I already had an impossible deadline for the release of Ooooooh, It’s Halloween, written by Barbara Poor. I mean, come on, giving me less than 5 weeks to have an entire book from scratch done?!?! INSANITY!
Then…..only a week and two days into the project, mother nature decides that Florida has simply gone too long without ample tragedy. On the heels of hurricane Harvey’s devastation of Texas, my fears were great, to say the least.
As a life long Floridian, I am certainly no stranger to hurricanes. I was smack dab in Andrew back in the 90s. This time however, this one, felt….different. Whether it was due to the fresh images of waters rushing homes in Texas or the fear I held for friends living in Texas, I was terrified. I have never been so scared. The minute I heard about Irma and a possible projection toward our coast, I told my husband to prepare. We set up an evacuation to a hotel 5 days in advance. I began bottling water and packing. My husband began boarding windows and purchasing enough food to sustain us throughout any power loss. With one hurricane a few years back, we had a full 31 days without power. So, this time around, we decided to be better prepared. A good portion of my mind fully believed we would have no home to return to sadly. I was praying for the best, but preparing for the worst my mind could imagine. I am not negative, but I am a realist.
We took our dogs to the local boarder as one has severe storm anxiety. I knew the vet could give him something to calm him if the need be. I simply could not imagine how stressful it would have been on the dogs to be shoved into a tiny motel room for days on end with possibly no power or water source, other than our bottled water.
We left at the last possible minute Saturday afternoon. There was a strict order to be off of the roads by 8 PM. We sat waiting for our room to be ready, for what seemed like hours. It was not the Ritz, but it certainly felt safer than home. We still have roof damage from hurricane Matthew last year.
This beast called Irma was larger than our state. The early news reports showed Brickell Miami, where I grew up. The streets looked like a raging river. My fear grew. I suddenly felt trapped. I had wanted to leave the state but traffic was at a virtual standstill from days earlier and gas was almost gone. I kept eye on the clock. Flash forward to Sunday. We knew it would be here by about 2 AM. By 8 PM the power was gone as had the water. Our cell phones became our life line. Of course Sprint did not care about that and was quick to slow speeds down to 2g the millisecond our data hit the cap. Have got to love that! Nonetheless, we were blessed to have a connection to the outside world amidst the next hours that were to become, for me personally, hellacious. I suddenly began to realize every tree outside, every chair and the hallway full of furniture and florescent bulbs that the hotel staff did not deem worthy of locking up….I mean literally, just laying on the floor, were projectiles. As the winds picked up and the light of the sky turned to black, my heart began to pound. Alerts on my phone were non stop. Posts on Facebook of friends who live in towns to our south describing what they were hearing , it was scary. A bit much for me evidently. I found myself to be the only one fully awake just sitting on the bed staring at the door and curtains which covered the window. And I sat. I sat and I waited. I am not sure what I thought I was doing to be honest. I know the sounds were terrible. I cannot imagine how my family slept through it. The gusts, I literally felt them. We were on the 2nd floor. Each gust felt like a slight nudge. Perhaps this was all my imagination, I thought. That is until the curtains began to move with the gusts. The wind was quite literally punching the windows and doors. This went on for hours. When the sun came up and we knew the storm was well over, I fell asleep. I managed an hour or so before my husband felt the need to go home. Once the county gave the go ahead for citizens to drive safely on the road (noon) we made the short trek back. The hotel had no power or water so it seemed essentially useless to stay there, even though we had paid through to Tuesday. When we arrived home, everything was as we had left it. We had minor yard debris and the mini fridge which held my insulin had died. Our power was out. As we have a well, this also meant no water. We thankfully had filled plenty of bottles and totes before we left, just in case. My husband set up the generator. Oddly enough, everything in our freezer was still frozen. I suddenly felt foolish for throwing all of the perishable refrigerator food out that before we evacuated.
We unpacked and I began to finish the book. I worked non stop. I not only made the deadline, but I exceeded it. Working by phone and generator was not easy but it helped keep my mind off of the disaster around me. We were spared, by the grace of God, not everyone was as lucky.
I will evacuate a million times, and if each time it is for nothing, I will be fine. It is better than staying once and being wrong.