Hurricane Irma came through late last week. We’re still working to get our lives back to “normal”. Our family was in the dark until late last night. Fortunately, we have light! And cable! And internet! But, Hurricane Irma wasn’t my first natural disaster.
The first was the Northridge quake. I was on the periphery, 30 miles from the epicenter.
I was sleeping (quite heavily in those days). My top bunk started shaking. I thought it was my little sister. She would regularly push on my bed to wake me up. This time, it was way too early. “Leave me alone,” I said as I rolled back over. The bed started shaking harder, more violently. “Go back to bed,” I shouted this time. But she didn’t. Worst of all, I didn’t hear her voice. No plea to come down and help her. I jolted up, realizing that it wasn’t her, it was an earthquake.
I jumped off my bunk and went into the living room. Things were still shaking, and by then my dad was awake too. We braced the furniture as we could (the rolls were not that strong, and NO that’s not what we were trained to do in an earthquake).
Then it stopped. It all stopped. It was over. We had no lasting damage, no power outages, and besides being a bit shaken, we went about our lives. No one we knew was affected and quite frankly, it was a different time.
Hurricane Irma was not my first hurricane either. I had the unfortunate timing of visiting my in-laws when Hurricane Wilma hit in 2005. I was scared, especially for my one-year-old son who I was expected to keep safe. The area wasn’t under mandatory evacuation orders, but as with Irma, suggested that you should leave.
Thirteen years ago, everyone wasn’t on Facebook, there were no pleas or calls out. And even if there were, my network was in California, where I was born and raised.
This two week visit was supposed to be simple and quiet – my son spending time with his grandparents. Instead, we sat through a day long hurricane, several days without power, undrinkable water, and a low supply of food.
We had to be careful outside because a record number of utility poles broke and FPL did not have enough in reserve to replace them without help. Schools were closed due to the power outage and flooding. Worst of all, you couldn’t go anywhere because there was no power at gas stations, meaning if you had some place to go, it wasn’t likely you could refill your tank to get back home.
It was miserable… and hot… and humid. We couldn’t go anywhere we couldn’t walk. Because it was hot and humid, that wasn’t far.
Last year, I had pleasure of experiencing what we thought would be our first hurricane as a family. I was a full-fledged adult, in my own house with my own family. This time, all decisions were mine. Well, mine and my husband’s. They were ours. The good and the bad.
We were nervous, but after having NOAA on refresh, we realized that it wasn’t likely to hit us. No mass evacuation orders, no decisions to be made. We purchased D batteries and a case of water. Even in the mildest of storms,flying debris could pierce a window, so we put up shutters.
A few people left town because they could. The majority sat back and watched, or more accurately slept. Matthew’s winds hit us in the middle of the night. We woke to full power, a few people were without for some time. Otherwise, we were safe. We had gas. We had electricity. The kids were out of school for a day or two.
This time, I felt fear. This time, I had to make decisions that could have a long term impact on our lives. The Keys were under evacuation orders. Parts of the east AND west coasts were in evacuation zones.
I posted on Facebook: “Leaving or Staying?”. The majority of friends and family responded that they were staying. That brought some comfort.
Then people pumped gas like they were never going to get some again. Gas became scarce in the week leading up to the hurricane. Lines down the block with people filling up gas tanks and extra canisters.
Florida is long and thin. There are three main roads out: I-95, Florida Turnpike and I-75. Florida is home to 20 MILLION people. Three roads does not an easy journey make. On Thursday, two full days before Irma came, boasted that it only took 8 hours to travel a distance that normally takes a mere 2 and a half.
Remember that gas shortage that I mentioned? We weren’t going anywhere. Jeff put up the shutters. I started filling up bags of water to freeze in case of a power outage. Jeff searched for cases or a really just a case for reserve. I purchased D batteries (again) and glow sticks. Glow sticks helped us navigate the home in pure darkness and illuminate the bathroom considering there are no windows therein.
Then we buckled down.
We waited, we listened, we lost power, we brought out the board games. Then we went to sleep.
We woke up, waiting for things to end. We had plenty to eat: snacks, dinner foods, etc.
Then Irma stopped. We walked out to assess the damage. Besides not having to hire someone to trim our tree, things seemed perfect, no damage. We opened the garage. It seemed fine, until we wanted to close it. Then, it kinda fell apart. Our garage was our only major damage.
We were without power for four days. Friends and family offered help and their homes. We are back home, but I’m glad this one is all over.
But hurricane season is not.See you in December!
Finish the Sentence Friday
This post didn’t go the way I thought… that said, it’s a part of this week’s Finish the Sentence Friday! “When a natural disaster hits…” Link up and share your post, read the others and have a non-hurricane riddled weekend.