."

She said there weren't shelters available for her in those days. Now, years later, the Valrico resident would stay home and hunker down for what was -- at the time -- expected to be another historic hurricane.

"We took Bobby Deskins' advice and prepared the best we could and now we are hunkered down at home," Dorothy said Sunday morning.

So, in a custom-built 2005 home, Swafford waited for Hurricane Irma to pass with her husband and teenage twin boys. Despite many Floridians deciding to evacuate their homes, Swafford said she felt safe.

Irma hit Tampa Bay Sunday and left nearly a million people without power. Trees and power lines were downed and many woke up Monday assessing damage and starting what will likely be a long cleanup process.

Photos of Hurricane Irma damage and destruction

Two days after Irma's wrath, Swafford said she's doing "wonderfully well."  

"My prayer throughout this ordeal was not that God would so much as to turn the storm, but that He would dissipate it," she said "We were asking God for wisdom in whether or not to evacuate even though we aren't in an evacuation zone."

She prayed and listened closely to 10 News' own Bobby Deskins.

"Bobby Deskins stated that if you were in a sturdy home built in recent years, you should be alright staying in your home," she said. "So we took his advise." 

Swafford said her home sustained no damage and "by the grace of God" never lost power.

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