As I write this, I am sitting in an air conditioned home that was not damaged by Hurricane Irma. For that, I am extremely grateful.
When we saw the track on Labor Day weekend, I had a bad feeling. So did my husband. He went out and bought plywood and started making custom measured boards for the windows and sliders. I went online and booked hotel rooms in several locations to be on the safe side. Easier to cancel later than to try and find a room when there were none.
The storm was initially looking like it was going to hit the east coast. I put all of our photo albums in garbage bags and moved them to higher ground. My husband boarded the house. We had plenty of food and water, and filled our gas tanks. The generator was connected to our power grid. He was planning to stay while I took the kids. I was worried about him, but my kids come first and he was insisting on staying.
The morning I planned to leave, I checked the 5am advisory and the storm models had shifted west. It wasn’t going to make a direct hit to the east coast and would be a category 2 when it made its way to us. I decided to give up my hotel room to someone in greater need and be one less person on the roads. The constant stream of bumper to bumper cars seen from I-95 was enough to make anyone second-guess their travel plans. Not to mention the gas shortage, frenzied and frantic people, and the fact that our house is pretty sturdy and all of the trees we had were taken out by previous storms (thanks, Charlie and Matthew).
Work closed (and is still closed at this moment), so we were all left to prep and wait. And wait. And wait. And eat. And clean. And do laundry. And eat. And drink wine. And binge watch. And wait. And eat. And check social media and The Weather Channel every 2 minutes in between.
The storm’s path kept shifting further and further west. Every advisory had me worrying about a different group of friends and loved ones in some part of the state. We didn’t want it on the east coast, but then someone was going to get it. Surely nobody was praying it would hit Texas! There were no winners in this situation.
Once the storm started impacting Miami, reports from friends started coming in that power was out. Then it moved up to Palm Beach County. They were scared and said it was an awful experience. Our time was still coming.
It was projected to hit around Naples and then again in the Tampa Bay area as a Category 4. I held my breath. The destruction in the islands had been prolific. At the last minute (after tearing up the Keys and Marco Island), the path shifted east and was heading closer to Orlando. This was at around 10pm so I texted as many friends and family as I could to let them know. Many had no clue and weren’t ready for it.
At around that same time, a massive tree in my next-door neighbor’s yard came down. It was then that I started to panic. We created a safe space in the guest room and all of us moved in there. It was a long, long night. The wind was already roaring, especially when the big gusts came through. You could hear things hitting the house and noises happening all around. The worst of it hit at around 3:30am. Tornado warnings were everywhere, flood warnings, people told it would be catastrophic. All of my worst fears were felt in those hours.
And then it stopped. By then, there was no back eye wall, so once it was quiet it was almost over. We had tropical storm force winds for the next morning, but I was grateful to finally get some sleep and wake up the next morning, even though there was damage to assess.
We were so lucky. No damage to the house. Just a lot of debris and trees down in our neighborhood. But it was nothing like Matthew last year (I took the kids and evacuated for Matthew so I am only going by the damage and the fact that we still have power).
I cannot speak for the people who don’t have power or a good wi-fi signal. And I most definitely cannot speak for those who experienced Irma at her strongest. I can only speak from my perspective.
This hurricane was one that people will talk about for years. The constant changes to projected tracks, the boredom mixed with stress and anxiety, and the destruction. I pray for those who may not have a home to go back to. Luckily, the casualties appear to be few. Things can be replaced. People, on the other hand, cannot.
I am grateful to have power, yes, but I am also grateful for the time I’ve been able to spend with my family. I am grateful that our house was spared. I am grateful to have received messages of care and concern from friends I haven’t spoken to in years. I am grateful that our area was spared. My heart is full of gratitude.
There were many, many moments that sucked, but we got through it. Do I want to go through another hurricane? No. With all of our technology, we still can’t predict a hurricane’s path any better than they could 20 years ago. We have access to more data, but too much information is sometimes a bad thing. I think I will just sit here and wait for December 1st to arrive. My new favorite day of the year.